When Sabina, my editor, suggested I write a blog about gratitude I agreed it was a good idea. After all, we had just published our first book together and it was Thanksgiving week – a time when our nation openly expresses thanks. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was still in full swing and social and political unrest was continuing to ravage our nation, when I stop to read between the lines there is much to be grateful for.

My writing process generally includes nature. Sometimes it involves riding a bike, sometimes it’s hiking, and sometimes it’s walking my dog, Gracie. But it is always about solitude. So rather than sit down at my desk to write a blog, I took Gracie for a walk.

Yes, this blog is about gratitude but perhaps not quite in the way Sabina envisioned. My gratitude, which is so deep at times it feels overwhelming, is about appreciating our differences. Because it is due to our differences that we published a book. It is due to our differences that my creative right brain combined with her logical left brain and we created something that was not there before.

If we were to draw it out on paper, I doubt Sabina and I could be any further apart and still be on the same diagram. Sabina, having moved to Texas from England, has a beautiful, lilting British accent. Mine is a combination of southwest Virginia drawl, mixed with two decades of crispy New England and a topping of Texas. Sabina has the dark, beautiful toffee-colored skin that pale Irish girls like me can only dream about. She is an Ismaili Muslim; I practice Mayhana Buddhism. I wear my heart and feelings on my sleeve and Sabina is far more reserved with a stylish eloquence that I can’t even fake for a little while. She has three children and gobs of family and the backdrop of her life is in constant motion, growth, and noise. I have a dog and a cat, sometimes one of them snores – other than that you can generally hear a pin drop on my sound stage. She can talk to our Illustrator about jpegs and file sizes when I can only mutter that Max’s halter isn’t drawn correctly and the gloves on the dentist need to be drawn longer. She understands how to make technology work for her – from her phone (!) and I have to essentially put the world on hold and focus on something technical with the intensity of a brain surgeon without the fun music in the background. She glides through it all and I generally fail and flail.

But, I can write about horses in a field and she’ll ask if it’s hay that is being grown for the horses to eat or something else. I can describe how fences are almost always in need of repair on a Texas ranch and I know she hears me, but I know she doesn’t quite understand just how perpetual fence repair is. I can describe how tall Max is and how Gracie would curl up underneath him in his shadow to stay cool – but she’s never experienced the dust and heat of standing on the parched, cracked earth of a Texas ranch in August and how luxurious a few inches of shade feels.

When I had the idea to write a book there was no one else I considered. I had no idea she would say yes but I sure hoped she would. Regardless of who is the yin and who is the yang, just like Gracie and Max, Sabina and I didn’t focus on our differences. Instead, we considered what we had in common. Two former colleagues with backgrounds in social work aware of the wake we leave behind. Friends who share similar values and perspectives and motivated, as Sabina articulated so well, “to use this virus instead of it using us”. Two women who wanted to make a difference for children, their parents, and adults who value the lessons that animals teach us.

And so, in the middle of a public health emergency with me packing up and moving to another state when as a healthcare writer I’d never been busier or more harried, and Sabina with three young kids at home and not in school and a house full of people, we brought our strengths to our collective table. Her logical thinking brought out mine when we needed it, and my creative tendencies encouraged hers. Together, we did something we’d never done before. We wrote and published a book.

My gratitude is not so much about the book we created – as excited as I am about it – my gratitude is for the process that she and I have gone through and come through, together. We traded sleepless nights and all the things that come from turning a dream into a reality. Yet, as much as I am amazed at the book with my name on the cover, my gratitude is more about seeing the pictures of her kids the day they visited Max, of hearing their excitement about a new story, of seeing the picture of her mother reading the book to her three-year old on the back porch. That’s what matters. And that’s why I’m grateful.

I wrote The Blue Dog and The White Horse: Adventures on a Texas Ranch and yes, I’m excited. Very. But my gratitude is not so much for the book that I wrote that is sitting on my living room table – it’s more about the learning experience and becoming a better person by working so closely with Sabina. Someone so very different than me, yet so very similar. And that’s my lesson and my takeaway. I’m grateful for our differences because they help to highlight our similarities and in the end, we are all the same.

Stay tuned. We’re not done yet!

~ Haven