Giving Thanks to Presence

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Hours after the chaos that is my family’s Thanksgiving celebration in my tiny hometown, I crawl into my childhood bed accompanied by my feline friend Max. With a deep breath I take a second to reflect on this day of gratitude. There are various reasons to bask a little longer in the light that is my favorite American holiday, free of religious affiliation or political agenda, to simply celebrate all the beauty accumulated over the last year.

Any aspiring writer or visual artist today knows that social media plays a key role in marketing your talent platform, adding relevant stories and post every day to keep your audience engaged. Liking, commenting, and sharing certain hashtags to keep your own photos trending and build that follower number. This takes as much effort as a part-time job and in turn takes away from your life in the here and now. Social media and electronics have become a normal part of our culture, not just in the visual arts world, which leaves a lack of presence emitting through people of all career paths and age groups. Moving across the world for 9 months to New Zealand was eye-opening in the aspect of presence. Often cell phone service was nonexistent and Wi-Fi, forget about it, especially when you’re living out of a 1997 Honda CRV. Soon, you realize this one moment is mostly likely the last you’ll ever have with most of the fascinating people you encounter; that this glance is going to be the last one on that mountain or waterfall or valley, this holds true to almost every aspect of your travel. When looking back the only regret is wishing you would have taken it in for just one more second. Complained a little less about the rain and loved the feeling of cool drops on your finger tips a little more.

365 days ago I was drinking tea on the front porch of a ranch upon 10,000 acres of mountain space in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand. While overlooking the mountains and surrounded by new friends I felt at peace for the first time in my adult life. That peace has carried over, maybe not every second of every day but for at least one moment I feel it within me. I’ve developed a strength and a confidence that was lacking and will carry on to push me constantly out of my comfort zone, opening my mind, asking questions and speaking truths.

As of late photos from my time in New Zealand have been resurfacing, flashing back to long days of serving at Montieth’s followed by long nights of fun with friends from all over the globe, each there for their own specific reason. Countless interactions move themselves out of my mental filing system and have me lingering for one more laugh, one more smile, one more drink, and one more hug. What I will never regret is taking the time to document these moments, not only in a visual image or blog post but in my memory as they were, as they’ll always be. Because when all is said and done memories are what fuel our state of emotion, memories can help bring us up and into a present place.

This Thanksgiving I am not riding horses through the Sacred Valley of Peru, diving the colorful corals of the Great Barrier Reef, or strolling through a Tuscan vineyard at sunset, but I am on an adventure of another kind. I am on a path to presence, to appreciating the here and now, even if that means my childhood bed. The time I’ve spent with my family these past few months has been irreplaceable to any flight I could have taken.

This Thanksgiving I give gratitude to presence, to love, and to light. I set my intention for the next blessed year to be one of presence in every human moment.

xx Nicole Sheree