Over the years Thanksgiving has filled a bigger and bigger place in my heart.
Centered around family, food, and the concept of gratitude, this holiday makes even the cold November wind feel like a blessing—encouraging us to light a fire and snuggle closer to one another.
It’s on this day that I like to take time to honor the Earth—to thank her for her gifts of food, water, and shelter.
I step outside for a moment, walking out under clouded skies and amongst the lifted branches of bare autumn trees. I sit down and breathe in the coolness of fall air, and feel the breeze on my cheeks and the hardness of the ground under my boots. I close my eyes, breathing in the silence around me. I quietly offer a sense of gratefulness to the soil beneath my feet. I thank Mother Earth for filling our dinner table, for bringing cool, clean water up through our facets and into our cups, for giving us wood to burn in the kitchen when the ice has begun to cling to the outsides of the house. I thank her for nurturing the sheep whose wool became the warm socks on my feet. I thank her for the redness of the cardinal perched on the porch. I thank her for scent of cinnamon, and for the magic of hot cacao spiced drinks. I thank her for anything and everything that willingly flutters through the walls of my mind.
I have found that this act of expressing gratitude, of consciously bringing forth a sense of appreciation for the basic wonder of being alive on this planet, is one of the most freeing experiences available to me. A few moments of quiet contemplation sheds layers from my being: ripping back the haze of the routine, un-examined life, and bringing forth a sense of lightness, clarity, and joy into what is often a bleak time of year in Iowa (and indeed throughout much of the country). It reminds me again and again why I choose to seek out a life deeply connected to the Earth. It reminds me why I continue to speak out against the harm that we inflict on this beautiful planet. It reminds me why I continue to try to change my own life—to tread more lightly, to engage in every way that I can, and to foster an optimistic vision for the future. It reminds me, even when the larger forces of the world seem decidedly uninterested in protecting the natural world, why there is always reason to hope.
Of course, as this year’s Thanksgiving approaches and I sit in front of my computer writing this, I have to acknowledge that for many people in this country the (general) spirit of Thanksgiving may be more difficult than usual to summon.
Following the recent election, I have watched family members and friends carry the weight of great fear and anxiety regarding the future of this country. I know families who worry for their safety, and who question their sense of belonging in this great land in ways that they never have before. I know families (mine included) split along ideological lines and struggling to bridge the gap, to see and understand each other even as we share the same dinner table.
But of course, I realize, this only makes the spirit of Thanksgiving ever more important and valuable. Gratitude heightens our ability to create vibrational change in the way that we move forward, in the way that we live our lives and interact with one another and react to events happening around us.
It reminds us how impossible it is to give up, to succumb to cynicism, numbness, division, and fear, no matter the circumstances. And it reminds us in particular, as people committed to the environment, why it has never been so important to stand up and fight.
With this in mind, I am wishing everyone a little bit of Thanksgiving light this year—and any and all opportunities to embrace wonder.
Pass in awe through the mystical early morning light of radiating orange beneath fallen leaves, and enjoy the visual gift that is the air holding the beginning of the day. Listen to the Mississippi River bask in its incredible breadth as it rolls by on towards the sea. Stop to admire the way the little creeks around your home sparkle so brilliantly with early morning sun that it looks nearly metallic—a blinding display of beauty, the reflection of the sun itself beaming up at you.
Run down a single-track trail through the woods, and feel the earth beneath your feet, strong and yet yielding. Allow yourself to be held. Look out over the Thanksgiving table and find a moment to feel amazement at the variety and abundance of food before you. Give thanks for the soil and the rain, for the hands that tended the plants and animals now offering their nourishment.
Catch the patterns of ice forming on the windows. Climb the hills and watch the last glow of the sunset. Fill yourself with smiles, with good books, with a chance to warm your feet by a real fire.
This is the day we set down our troubles and our fears. This is the day we turn off the news. This is the day we give thanks. That we love. That we remember. That we find ourselves once again resting in the incredible tapestry of life.