At exactly twelve minutes after noon last Wednesday, a small circle of people could be seen serenely holding hands near the astrolabe in Troup Square.
Though a boisterous busload of schoolchildren had unloaded for a picnic moments before, the group of 10 smiling attendees remained unperturbed. Amid the laughter and shouts surrounding them, each member of the circle took turns sharing one word for which they were grateful. "Health," "family" and "forgiveness" could be heard.
This was the latest installment of Gratitude in the Squares, a series of informal assemblies conceived and conducted by Anahata Healing Arts creative director and "positive energy artist" Joanne Morton. Along with co-founder Lynn Geddes, Morton strives at Anahata "to uplift, create and share" a positive outlook on life through meditation classes, yoga and community potlucks.
After observing the popular custom of giving daily thanks throughout November via Facebook posts, she wanted to create an opportunity to be thankful in person — as well as cultivate appreciation of some of the city's most glorious spaces at the same time.
"I love Savannah's squares and I've always wanted to do something in them," the ebullient Morton told the group gathered under the moss-draped oaks. "I also believe that gratitude is magic!
"I thought, 'what kind of magic could happen if we took a few minutes each week in a different square to share gratitude with each other?'"
The project began earlier this month and will continue this Wednesday, Nov. 29 (the day before Thanksgiving) in Monterey Square, the following Wednesday, Dec. 4 in Chatham Square and so on each week through all of Savannah's functioning 23 squares (there used to be 24, but Elbert Square, alas, remains buried under Montgomery Street.) The gratitude-fest will conclude in Johnson Square, the largest of them all, on April 9, 2014.
Beginning at precisely at 12:12 p.m. — a fortuitous number for its repetition, explained Morton — and opening with a brief inspirational passage from Angel Therapy founder Doreen Virtue, the meditative practice sessions are short, sweet and open to all. So far, attendance has ranged from one to 15, and Morton welcomes anyone seeking a free midday attitude adjustment.
"Everyone could use a burst of gratitude on their lunch break," she declared.
After all expressed their thanks, the circle observed a moment of silence, followed by spontaneous deep breaths and beatific smiles. The school kids continued their revelry at a respectful distance.
"I'm so glad I could be here today," said attendee Karrie Blew. "It's a special time to step away from the busyness of the day and connect."
Others confirmed that the quick dose of positive energy revitalized them. Hugs and handshakes followed, and by 12:30, each individual had gone on his or her cheerful way.
The holiday season brings joy for many but can also challenge others with its expectations of family and financial commitments (or lack thereof.) Morton believes the key is to set constructive intentions and keep it positive.
"Expressing thanks helps us see how much we already have," she counsels.
"It's a chance to create a consciousness of gratitude and courage in these times."