Stay in the moment for a winter of true content

Intense bursts of red, yellow and orange leaves lit up the landscape outside the window of the Dixon Recreation Center. In the Northwest, the fall colors are spectacularly beautiful. Beyond the trees, young men set up cones on the perfectly laid out turf field for the flag football games on tap. A seamless gray sky enveloped the scene, and against it stood Weatherford Hall, the striking Grande Dame of the Oregon State University campus. The building initially conjures images from the Harry Potter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but keen architectural academia grandeur dashes any sinister thoughts. A magnificent open archway in the middle of the building, where OSU graduates flock to marry,  holds the eye. As I trotted on the treadmill, I felt thankful, thankful in the moment, and thankful in my life as I steam toward the final chapters.
Thankful in the moment means more at 57 than it ever has. It’s a good mantra recently driven home when I wrecked my truck mano-a-stupidly-mano against a fully loaded, full-speed-ahead Peterbuilt on Hecker Pass. Unhurt, thankfully, but seconds away from never having to worry about being hurt again.
At OSU, I treasure the moments. Mariah, my baby, is 19. Time moves faster than any treadmill. She’s a sophomore in college and closing in on “all grown up.” In Corvallis for Dad’s weekend, I watched her rugby game. She started playing in the fall – out of the blue (or gray since it’s Oregon) a “Guess What Dad?” phone call – and now she loves the sport which requires due diligence on my part. So, happily I tapped into another father’s knowledge on the sidelines to begin to learn a game I’ve seen just in passing on the tellie. Kirk patiently answered my question about rucks, scrums, trys and rockets while his daughter, Haley, captained the squad with infectious enthusiasm and a bold heart. The Beavers brought down the arch-rival Oregon Quacks, er … Ducks, 14-10, for the first time in forever and the seniors were ecstatic, some to the point of tears. It was a good win.
Victory is sweeter when your daughter is covered in mud sporting a huge smile with her arms around her teammates. When your child’s heart is happy, so is yours. Timeout, savor the moment. Earlier, I had taken a picture of a sign in the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop next to campus. It read: “What is success? You can use most any measure when you’re speaking of success. You can measure it in a fancy home, expensive car or dress. But the measure of your real success is the one you cannot spend. It’s the way your kids describe you when they’re talking to a friend.”
The words, food for thought, were tasty and true like the sandwich at JJ’s, and it made me more thankful for the time with Mariah, and more conscious of both my faults and the precious passing moments.
In today’s paper, there’s a story about Peter Casey, a young 12-year-old buck with an infectious smile who needs a kidney transplant. Machines and many moments he’d rather spend doing something else, like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and skateboarding, are a part of his daily life. When I looked over the outstanding life-documenting photographs captured by co-worker Lora Schraft, what stood out wasn’t the pain or the machine or the visits to the children’s hospital at Stanford, but Peter Casey’s big, warm, give-me-a-hug smile. It telegraphed a message that’s perfect for the holiday – be thankful for every moment. His mother’s love, clearly as perennial as the grass, has filled his young life with caring moments.
Those facing hardship, like we all do, have a choice. It’s what novelist John Steinbeck charted in my favorite book “East of Eden.” The central word in “East of Eden” is timshel. Translated it means “thou mayest” … thou mayest despair or thou mayest hold hope dear and live every moment.
In Peter’s story there is a lesson: inspiration is all around us – and in us – but we have to see it.
In Gilroy, it’s easy to find. We report on it all the time … students Julianna Vanni and Phoung Cao, who co-founded Cooper’s Closet, a free clothing store for Christopher High students; Gilroy High students winning the Thanksgiving Turkey Challenge by getting to the 100-turkey donation level for St. Joseph’s Family Center quicker than CHS; Marv Thomas cleaning up the littered lightposts; Arts Alliance President Kevin Heath working his tail off to provide  Gilroy with theater and art; Las Animas School students sending 500-plus pounds of Halloween candy to our American troops overseas  …
This is Gilroy. We have our warts, our fights, our troubles, but there is inspiration all around.
My Mariah is a proud product of Gilroy. Her warm heart, kind spirit and determination are Gilroy born and bred, so the credit for who she is is shared with many in our town besides family … teachers, coaches, employers, friends, parents of friends … it’s a small-town web that has made her proud to be from the place that has garlic, the outlets and the B.P.O.E., the Best People on Earth.
Our great spirit is reflected in our great Gilroy Garlic Festival which is a blessing in our community in so many ways other than financial that I’m often mindful of and thankful for.
Enjoy your families today, the turkey and the moments. Do something for someone less fortunate. Show a kindness that you might overlook and smile like Peter Casey.
It’s all about savoring the moments, and to do that you have to contribute to the recipe.
Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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