In the United States, the fourth Thursday of November is designated as Thanksgiving Day. Its purpose originated in October 1621 when the Wampanoag Native Americans joined with Pilgrim settlers to celebrate the harvest time. Here is a link if you want more details.
In honor of the day and the season, the Photo of the Week is a typical scene from Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, where my wife and I have lived since May 2017. We will be having the traditional meal of turkey and all the trimmings, including the grandkids’ favorite dessert, Nana’s delicious apple pie.
Wherever you may live, from our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is upon us. This year in the United States, the annual day of thankfulness arrives as early as possible, November 22. Our Canadian friends to the north celebrated their Thanksgiving on October 6.
It is only right and proper to pause as a people to reflect and give thanks. We can be grateful for so many things in our abundant living.
A friend on social media posted a list of items for which he was thankful. Given his life of service to others, I wasn’t surprised at how simple and ordinary the conveniences were that he listed.
Sometimes it’s the familiar, everyday activities and routines that are most meaningful to us. With my friend’s permission, here is his top 10 list of thankfulness:
1. Drinkable tap water
2. Flush toilets
3. Working septic system
4. Washer and dryer
5. Electricity in the home
6. Clothes to wear
7. A house to live in
9. Floors that aren’t dirt
10. Ample food
Keeping things simple helps us think beyond ourselves, consider the plight of others who don’t have even those most basic necessities. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 780 million people globally do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion lack improved sanitation. That’s billion with a B. Think about those numbers for a second.
Food, water, and shelter are the basic essentials for living. My friend set a good example. He recognized just how fortunate we are to be able to go most anywhere in our country and turn the tap and be able to drink the water without worry of contamination. I realize that folks in Flint, MI would differ with this comment. As dangerous as their situation is, I’m glad it is an exception.
And when it comes to waste products, I’ve always respected folks who make their living dealing with the muck of life. Farmers, public utility workers, garbage and waste haulers all have tough jobs. I am thankful for them.
Before we moved from Ohio to Virginia, Neva and I significantly reduced our individual wardrobes. I had too many shoes and too many shirts and pants I seldom wore. Off they went to the thrift store. I’ve been to locales where decent clothing was hard to come by, if only for economic reasons. I, too, am thankful for affordable clothing and footwear.
Housing is indeed another luxury we too often take for granted. Many moons ago I encountered students I had in my classroom who lived in a house with dirt floors. I had a hard time getting over that when we were more than halfway through the 20th century.
Now here we are well into the 21st century, and poverty and inadequate housing are still rampant in our society and globally. Neva and I do what we can to help the homeless through trusted charitable agencies. I am also thankful for the home we share together, and for my gracious wife’s willingness to use her gift of hospitality.
Finally on the thankfulness list is food. Food is a universal need and reason for jubilation. Food takes center stage at Thanksgiving. Roast turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, salad and pies all bedeck Thanksgiving Day tables in Canada and the U.S. alike.
When we say grace over this Thanksgiving Day meal, I’ll also be mindful of those who would love to be gathered there with us. Perhaps we should ensure that happens by inviting others not generally in our family circles.
When you think about it, doesn’t my friend’s list about cover what Thanksgiving is all about? What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Spring! It’s a word that rolls off our tongues with joy and passion. I give thanks for this vibrant, vernal season, especially after the long, cold winter too many of us had to endure.
This past winter surely tested our patience. But patient we must be. As much as we welcome springtime into our lives, she, too, can be fickle and bring mixed messages. Much like fall, springtime weather can embody all four seasons. Still, let’s give thanks for springtime.
Spring one day…
…and the next.
I realize that in our North American society, Thanksgiving is reserved for the fall. Canadians annually celebrate their Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. U.S. citizens wait until the fourth Thursday in November.
The Thanksgiving holidays acknowledge all that we have. The reflective focus is on the harvest, glad to have reaped the benefits of all the hard labor used to produce the yield. But we also need to be thankful for the spring. There are no apples without the blossoms and the pollinators.
I’m grateful for springtime even though some years, like this year, she takes her good old time making her presence known. Still, I say, let’s all express our thanks for spring’s debut.
Spring’s arrival creates a variety of reasons to rejoice often based on where you live and what activities ensue. Much action has an agricultural bent. Suburbanites will gas up their lawn mowers for the first of many rounds around the yard. City dwellers will pot tomatoes, peppers, and petunias to baby on their balconies.
More ambitious gardeners with sufficient plots of land will plant their seeds and seedlings, always keeping a wary eye on any frosty forecast. Flowerbeds will be mulched, windows washed, and if time allows, neighborly visits will resume right where they left off last fall.
Songbirds fill the twilight with concertos. Dormant lawns, long browned from winter’s sting, green up from an overnight shower. Azaleas, daffodils, dogwoods, redbuds, and forsythia brighten the awakening landscape. Shouts of children riding bicycles or skateboards echo through neighborhoods regardless of setting.
