“... for this Fall rain that shuts me in ...”
Edwin Markham’s turn-of-the-century poem, “Thankfulness,” was on my mind recently as I scraped, sanded, and swept during an early autumn rainstorm.
I was in the midst of a catharsis project, temporarily swapping thinking for a living for 3 days of hard manual labor on a house built right around the time Markham published “Thankfulness” in 1905. (Click here to hear a reading of the poem.)
The house doesn’t yet have electricity, as we’d opted to keep it off until some of the exposed knob-and-tube wiring can be replaced with 12-2 wire and modern conveniences, such as grounded receptacles. So that meant no power, save for the solar panel battery bank in use on sunny days, and definitely no internet connection.
And yet we were thankful.
The day started out with a few of us talking while we worked, but as the group of family and friends in the house grew—some longtime friends, others just recently met—the conversation and work needed a bit of a driving force to carry us along.
In 1905, the best one could do would be to sing songs together, perhaps in multipart harmony, while using hand tools similar to what we are using to restore the house. Thankfully, though, streaming lets us do so much more today. Even though our little group relied on a number of smartphones and a battery-powered speaker to supply the soundtrack, we had almost the entirety of musical history from the last century— and beyond—at our fingertips.
So we were very thankful.
“That’s the song about zombies,” one person said, as the Spotify playlist pulled up The Cranberries’ classic hit, the lead singer belting out “in your head, in your head, in your head” as we sang along.
“Do you have that song by Creed about open arms?” came the question from another, and if it wasn’t on someone’s phone already, we were able to find and stream it easily enough from Amazon or Apple Music, ready for another round of the singalong.
On our lunch break, since it was still gloomy outside, we took turns sharing YouTube videos, from the 2009 Britain’s Got Talent can-can rendition of “It’s Raining Men” to a demo tape version of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” by Skylar Gray (who wrote the song’s chorus), the videos kept flowing until our 30 minutes were up and it was time to turn away from the video screen and back to the peeling paint on the screen door.
But we were thankful.
When the playlist eventually got to Meghan Trainor’s signature doo-wop piano line, it led to a slew of songs from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, which then led in turn to Marvin Gaye and even a few bluegrass numbers and gospel tunes.
By the end of the day, we’d run through two phones’ batteries, but our trusty battery-powered speaker had held its own. The work hadn’t really felt like work—it was more like a singalong that included razor blades put to good use removing layers of poorly applied paint that had accumulated over six rounds of remodels before our fall rain-and-work-a-thon.
And yet we were thankful.
The reading of Markham’s “Thankfulness” was last on the playlist.
“I thank thee, Father, for the sky, wherein Thy little sparrows fly ...” was my final choice as we neared completing of our day’s labor. The overcast day meant work had to end, as it had for millennia, when the sky’s light weakened, with deep shadows across the house, making it hard to see where to scrape and sand.
And so the day ended, as it had begun, in conversation, some of it laced with what we’d streamed throughout the day.
And we were thankful.
[This article appears in the November/December issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.]