Gratitude tree

Gratitude trees are small plants to which you hang cards bearing the things for which you’re thankful. They were a favorite arts and crafts project a few years ago, but I had never seen one on this scale until I stayed at Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga, Calif., earlier this week.

I’ll have more details on my visit to Napa on National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel blog in a few days. But I wanted to say something about what I discovered on the tree.

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The number one thing people were grateful for: being alive.

The shooting in Arizona and the tragic murder of a readers’ grandson are reminders of just how precious and fleeting the gift of life is.

Late yesterday, I heard back from Nancy, the boy’s step-grandmother. They had just finished the funeral.

“There’s not much more to do but mourn,” she told me.

The family remains grateful for the way Southwest handled the incident.

What they did was allow a very human deed to take place that changed the lives of our family. Had my husband missed that flight, he wouldn’t have made it to Denver in time to say goodbye.

A close second on the gratitude tree: my family.

There were several variations on this theme. Girlfriends were thankful for boyfriends. Husbands for wives. Parents for children. Girlfriends for girlfriends. They were thankful for each other, and for being loved.

The gratitude tree is taken pretty seriously by guests. I saw one visitor filling out a card, and he seemed to be putting a lot of thought into his words. Many of the cards were so faded that you couldn’t read what was on them.

I’m not quite sure what this tree has to do with travel, except that it’s at a popular resort hotel in California, and that the travelers on this site have been much more reflective in the last few days.

I’m grateful, too.

I’m grateful to you, my readers, for sharing your stories about travel. In the last two weeks, several posts that first appeared here have become national news stories. I’m honored that you trusted me to tell your story here, on this site, first.

I’m grateful to my fellow bloggers and friends in the media, who read the stories and shared them with their readers.

I’m also grateful to my family. Last year I promised I would spend less time in front of a computer and more time with them, and for the last two weeks we’ve been together, exploring Northern California.

Sometimes, it takes a tree to remind us of how grateful we are.