During this holiday season, I’m thankful for: • The bright blue skies of autumn, with yellow maple leaves blowing in the breeze. • The way people are personalizing funerals these days, with friends and family members talking about the deceased -- non-mournful, true celebrations of life. • Fleece garments like Polartec (is that a brand name?) that keep us warm even on the chilliest South Carolina winter morning. • The steeple bells of Camden’s First Baptist Church, with their hymns tolling out over the town’s streets. • The good health that still allows me, rickety knees and all, to put in a few miles running early in the morning. • The decorative lights that will soon be spreading Christmas cheer in the Cooper Street area. • Those seemingly effortless look-away passes that skilled point guards can throw. • The way steam rises off a meadow in winter. • Outward Bound, an outdoors program that stretches kids’ horizons and toughens them in the best way possible. • The early stars of NASCAR -- Junior Johnson, Cale Yarbrough, Speedy Thompson -- who’d just as soon have a good fistfight as a close race. • The life of novelist Robert Parker, who provided his many fans with terrific Spenser mysteries until his death earlier this year. • “Forrest Gump,“ “The Shawshank Redemption“ and “The Graduate“ -- the only movies I can watch over and over. • As always, the soothing ballads of Van Morrison, the most soulful crooner who ever picked up a microphone. • Those white egrets that stand on the backs of cattle, just as if they had purchased a ringside seat for a first-hand pasture event. • Masons who can lay bricks in perfectly level courses and think it’s no big deal at all. • Satellite radio, with all its variety (except for the debt relief ads). • The magic of language and watching toddlers learning to communicate. • Chain saws which start easily and don’t choke down. • Cruise control on long road trips. • Grilled asparagus, McDonald’s French fries, Kit Kat bars and veal piccata. • Oh, gosh, can’t let the food thing go: cheeseburgers, onion rings, and spinach salad, BLTs and, best of all, lobster. • Two minutes left in the game, fourth and goal from the two. • The serene and relentless waves that roll into shore from far out in the Atlantic, singing a rhythmic song to all who love the sea. • Arnold Palmer and the legacy he has left for the game of golf. • The aroma of freshly cut Christmas trees. • Teenagers who don’t act as if it’s a pain to talk to adults -- and to call them by name. • Music downloads off the Internet, which make it easy to buy a favorite song rather than having to purchase an entire album. • The fun little kids have at Lake Wateree, being pulled around behind a boat on all sorts of fun water devices. • Ticonderoga number-one pencils – the ones with soft lead. • That first cup of coffee in the morning, when the sun is just beginning to peek over the eastern horizon. • The expressive comedy of Steve Martin. • My mangled, dent-ridden, old pick-up truck, which doesn’t look like much but starts every day and does whatever I ask of it. • The deep red tint of quarter-sawn heart pine flooring. • “Boardwalk Empire“ and “Bluebloods,“ the best of the new season’s TV offerings. • “Amazing Grace.“ • A hot cup of coffee after a pleasant dinner, maybe with a little brandy on the side. • And, of course, family and friends.