I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought;
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
It is ironic that on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day for making preparations, both practical and mental for Thanksgiving tomorrow; we here in the United States confront prompt after prompt to acquire even more than we have.
It is an interesting truth that so often those who are richly blessed with all things material focus on wanting more and more, while those who have little materially are often overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings and kindnesses already in their lives.
I’m thinking not only about our plans and purchases for our special meals tomorrow, but of the looming season of acquisition that our holidays have become. And the retailers, big and small, remind us at every turn that it is our magical time of year to shop, beginning the day after Thanksgiving- or maybe on Thanksgiving day itself after dinner; or maybe even a few days early if we really want to get a jump on the “short” Christmas season.
My email “inbox” is full with offers of discounts from every retailer with whom I do business. Turning on the TV for a weather or news update brings more sales pitches into the living room.
We are not encouraged to be grateful for the things we have, but to feel our need to go buy more. (I began to suspect a few years back that the whole Christmas shopping season is craftily designed to allow us to buy discounted merchandise as much for ourselves as we do for the family and friends we bless with gifts each year.)
So how do we properly observe Thanksgiving?
Is it really about the meal, as the Cooking Channel experts and grocery retailers want us to believe? Is it about reading the advertising and planning our most strategic shopping excursion to get a jump on everyone else? Is it about enjoying the deep discounts retailers offer us so we can purchase their overpriced merchandise?
Perhaps there is another way.
Yes, I know that around most dinner tables tomorrow there will be a pause while someone says Grace over the meal. Whether that moment is long or short, I hope we will understand that Thanksgiving is more than a day. It is a life’s work. And the point of Thanksgiving is to deeply appreciate the people, places, and opportunities we already have in our lives; not to feel compelled to acquire more.
The root of Thanksgiving for me is appreciation. Appreciation begins with mindfullness; with paying attention and understanding not only the value of a thing, but how it “fits”. We appreciate how comfortable our walking shoes are, and how they allow us to take that walk through the neighborhood. We appreciate the companionship of our cat or dog, and how they warm and brighten each day. We appreciate the friends and family who keep us company as we travel through the years. And we appreciate the memories of those who have departed from us, for whatever causes separated their path from ours.
We appreciate our home, our community, the good soil in our garden, the birds who brighten the bare branches of our shrubs in winter, the hours of sunlight, the life giving rain beating on the roof as we drift off to sleep. The things we truly appreciate in our lives rarely come from a store. Things which bring us the deepest happiness are priceless, and never go on sale.
This is an understanding it often takes decades to grow into. What a kindness to help our children realize early on that the gifts don’t bring happiness. There is more to life than shopping. Theodore Geisel tried to share this little lesson with his, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Perhaps some of us got it at the time, some of us couldn’t get past our compulsion to head to the mall.
I am taking a deep breath and stepping back from the madness of the retail world this Thanksgiving, as a conscious act of gratitude for what I have. Rather than become distracted by the frantic need to “get it all done” and “get there on time,” I plan to stay at home and appreciate the peace and quiet of our garden. I want to cook, listen to music, read, correspond with friends, and spend time with loved ones.
We’ve already put a string of twinkle lights on our little Norfolk Island Pine, who grew so happily on the patio all summer. I put the branches and blown glass birds on the mantle today. I’ll be making a wreath on Friday for our community center’s door with fresh Magnolia cut from a friend’s garden. We are settled in for a wintery weekend in our forest garden. And we wish a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving to You and yours
There are still gifts to purchase, cards to send, packages to mail; but they can wait until after Thanksgiving.
Let’s live in the present moment and savor the beauty around us, satisfied, and grateful; and enjoying the deep peace which only lives in a grateful heart.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
Jean Baptiste Massieu
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013