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Not locked to any season: Sellwood 'Gratitude Tree'

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Gratitude knows no season -- and now there's a way to express it publicly


RITA A. LEONARD - Gary Sanders created a Gratitude Tree near his Sellwood home, and enjoys reading the regular comments that are posted there. In late summer, a "Gratitude Tree" was set up at the corner of S.E. 15th and Clatsop Street by Sellwood resident Gary Sanders. Passersby were asked to fill out a manila shipping tag with personal comments, and attach it to ropes and webbing hung on the tree.

There are now over a thousand grateful comments fluttering from the branches, and more appear each day.

Sanders reveals, "I teach Meditation at the Portland Insight Meditation Community, and gratitude is a big part of that. I love the whole 'Keep Portland Weird' concept, and wanted to share something positive with my neighbors. After I saw a 'Love/Wish' tree in North Portland, I decided to set up a Gratitude Tree near my home.

"It's been a wonderful experiment in gratitude," he muses. "I posted several signs on the tree inviting, 'Always give Thanks', 'Grateful hearts gather here', and 'Gratitude turns what we have into Enough'. I provided 100 shipping tags to people in my class – and if they filled out and returned them, I hung them on the tree. A sealed paint can hanging from a branch provides additional tags and pens for people to add their own comments here."

Browsing the notes on the tree we saw gratitude for Democracy, Love, Poetry, Connections, Family, Mountains, and Fresh Air, among other thoughts. One note states, "Grateful that I got to know you on this Earth". Another declares, "Grateful for a husband who believes in me, shows me affection, and makes me laugh." Yet another is grateful for "education, opportunity, health, birds, science, and the vastness of Life."

Sanders admits that his favorite comments are "The kids' ones – those hanging lower down on the tree. Many of them are thankful for friends and family: Those really warm my heart. I didn't want to censor any comments except for vulgarity, but some visitors have removed inappropriate notes from the tree.

"Gratitude is a daily practice for me," admits Sanders. "I shift my perceptions daily. The real power of Gratitude is that we can recognize it even during the difficult and painful moments of our lives. One respondent here was even grateful for a cancer diagnosis, since that provided impetus to appreciate the special moments of each day."

"During summer, the leaf canopy of the tree sheltered the notes, but now that the leaves have fallen, the tree is demonstrating Life's inevitable impermanence. The small prayer flags are fraying in the wind, and rain has blotted out some of the comments, but there are always new ones showing up.

"I'd love for people to continue adding their thoughts. We all benefit from realizing the small things in life that keep us grateful, and we can learn from each others' gratitude as well," reflects Sanders.