I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready to give politics a rest today.

Political junkies often believe their monomania is 1) the most important thing in the world and 2) as utterly fascinating to everyone else as it is to them.

That’s not just terribly wrong, it’s doubling down on wrongness.

But today is the day after the one national holiday dedicated to gratitude itself (as opposed to being thankful for maternal parental units, hard-working exemplars of organized labor, or Italian explorers who financed their wacky schemes with money wheedled out of naive Spanish monarchs).

Instead, in an idiosyncratic spirit, I’d like to explore a couple of things worth appreciating that have nothing to do with contested elections, prevaricating politicians, wildly off-the-the-mark polls or bureaucrats’ regulatory nightmares.

That is, I want to write about things involved with real life, as it is rather charmingly called.


1) So, let’s start with birds.

No, not the turkey you are still digesting, but ones with feathers still attached.

I worked for years for a man whom I still consider the nation’s No. 1 birdwatcher, former chief editorial writer George Neavoll, and for a long time I regarded his hobby as a cross between playing tiddlywinks (look it up, kids) and collecting pull-off tabs.

Oh, I could probably tell a robin from a bluejay from a crow, but I didn’t see any reason why it made a difference, and most varieties were just bunches of feathers with feet to me.

But then something odd happened. One summer Saturday, in a tree at the end of my driveway, I saw one of the biggest, oddest-looking birds I’d ever seen. It had a long, sinuous neck, and was mostly black but with white stripes along the head and a big red topknot.

So, of course, I called George and described it to him. “That’s a pileated woodpecker,” he informed me. “They usually stay in the deep woods, so you should feel happy you saw one.”


And the strangest thing was, I did feel happy, like I’d seen an eclipse or a scenic vista. Something different had visited my yard, and suddenly I began to notice birds, and look them up in books, and discuss varieties and migration habits.

Now, we have three feeders in the backyard (we finally found some genuinely squirrel-proof ones, so my former tree-rat resettlement program is on hiatus, and the arboreal filchers feed on the seeds the birds drop).

Two feeders hold black-oil sunflower seeds, and the third is thistle for goldfinches (aka “pigs with wings”). Two suet holders for hairy and downy woodpeckers and upside-down-feeding nuthatches round out the set, which is supplemented in the spring with an orange-streamer-decorated jelly dish for Baltimore orioles.

Watching them flit and feed and filibuster (they get raucous when the feeders aren’t promptly filled) is remarkably entertaining.

And no one is more surprised at that than I am.

2) Then there are the grandchildren.


I know, I know, the two most terrifying things you can hear are “We’re surrounded by a pack of ravenous zombies!” and “Want to see pictures of my grandkids?”

But I’m not going to expound on their various wonderfulnesses, as I know everybody exults to see a grandchild take a first step, or utter a few halting words, or grow up to make a million dollars, buy Nonnie and Pawpaw a new house and take them on a round-the-world cruise.

(OK, that last hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still time. Right, kids?)

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with specifics, but instead to verify that the Bible speaks an absolute truth when it says, “Blessed is he who lives to see his children’s children.”

When you see your own kids, whom you shepherded through all the pitfalls and pratfalls of growing to adulthood, actually restart the process all over again, the whole “life-is-a-flowing-river” metaphor becomes real right in front of your eyes.

So when you watch them making the same mistakes you did, and help out where you can (but not too much, because they have to stand on their own or they will never stand at all), and bite your lip when you want to give advice, and watch triumphs and disasters occur among those you love, and discover that love really is endlessly expandable – you discover that living, even in the most quotidian circumstances, is an adventure unlike any other.


So you are grateful for the common things of life, for they often are the best parts of it. (Blessed, too, is the person who knows where to address his daily missives of thanks.)

What’s that? You say I wrote a whole column on the day after Thanksgiving and didn’t mention until now that it was Black Friday?

Gee, you noticed.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:


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