Mufflers, Cold Showers, and Gratitude

Muffler chevy luminaYears ago, the fleet manager assigned a Chevy Lumina van to me for my work duties. It was a shabby car, and had essentially no muffler. I had to drive that thing about eight miles a day, which was about nine and half miles too many for me. The noise it made was truly miserable, making my head feel like an egg in a microwave. I drove it in that condition for months, hating the car — and life — a little more each day.

Then they fixed it.

I tell you, it was like being born again. I have never before or since had such a positive experience of the absence of something. Every day I would get in that car, turn over the engine, and bask in the mere normalcy of engine noise.

muffler cold showerI had once a shower that could not hold its temperature. It fluctuated wildly from scalding to freezing. My showers were unusually long because I spent almost all the time fiddling with the valve, trying to avoid burns and hypothermia. I would think of the game fish I used to pull out of Lake Michigan and toss into a chest full of ice — or of the lobster I once tossed into a boiling kettle. I swore I’d never eat fish again. It was truly miserable.

Then they fixed it.

I now take long showers just to bask in the sheer comfort of it.

These object lessons have taught me the great secret of gratitude. I now look keenly for the normal thing in my day, the thing I am most likely to take for granted, and I try to truly relish it. Whatever they are serving in the cafeteria — though it may be mundane, or overcooked, or soggy — there will be something there to truly savor if I just look for it. Whatever the weather — though it may not be my favorite, nor perfectly compatible with my plans — I breathe it in deep, feel it on my skin, hear its sounds, appreciate the quality of light unique to each day.

Scott Point, Gould City, Michigan

Salmon in Ice  Iced Salmon

I have learned this secret: to be content in all things, to appreciate every car with a working muffler, and to thank every fish personally as I eat it.

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