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An Ode to Gratitude

St. Vincent Church, Silver City, New Mexico

I turned 55 this week, and I think I’m finally starting to get some sense of perspective on life.

But first let me back up a little bit.

When Corie and I were planning to move to Tbilisi, many people we knew well and many more we knew less well asked the same question, “Why are you moving to a war zone?”

Our response was usually along the lines of “We’re not.” While Georgia borders Russia (and Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia following a 2008 invasion), the situation here is different than what’s happening in Ukraine.

But enough people kept asking the war-zone question, we began to wonder if we were missing something. Corie and I have been accused of living in our own little world for two after all. We developed a back-up plan, a list of countries that we could move to if things in Georgia weren’t safe.

“But, Sean,” I can hear you asking. “All the images in this week’s newsletter are from New Mexico. Why are you talking about Georgia?”

I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs. I promise.

“All right,” I can hear you reply with a hint of uncertainty. So I thank you for your patience.

As you know from reading my newsletters, we didn’t land in a war zone. We’re quite safe, and Georgia was all we hoped it would be. Sure there was some culture shock and we had to get used to doing many things differently than what we were used to in the States, but we expected that as well.

We love it here.

But the world is an unpredictable place.

Corie and I are no experts on geopolitical affairs, but we do know that one day we might need to leave Georgia, and that would break our hearts.

And that leads me to that glimmer of life perspective that I seemed to have picked up along the way.

We are woefully short of guarantees in our lives. At first, that statement sounds a little pessimistic, especially since I used the word woefully.

But I’ve begun to embrace the lack of guarantees with appreciation. Because things can and will change, I’ve learned there are two ways I can view life. I can bemoan those things that have changed and things I miss, or I can be grateful that I had the chance to experience them.

This is where we get to those New Mexico images on this week’s newsletter. Of all the things Corie and I sold before we moved to Tbilisi, selling my motorcycle was the most painful for me.

Logically, travel on two wheels doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s hot. It’s tiring. After several hours, your sitting muscles start painfully registering their displeasure.

But, dang, it’s amazing.

The feeling of independence and freedom, coupled with the closest thing to feeling like to flying while still connected to the ground makes up for all of that.

Knowing I wasn’t going to be able to go on long motorcycle trips for the foreseeable future, I scheduled one last trip, a circle around New Mexico.

I started off riding to Tucumcari, a town where Route 66 never died, then made my way to Alamagordo, stopping to see some petroglyphs and a funky little art community along the way. I rode to White Sands National Park then on towards Las Cruces.

From there I rode to Silver City, a town I hadn’t been to for nearly 30 years.

On my way back, I stopped in Roswell for the night where I didn’t get abducted by aliens. From there, I rode back on a highway so straight and boring, I suspected the mind-numbing, unscenic stretch was the real reason the aliens crash landed outside of Roswell.

Like most of my motorcycle trips, the itinerary was fairly loose. I usually made motel reservations for the first night or two and played the rest by ear, deciding the evening before where I was going to end up the next day. In my everyday world of clocks and calendars, it was a very welcome respite.

Every time I hear a motorcycle outside of our apartment here in Tbilisi, I think about that trip and the others I had taken before that. For a while, that rumbling sound would send me into a funk.

Then I decided I’m going to be grateful for those experiences I did have. After all, in the here and now, I’m extraordinarily grateful for our time here in Tbilisi. We might need to leave one day, but Corie and I will always carry our time here with us.

And that is what makes life special.

Abandoned Standard Gas Station, Nara Visa, New Mexico

Wood Wall, Cuervo, New Mexico


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