Sunset before the storm, over Harpswell Neck. (Erin O’Mara photo)

Sometimes, the mental gymnastics I perform to access even the tiniest bit of gratitude are so extreme, I’m sure I’ll rupture a muscle.

Always picking the slowest line in the grocery store, the prospect of having to enter any giant box store, or queuing up at the coffee shop to find out the person before me got the last bagel can push me to the mental exertion equivalent of a triple flip with a twist just to keep on an even keel.

Irritation that I won’t remember in five years or even five minutes can knock me on my tuchus and shift my focus away from the most important things.

Did you know if you eat a cupcake before 11 a.m., you can call it a muffin and congratulate yourself on starting your day with a filling, wholesome breakfast? At least that’s true in my house. It feels good to have one spot where I get to make up the rules.

I love that my partner knows my toast settings and when he makes me an English muffin, it’s perfectly balanced between crisp and soft.

I love seeing the dog’s legs kick in her sleep. Her grunts get louder and louder until she sleep-barks and shocks herself awake. Her soft snores are charming in a way that my partner’s snores aren’t, though I’m also grateful for his peaceful slumber and expansive dreams.

The Perseid meteor shower came through on a cloudless night and I was filled with wonder as I made wish after wish. I watched a shooting star with the longest tail I’ve ever seen.

And, I believe, in the way they’re meant to, my wishes will come true.

I saw the Starlink satellite parade for the first time. It was a gift of awe-striking newness and a rare moment of not having context. I’m grappling with the idea that the landscape of the universe is forever changed, and that we started changing it with the very first satellite. The vastness of space and the reach of human ingenuity remind me of my small place and of possibility that’s overwhelming and impossible to grasp because it has no limits.

I’m grateful I was in a spot with no cell signal so I couldn’t try to Google the experience in real time. And I’m grateful for that irony.

I love how fresh and clean the world feels after a rainstorm. This year, I got to experience that feeling over and over. That’s good news for our wells next year and makes me even more grateful for the glorious days of fall.

We’re lucky Hurricane Lee changed track and moved further out to sea, sparing the people of Maine from the most direct hit. I’m hopeful we’ve got time left to innovate and protect our planet from the worst of climate change.

Did you see the sunset the night before the storm? Did you gasp?

I like the treat of walking barefoot. This summer, we were on the losing side of the battle against weeds, but even the weeds were springy under my feet.

Have you noticed the miracle of ground cover? Those hard-to-plant spots in the garden transform into a field of green and purple, thriving leaves. I know because our neighbors gave us some starts and they took off, saving us from hours of weeding.

In our yard, I see the power of small, incremental steps and in that power, my mind eases because small steps give me time to figure out the big things.

My partner, morning after morning, roams the backyard eating a banana, and one day, our neighbors knocked to drop off a loaf of homemade banana bread. They figured if he liked bananas enough to eat one a day, he’d like them in bread form. They were right. When one of our kayaks got loose, they called and even offered to wade in to save it.

We’ve had neighbors come over for dinner and bring the actual dinner! We got amazing food, conversation and connection, and all we had to do was be home.

I’m grateful for the warmth of friendship and the miracle of care, not just from those who know us well but from those who think we’re worth getting to know.

I love how tiny, normal, even forgettable acts of niceness, like a wave across the lawn or a shouted greeting, can add up to big things.

Even moments of spiraling irritation have silver linings.

I know I’m lucky to be standing in any line with, and in the service of, people I love. And, if you believe those buzz killers at Weight Watchers, a bagel is an empty carb-bomb that gobbles up half a day’s calories. 

A delightful, better-tasting alternative is a double-chocolate muffin, home-baked, and eaten before 11 a.m.

Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.