Turtles of Gratitude

Greetings Good People!

Here we are in Thanksgiving mode” again! It’s that time of year we set aside to focus on gratitude, self-reflection, and how the blessings of the last year might have escaped our notice. And given the pace of our lives in this 24/7 reality based whirlwind, it can be a good thing to have an imposed saved space for considering our lives and the good that has come our way. Otherwise, we well might reach year’s end with nary a thought to that side of life’s complexity. Maybe that’s why we gorge ourselves to numb the pain!

I’m sure that many of you have noticed, in public or in photos, that I wear a turtle on a chain around my neck. I actually have several turtle “friends” that share neck and heart duty. But I suspect that most of you don’t know how the ritual wearing of a turtle came to be a thing with me. It’s not something that I talk about often and if people don’t ask, it pretty much never comes up. But it was triggered by one of the most powerful change moments of my life and remains a very present reminder of life and the need to be present, thankful and aware.

Ten years ago last month, I was blessed with the gift of a new liver. At the time, I was near death from a liver ailment and the donation of an organ was the gift that saved my life. I woke up from that 7 hour operation with a chance to live and chase my dreams anew. Post transplant recovery was long and hard and after about a year, even though I was doing well physically, I found myself dragging through days of sadness and depression. I was struggling to find a perspective and balance that could keep me feeling grateful for this life-saving gift and the opportunities it now presented.

One day, walking through an art gallery in town, I came upon a carved deer antler turtle (an icon of life, gratitude and patience) that seemed to call out to me from its case. I asked to see it and in an instant, I felt like I had been connected to a source of energy and comfort that began to shift my mental framework. I quickly bought that little icon and started the ritual of putting it on every day as a reminder to recommit myself to a new sense of mission that, to this day, informs my life and my daily activity. Each day, by placing my turtle around my neck, I get to reconnect in gratitude with the gift I was given by the family of a 43 year old man whose death made a new start possible for me. I resonate with the flow of joy and gratitude that so many of you tell me you can hear in my music.

My better angels were working for me back then. And now, “Turtle” and “New Turtle” remind me to try to walk in rhythm with the grace, compassion, and the generosity of spirit that exists in our love and care for each other. It’s an action that reminds me to share the blessings forward. It has made for a very enlightening 10 years. And no, it doesn’t make every day “magic” or keep me from feeling challenged and/or overwhelmed at times. But it does remind me that I have a choice in how I see the things that come across my lens and most often, it allows me some grace in deciding how to face them.

The song “Better Angels” also came to me as a gift. It’s a song that speaks of a need to rebuild our sense of trust and commitment to each other. It speaks of the mission that so many of you share with me: of being grateful for that infusion of support, love, and friendship that helps us all to be better people and more thoughtful members of our families and communities.

So here at Thanksgiving Central  I find myself being grateful to , as my brother Greg Greenway says,  “realize that I have a job to do and the tools to do it.” Blessings, peace, and grace to you all. And let’s keep our better angels singing!

In thankfulness, joy, and song,


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