“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year;
To the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”
Edward Sandford Martin*
Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope this finds you overflowing with gratitude and fully aware of the blessings that abound in your life………..as one of those little slogans says: “There is always, always something for which to be grateful.” I’m grateful that we are sharing Thanksgiving with family — not today, but Saturday. I’ve never felt that celebrations must be on the calendar date of the holiday, nor should family members be overwhelmed by rigid holiday expectations. As long as we gather to celebrate, I’m happy. When our children were small, we dragged them from pillar to post trying to make all the family events. As a result, they usually ended up with too little sleep followed by head colds or tonsillitis, and I’d be rocking a crying baby at 2 AM. So slower schedules and seeing family when it works out best for those who are traveling is a good plan. It’s simply important to keep everyone connected; feeling blessed, not stressed.
For those who are alone, however, Thanksgiving can be a difficult day. Many years ago, people who worked at the Schuyler County Office for the Aging decided to do either a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas dinner for clients who were alone, and the clients voted overwhelmingly for Thanksgiving. Apparently this is such a family-oriented day that being alone intensified their general loneliness. As volunteers, we brought in food and provided dinner on Thanksgiving, for several years. We sort of felt that in bringing some joy to replace loneliness, we were helping to steer the world away from chaos.
Speaking of good times, we are coming to the season of Advent. Advent and Hanukkah begin on the same Sunday this year: December 2. Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates a miracle happening eons ago, and Advent signals the onset of the Christmas season, also a miraculous time that brought spiritual light. This world needs all the light it can get. Advent always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and it signals the beginning of the Liturgical New Year for western Christian churches. Eastern Orthodox churches have a slightly different calendar. I always hope that my Advent days will be ones of quiet preparation. Unfortunately, in the midst of our cultural mad race beginning with Black Friday, it is difficult to find time or quiet for contemplation, but every year, I have high hopes. ☺ When I start feeling overwhelmed by the clamor and rush to get things done, I pull back with a cup of tea, put quiet music on the CD player and think about why we celebrate Christmas. And I remember all the wonderful Christmas times we have experienced.
Our roly-poly kittens have gone to a new and quite posh home (heated kitty huts) in a horse barn. Once again, the small colony of feral cats that semi-successfully bends us to their wills, are looking at me with accusing eyes. Cats believe strongly that “it takes a community to raise a kitten” and they want to know what I’ve done with their little fur balls. I must admit that I will miss watching their stiff-legged pounces and the insatiable curiosity that leads them to poke their furry small noses into everything. But on the upside, I will no longer be tripping over them every time I exit from our back door.
As part of my quiet times, I’ve been re-reading “A Tree Full Of Angels” by Macrina Wiederkehr.** In one chapter, she speaks of gathering up the crumbs of each day instead of sweeping them away unnoticed. I immediately thought of the ancient story of the Israelites being supplied with daily manna on their journey out of Egypt — but only enough for each day. They couldn’t save it for the next day; it was to be enjoyed at the moment. So instead of breezing through our days, always looking ahead, possibly we would find satisfaction in looking closer at small things with grateful hearts — the crumbs and wafers of manna — the good, if often infinitesimal, things that are part of each day. As Ms. Wiederkehr says: “snowflakes falling so fast that the sky was suddenly full of angels — a bud on a Christmas cactus that you thought was dead—- a sunset that is so breathtakingly beautiful you stop the car to just be with it —-the steam from your early morning coffee or tea slowly ascending, meeting the first rays of dawn —– an old face aglow because of your unexpected visit.”
Enjoyment of our daily crumbs is something that we often neglect. We tend to be more interested in what we’ve accomplished. We forget that a small dose of enjoyment may recharge our whole outlook on life as well as our bodies. Delight sets our body systems to produce serotonin instead of adrenalin, and we are more relaxed. Our pinochle group, which meets too seldom, energizes us with laughter. We don’t really care whose bid, what’s trump or who wins; pinochle is merely the vehicle that keeps us connected and having a very good time. Humor is often better than an analgesic for chronic discomfort. It pushes our “Feel Better” button and — we do. Singing with Spencer Singers does that for me. I enjoy the challenges of the music, the way our voices blend and after a rehearsal, I feel as though I’ve had a short vacation. Then there is taking time for a simple foray into a brisk out doors. It freshens the respiratory and circulatory systems and offers a whole panorama of pleasing scenery —- chickadees, squirrels, flora of all shapes and colors —– and provides the exercise the doctors keep urging us to do. Even stopping a moment to enjoy a vivid sunset is an “upper”. The “To-Do” list should never eliminate time for enjoyment. “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely more important.” Sherlock Holmes***
Now, as November approaches its end, the outside vegetation is covered with piles of too-early snow. We’ve had our first (and second and third) snowfalls and some very chilly temperatures. It is definitely hot chocolate and mitten weather. I cleaned out the mitten, scarf and hat tubs and tried to find my boots which disappeared over the summer. The boots had dog food inside and the woolen items all needed to be freshened. Many of them were knitted by my mother; beautiful Scandinavian designs and fluffy tassels on the hats. Sorting them brought a few minutes of good memories; I could see her sitting in her tapestry-upholstered chair, knitting needles clicking away as she listened to the conversations around her. I did learn to knit, but never created in a prolific way as she did. I think everyone in the clan has a pair of her knitted slippers. Several of her grandchildren, however, knit with great skill, and carry on the tradition of beautiful sweaters, afghans, mittens, hats and scarves that warm us all winter.
The seed and plant catalogs began coming before Thanksgiving this year. Somehow it was comforting; this reminder that spring isn’t really that far distant. And meanwhile, we can surely find other heart-warming things about winter. Complaining can quickly become a habit, so as the wet snow comes down, the driveway becomes a mire, and temperatures plummet —– I try to remember that there are no mosquitoes, I don’t have to feel guilty for not weeding and a cup of tea beside a warm fire in the woodstove is a fine way to spend an hour or two. Gretchen Rubin,**** in her “Moment of Happiness” shares this passage from Helen Keller*****: “The infinite wonders of the universe are revealed to us in exact measure as we are capable of receiving them. The keenness of our vision depends not on how much we can see but on how much we feel……………Nature sings her most exquisite songs to those who love her.” If Helen Keller could, in her blindness and deafness, find inspiration and delight in the world around her —- surely we can learn to do the same. I hope that whatever your life is like right now, that you find today a blessing and full of crumbs for which to be thankful.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*-Edward Sandford Martin—American journalist and editor. 1856-1939
**-Macrina Weiderkehr—O.S.A — Author and spiritual guide from the Benedictine monastic tradition in Arkansas.
***-Sherlock Holmes—a fictional private detective created by British writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
****-Gretchen Rubin—American author, blogger and speaker, who has researched the Happiness Project.
*****-Helen Keller—American author, political activist and lecturer. Ms. Keller was the first blind/deaf person to achieve a BA degree.