Growing up, Thanksgiving was a day to gather with the usual relatives, watch my mom wind tighter as mealtime approached, consume my favorite meat & potatoes, fail to understand the allure of televised football. Dinner was in the afternoon, with leftovers pulled out again around 7, only after my dad felt the ‘vultures circling’ to which my mom clucked minor disapproval, actually pleased at what she had to offer. Before eating the star meal, we would have to each state a word or phrase of thanks, followed by one of Dad’s customary dinner prayers. We danced this funny routine every year.
Not uncommon, my recognition and celebration of this holiday has changed throughout the years. During the last 10, I have hosted more often than not, continually working toward a more thoughtful day, respecting the food and its producers by choosing with care. I have grown to honor the season of sturdy squashes, root vegetables, hearty greens like kale, foregoing warm season foods shipped from far away. Being an omnivore, the turkey we eat needs to be raised on pasture where it was able to move around, pecking at grasses and bugs and tiny rocks, not bred to be all breast, unable to stand even if it had space to move about.
More over, Thanksgiving has become a day to culminate another year of thanks giving. At our house, we practice being thankful to each other: Thanks for dinner! Thank you so much for going to work every day. Thanks for the clean socks. Thanks for turning that light off. Would you feed puppy? Thank you! We also use thanks giving to change perspectives and attitudes. Can’t sleep? Relax, close your eyes and start listing all the things to be thankful for. Don’t think you can complete the workout? With each step, give thanks for legs, arms, muscles, lungs, breath, a body moving. Feeling down? Stand outside with open eyes, then whisper thanks for the trees, the sky, the clouds, the rain, the green, the brown, whatever it is in view.
In order to give thanks, I must notice. Noticing is living with eyes, heart, mind open. It is breathing deeply, lungs filled, then emptied slowly. It is giving room to feel pain completely, making space for all the harder emotions: fear, disappointment, discouragement, sadness; feeling these deeply, validating their existence, then watching them step back, satisfied at their turn to dance, ready to be wallflowers again. I want to live with open eyes, eyes that see the bad, the ugly, the cynic-producing, but focus on the lovely, the wonder, the mystery all around me. I am thankful.