This November, I find myself looking out at the world around me with even
more gratitude than usual. As I stockpile the ingredients for our family's
Thanksgiving dinner, including my signature yam-leek-chestnut casserole with
hazelnut topping, I can't help but notice all of the things I have to be
I'm thankful for the amazing fall colors this year, which I swear have never
been more vibrant. My "October Glory" maple tree has lived up to its name,
bringing its orange and scarlet seasonal splendor all the way into late
November. I remember planting that tree when it was a sapling with a 2-inch
trunk diameter and hoping for the best; now it's a mighty and mature maple that
towers over my two-story home.
I'm thankful that my niece and her husband are expecting their first child.
Little Logan James will be born in early March, and he is already eagerly
anticipated by his second cousins, my son's daughters, ages 3.5 and 1, not to
mention his great-aunt Sally, who is in love with him already. It's delightful
to watch the nursery being painted and remodeled and adorned with baby
I'm thankful that Hurricane Sandy is behind us and that those on the East
Coast are rebuilding and getting on with their lives. I'm thankful that those
of us on the West Coast were spared and indeed had one of the most glorious
Indian Summers in memory -- warm and sunny until mid-November.
I'm thankful for the long walks this beautiful weather has afforded me this
fall. For the mushroom hunting I have enjoyed with my husband, mostly fruitless
in terms of edibles, but a mesmerizing outdoor hobby
nonetheless. For the treks with my dogs, two stunning Irish
Wolfhounds who are as hairy as they are tall, and who get me outside on days I
would otherwise stay tethered to my computer.
I'm thankful for the holiday season ahead, looking forward to spending it
with my family and friends, including the new family I married into just a year
ago: my amazing stepdaughter, my beautiful mother-in-law, my kind
father-in-law, and my new brothers and sister-in-law, who seem like they have
always been part of my family. I look forward to caroling with my nieces, enjoying
my granddaughters, and raising a glass with my sisters and my friends.
I'm thankful for my friends, some of whom have been there for decades, and
others I've connected with more recently. For our adventures big and small, for
the stories and encouragement and good-natured gossip that greases the wheels
of our intertwined lives. For their experience and wisdom,
for their foolishness and their foibles. For those I play music with,
those I hike with, those I serve on the Library Board with, those I work with.
I'm thankful for my husband. After decades of kissing frogs, I found my
prince and married him at the age of 50. My only regret is that it took us so
long to find each other. He is my best friend and favorite travel companion. He
loves my giant dogs and my crazy family, with all their quirks. He protects me
from spiders. He occasionally beats me at Scrabble. He has proven, over the
past few weeks in particular, that he loves me in sickness as well as in
I'm thankful we were vigilant when we discovered a small, hard lump in my
right breast this past September and didn't accept the first "it's nothing"
diagnosis. I am thankful we found a specialist who went the extra mile and
determined that, while an unusual presentation, the lump was not only cancer
but was the invasive kind that needs to be treated swiftly to reduce the
chances of metastasis. Because we found my breast cancer early and because we
persisted, by the time the turkey hits the table this Thanksgiving, my second
and hopefully final surgery will be behind me and only a course of radiation
I am thankful that my prognosis is excellent.
I am looking forward to the walks, the feasts, the music, the gossip, and
the glasses of wine ahead of me this holiday season and in the coming year.
Sally O'Neal has written weekly for Sportsmansguide.com since 2000. This is
her 560th column. She lives, hikes, writes, and enjoys the outdoors from her
home base in eastern Washington