For all of this, I am thankful. Why not? It is the season of renewal, and after the winter that wouldn’t end we all need a breath of fresh air, we all need to inhale those sweet fragrances, we all need to enjoy each moment as the bees, birds, and butterflies reappear.
No matter how long spring takes to settle in to fit our particular comfort level, we should be most thankful that the season of hope and renewal is upon us. In keeping with that regeneration, it’s good to express our thanks to others each and every opportunity we can. Share your joy with others the way a mother robin cares for its young. Spouse, plumber, daughter, son, grandkids, stranger, receptionist, parents, waitress, checkout person, or whomever you meet will do.
Life is in a constant state of change. Spring is that reminder to us to embrace not just the new season, but life itself. The message of the purple crocuses is to put away your fears. Spring is here. Life is good.
Without the season of renewal, there can be no harvest. At this sacred time of year, let our thankfulness replicate our gratitude for life itself, the life we have lived, are living, and the experiences yet to come.
I’m thankful for spring’s freshness, its vibrancy, virility, brightness, and renewed blessings. Life’s eternal cycle of renewal has returned once again. Let’s rejoice and be glad in it!
I learned long ago if you want to celebrate you have to relate and communicate.
The designated time to do all three in the Unites States is upon us. Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect on moments and people for which you are thankful, and to affectionately share that gratitude.
When a situation goes awry, or a snafu in a bond develops, it’s important that we communicate our feelings to maintain positive relationships. It just might help untangle the problem and any hurt feelings.
This Thanksgiving season I thought it appropriate to share some personal experiences I had this year that required communication to keep relationships strong. I call them vignettes of thankfulness.
“I’ll see you in six months,” the doctor told my friend Leroy. A few months earlier, Leroy had been diagnosed with a type of incurable cancer.
Leroy had decided to accept his fate, and forgo any treatments, which would only extend his life a couple of months. Instead, he relied on doctor approved vitamin supplements and his faith to carry him forward.
I could hear Leroy’s voice quiver when he called me with a medical update. He was ever so grateful for this good news of extended life. I teared up too. I was honored to have received Leroy’s good news call.
The call about a cement wall of all things had a similar ending. While I was away, a township resident had had a concrete wall poured for his new house. The problem was it was on the township right of way. As a township trustee, I was charged with getting the problem corrected.
I hated to tell Bert, a man I knew well, to move the wall. But move it he did, both efficiently and creatively.
My friend Bert used his foresight and imagination to recycle the wall. A craftsman sawed it into two pieces. A giant crane hoisted them into a new location, where they became a retaining wall. Bert seemed even more pleased than me.
“We don’t often get second chances in life,” he said. I heartily agreed. I expressed my thankfulness for Bert’s willingness to correct the mistake and giving the wall a new life. The error did not become a wall that would interfere with our good relationship.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our extended time in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley helping out our daughter as she coached her university’s women’s volleyball team. To those who know my wife, it was no surprise Neva worked night and day completing every day, necessary chores in our daughter’s household.
While I was available, I helped our kindergartener granddaughter with her homework by listening to her pronounce letters and count numbers in both English and Spanish. For me, those were precious moments.
With our travels, Neva and I made a hard decision. We needed to sell the cute cottage my folks had built 40 years ago on a fishing lake in southeast Ohio. We asked around, but no one in the family indicated an interest in taking over the cottage.
After showing the property to some prospective buyers, our son called to say he had changed his mind. He wanted to purchase the cabin.
Neva and I were thrilled. It was the first item on our downsizing list, and our son would be the new owner. I’m pretty certain I saw my folks smiling down from heaven the day the property transferred.
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate, communicate and relate the moments and emotions for which we are grateful. These are a few of mine. What are yours?
I always have mixed emotions whenever November rolls around. Like you, I know what it means.
After the excellent weather of October, I hate to think of what November might bring. I hope November doesn’t take offense.
I so enjoyed the string of amazing days we had during the height of the leaf looking season here in Ohio’s Amish country. Given the traffic jams I encountered, I wasn’t alone.
I cruised the back roads for calendar-worthy snapshots of the naturally painted landscapes. With the predominance of rolling hills and gentle dales, a Currier and Ives setting arose around nearly every corner. In some spots, I merely rotated to take multiple scenic photos.
The truth is I only had to step out my front door for a lovely sunrise photo. In the evening, it was the reverse. I have four seasons of brilliant sunset shots behind my Amish neighbor’s farmstead.
Once the leaves began to color this year, red, yellow, orange, gold and crimson rainbows basked in the sun for all to absorb. Stunning doesn’t begin to describe the landscapes.
Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Horses at sunrise.
Taking it easy.
After the frost.
Those inspiring scenes changed much too quickly for my liking, though. The colorful leaves have mostly fallen, and the dormant season is upon us. Welcome to November.
The Canada Geese fly from farm pond to harvested grain field where they glean to their gullets’ delight or some hungry hunter scares the flock to flying and honking with blasts of his 12-gauge. Given their numbers, I think the geese always win that war.
