The Sassy Sandpiper: Pass the Gratitude. Hold the Hugs and Kisses.
The Sassy Sandpiper contemplates Thanksgiving 2020 – a bittersweet holiday.
By M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter Columnist
This Thursday, the “holiday season” begins—against the backdrop of a pandemic, a nerve-wracking election, a precarious economy, and a fierce hurricane season that shows little sign of respecting its Nov. 30 expiration date.
A confirmed curmudgeon when it comes to the festive, I still cringe upon hearing anyone gripe, “What’s there to be thankful for? Especially this year?”
For starters, if you’re reading this you can be thankful for the fact that you’re still living: eating, breathing, and processing stimuli. Even if your life stinks like a really bad country song, if you haven’t had a great year, you can be certain not many of us have.
One truly great thing for me was delving into the work of Native American mother, writer, botanist and professor Robin Wall Kimmerer. Her “hymn of love to the world,” Braiding Sweetgrass, powerfully reconnected me to my own affinities with indigenous peoples, plants, animals, rocks—with the elements themselves. I gathered together precious reminders of my experiences of being made a Sister by Smiling Eagle Woman at Natural Bridge, Virginia, in 2001; meeting the healer Lula Red Cloud at the Crazy Horse Monument in 2002; adopting a calf named Spirit Thunder at the World Peace White Buffalo Sanctuary near Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2004. He was born on May 27 (my birthday) that year.
Kimmerer’s writing about the Honorable Harvest touched me the most. The essential “rules” are that we ask permission for what we take, take only what we need, share, be grateful, and reciprocate the gift. Sadly, little honor is practiced in today’s Thanksgiving traditions. Fortunately, though, what elementary school students are being taught about the first feast between the “Pilgrims and Indians” is changing. I remember a pillowcase dyed brown and fringed at the hem to create a costume for little Indian girl me. Menus are changing, too, arcing toward compassion and sustainability: less turkey, more bean casserole.
This year, the holidays are more heart-wrenching than usual. We are advised to avoid gathering together as COVID-19 rages throughout the U.S. If gather we must, let us partake of the meal outdoors, at safe distances. That’s doable for Florida but iffy for the rest of the country. You could Zoom in on your family and friends if you’re inclined toward the technical. Or maybe you’ll defy precautionary measures completely. It’s your right, after all.
Best case scenario is to bear the sacrifice (Americans have been up to the task historically) and spend the day only with members of your personal household (pets included). It’s not going to kill you if you don’t see Aunt Tillie and Uncle Gus. COVID-19 could.
This Thursday is about gratitude for life’s bounty and blessings. I wish you boatloads of both (as well courage and grace in the midst of life’s inevitable hardship and grief) with this beautiful adaptation by Gary Snyder of a Mohawk prayer.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF M.R. WILSON
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