Gratitude Flag Garden along the Mill River

Not long before I left Western Massachusetts last summer, I walked along the Mill River in an area I hadn’t visited for several years. Well, maybe even more than several, truth be told.


I was so lucky because I stumbled upon an installation of gratitude prayer flags. Scores of them. Hundreds of them. Hanging from laundry line tied to the trunks of trees. All the flags were varying shades of the same rust/saffron/orange hue. And each one had writing or drawing on it. Different handwriting, different styles, different messages, but all the same: expressions of gratitude.

My eyes awash with this delight, my heart filled with joy and gratitude as I read and came to understand the purpose.

Among the flags, at the base of one of the trees, was a weather-resistant plastic container with pieces of cloth, cut to about the same size and shape as each other and the ones hanging, blank and ready for my expressions of gratitude.

Also there were several permanent markers so that I could write (or draw) them. And instructions, which were really more like declaration of purpose, so that I could understand what my individual gesture meant as part of this collective embodiment of gratitude and impermanence.

I can’t get this photo to sit upright…

It says, “The Gratitude Line was started in 2011, one week before Thanksgiving.  The interest was that it would be a place near the river that people from the community could share their gratitude publicly yet anonymously, a powerful gift for both the givers and the receivers…”

It is signed, “Blessings, The Keepers.”

Given all that is happening in the world, given all that happens in the heart of any given human being, I wish there was a gratitude flag garden in every community — not so common as to become invisible, but accessible to any and all longing for the chance to express both their grief and gratitude (for both are so deeply entwined).

Thank you, The Keepers.  My heart is larger and my imagination sparked by your efforts and your gift to all of us.

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