When we consciously notice and express gratitude for small things – the stroopwafel perfectly perched on a cup of coffee, the bobbing heads of jonquils on an early spring day, the look of joy in the eyes of a lover when we enter a room – we are reorienting our hearts and minds to look for and savor the goodness in life. You are invited to build your own gratitude garden in which to build a tiny cairn of gratitude.

Set aside about 30 quiet minutes to assemble your gratitude garden. 

Here is what you will need:

  • An oblong bowl of moderate depth. 
  • A tiny bowl that will fit inside the larger bowl.
  • Clean sand, playground sand from a hardware store works well.
  • Three smooth stones that will fit in the tiny bowl.
  • 1 Tea Light

Assembling your gratitude garden

Pour clean sand into the larger bowl, filling it within a quarter inch of the top. Gently smooth the sand. As your fingers glide across the surface, try to notice the individual fine grains that are part of the whole.

Gently nestle the smaller bowl in the sand you have poured. Position it in the far left or right in the larger bowl.

Add the tea light either to the opposite side or the middle of the large bowl. Leave enough space to for your gratitude cairn that you will construct over time.

Place the one stones in small holding bowl, taking a moment to name a specific thing about your queerness for which you are grateful. Place a second stone in the bowl and speak the name of a person for whom you are grateful. Place the third stone in the tiny bowl and say aloud something in immediate surroundings for which you are grateful.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and contemplate anything else for which you are grateful. When you are ready, thank God for this moment in time and open your eyes.

Place the largest of your stones in the sand.


Once a month, go for a walk and find an additional stone. Choose a small one will fit in your pocket or sit in a conspicuous place on your desk. Touch that month’s stone at least once a day to bring you back to your breath and back to gratitude. At the end of the month, add your new stone to your gratitude garden.


Download and print the cairn collage to paste into your journal. Write on the stones words representing anything and everything for which you are grateful. Add a bit of watercolor paint to each stone either before or after you fill them with gratitude.

Small file size, PNG cairn collage.

Large file size, PDF cairn collage.



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