“Thankful for Now”

Thankful for Now

by Todd Davis

Walking the river back home at the end
of May, locust in bloom, an oriole flitting
through dusky crowns, and the early night sky
going peach, day’s late glow the color of that fruit’s
flesh, dribbling down over everything, christening
my sons, the two of them walking before me
after a day of fishing, one of them placing a hand
on the other’s shoulder, pointing toward a planet
that’s just appeared, or the swift movement
of that yellow and black bird disappearing
into the growing dark, and now the light, pink
as a crabapple’s flower, and my legs tired
from wading the higher water, and the rocks
that keep turning over, nearly spilling me
into the river, but still thankful for now
when I have enough strength to stay
a few yards behind them, loving this time
of day that shows me the breadth
of their backs, their lean, strong legs
striding, how we all go on in this cold water,
heading home to the sound of the last few
trout splashing, as mayflies float
through the shadowed riffles.

From Native Species, Michigan State University Press, 2019.

Reading Todd Davis’ exquisite poems, you feel that he inhabits fully the natural world from which so many of us have grown isolated and estranged. Wherever he is, Davis seems to make himself “native” to that particular place, learning the names of animals, plants, and insects alike, as well as honoring the language of the Original Peoples who made their home here and named things long before others arrived. In his latest poetry collection, Native Species, Davis reminds us that we too are a natural part of this planet, and he shows his own deep connections to the Earth as well as to the family, friends, and neighbors who populate it. He pays such close attention to his surroundings (including “even the commonest tree—mountain-ash or sassafras, sourwood or witch hazel) that you can’t help but join in the joy he takes in being outdoors, and in the moment, especially in “Thankful for Now.”

In this poem, we see Davis pausing to appreciate this early evening scene while “walking the river back home” with his two sons. It is one thing to notice and beautifully describe the elements of nature, as Davis certainly does here—”the early night sky going peach, day’s late glow the color of that fruit’s flesh”—but it is another to cultivate the kind of presence that can make us all “thankful for now,” no matter our particular circumstances. As Eckhart Tolle has written: “You don’t have to wait for something ‘meaningful’ to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you do. There is more meaning in joy than you will ever need.” We often strive to reach for experiences and things beyond what we have in this moment and forget the power of pausing and making space to say thank you for what’s right here in front of us. Writing of his sons, Davis finds such gratitude, as he says, “When I have enough strength to stay a few yards behind them,” when he keeps enough distance to notice “the breadth of their backs, their lean strong legs striding.” When was the last time you felt yourself simply “thankful for now,” grateful for the present moment that allowed you to relish every detail of life as it was just then?

—James Crews

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