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Painted Brain | Gratitude Day, Lake Merritt
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • December 1, 2014

Gratitude Day, Lake Merritt

When I told our editor, Billy Bang Douglas, to have a happy Thanksgiving, he replied, “Happy Gratitude Day, Dave.”

Yes indeed. Thanksgiving is a pretty tarnished holiday to anyone with even a scant knowledge of our ancient American history, which is tragic in its own way, because we really do need a holiday of thanks. Spending the weekend with my family, difficult as it was at times, was a beautiful and gratifying experience.
As I sit on my couch at sunrise on this Monday morning, preparing for another week of hyper-busy-ness, I find myself holding on to my appreciation for what I have, and for what I experience. There are myriad frustrations and challenges running a project like The Painted Brain, but at the core of it, there are myriad frustrations and challenges in just living your life as well.

If I were able to talk to my twenty-year-old self, that young person would probably think that I’d really drunk the California Kool-Aid based on what I write here. Be that as it may, mindfulness has really crept up on me and engulfed my entire consciousness. Not that I can always achieve it, but an objective and appreciative view of my surroundings and experiences helps me maintain my balance and joy in the world. I wanted to expound on what this concept means to me, as a way to prepare for the coming week of mishegoss ( “a wacky, irrational, absurd belief; a piece of tomfoolery.” – Leo Rosten).

Of all the experiences I had on my recent trip to Oakland, including the time I spent with both my parents, my brother and his boyfriend, my brother’s boyfriend, and one of my closest personal friends, my favorite experience was walking around Lake Merritt by myself. I have actually had a couple of very intense conversations with various people walking around this lake, but this time I was out on my own, on foot. The path around this wobbly, giant inland lake describes a squishy triangle with tributaries of curves in the corners and long straightaways. It was crowded to the hilt with all the splendorous diversity of Oakland, and silent, except for seagulls and the occasional waft of house music from someone’s scarily-loud earbuds. I was lightly thinking about keeping my hips balanced and using my entire left foot on every step to compensate for its relative weakness. Everyone moved seamlessly around and through each others’ various flight paths, on wheels or Chucks or bare feet. The sun was dropping in the West. My mind let go of everything else and took it all in.

Dave Leon is the founder and director of The Painted Brain.

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