While the geese stick around, other waterfowl species wing it south. Pintails and Sandhill Cranes often lead the way. It’s a ritual that makes me smile and sad simultaneously. They’re a joy to watch, but it’s a sure sign of what weather is ahead.
I marvel at the majestic flights of all species avian. To have a Pine Siskin make a brief pit stop at your feeder brings momentary elation.
On the other hand, finding the first White-crowned Sparrow of the season checking the same feeder tells me I’d better get ready for another winter. Perhaps that is November’s ultimate purpose.
November’s fickle weather pattern is familiar by now. Its early days seem more like an October extension. A few deciduous holdouts flash the last of the lushest leaves before they drop overnight leaving only the burnished oaks to rustle in the wind.
By the month’s end, the world can suddenly change with the passing of one strong cold front. The silvery down of the milkweed seeds sail through graying skies only to be replaced the next day by the season’s first snowfall.
We’ve returned to standard time, accentuating November’s shorter days. It’s nature’s way of prepping us for colder, darker days to come.
In North America, we have concocted a dodgy purpose for the eleventh month. November ushers in the holiday season here in the United States. Commercially translated, it’s time to shop as if you needed a reminder.
Near month’s end, Thanksgiving rings in the festive mode and the glitzy commercials. Christmas then isn’t far behind.
October’s golden days are gone. The best we can hope for now is a late Indian summer. We’ll take it even if only lasts a day or two.
Ohio’s pleasant weather has melted away like a stick of butter on a hot griddle. It’s time to stack the firewood, put in the storm doors and enjoy a warm cup of mulled cider.
The five of us men sat around the breakfast table enjoying the tasty food and each other’s company. As much as I cherished knowing these friends, and the nutritious breakfast, it was the conversation that captured my attention.
Half way through the hour-long gathering, I realized I was smiling, grateful to be included in this forthright discussion about what really matters in life. The hard, direct questions about life and death enthralled me. The frank, honest, heartfelt answers fueled the no-frills banter.
This was a Thursday morning, the usual bi-weekly get-together of our cancer support group, affectionately known as the Bluemen. Blue is the color for prostate cancer, and that was a common denominator of the group, save for one member.
Our host, normally a reserved, contemplative man, was passionately engaged in the meaningful discussion. By early Monday morning, he had died.
When I learned of his death, I wasn’t shocked. Deeply saddened yes, but not surprised given that intense interaction I had witnessed regarding life and preparing to die.
That precious morning, I sat and listened mostly, participating only when absolutely necessary. I was too absorbed to interrupt the flow of the dialogue’s stream.
Our friend, Bill, had joined our cancer support group for just that kind of interaction. This diminutive but gentile giant of a man wanted our companionship in his journey with prostate cancer. We gladly welcomed him.
Bill immediately felt at home with us. One of the most humble individuals I had ever met, Bill easily joined in the group’s chitchat. He, like the rest of us, shared intimate details that only those with prostate cancer unashamedly reveal, even over breakfast.
At times, this quiet, simple man talked our ears off. Once he even tried to introduce politics, a violation of our unwritten protocol. We all laughed.
Though not a prostate cancer victim, Kurt joined our group because there are no living members to offer comfort for his kind of cancer. Just like Bill, Kurt held nothing back either.
Our table talk revolved around what it’s like to die, are we afraid to die, what will we miss, what will we look forward to in the afterlife? And so it went, at first monthly, then every other week when Bill had a set back a few months ago.
Bill wanted to continue to meet, so this affable man and his amazing wife invited us into their home. We ate, talked, and laughed some more. Sometimes we even shed a few tears.
Besides cancer, the group members were bound as one by two other mutual traits. Our common faith, and our gratitude for the life opportunities we had had, and would have made us brothers.
We had no idea of what was about to play out with Bill following that marvelous Thursday morning gathering. I was glad for the multitude of thanks expressed then for all that had come our way in life. The good far outweighed the bad, even including cancer.
Each in our close-knit group was appreciative of life, to live, to love, to be loved. That was enough, more than any of us could ever have desired.
The turkey and all the trimmings of Thanksgiving are nice. Our group’s regular sharing affirmed that being grateful means so much more than a holiday spread. The Bluemen were most thankful for the immeasurable joy, love and fellowship of devoted families and friends.
There are times when a life experience far exceeds our expectations.
I had just such an encounter recently on a junket my wife and I made to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in extreme eastern West Virginia. This tiny, old town had played a small but important part in our country’s big history.
On a precipice 800 feet above the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, more flowed together for me than two charming waterways. I had previously seen scenic shots of historic Harpers Ferry from this vantage point in Maryland, and had fancied a few of my own. I departed with more than picturesque photos.
The beauty of the bright morning itself was stunning. I basked in the warmth of the morning sunshine looking down on history. The strengthening sun drenched the charming village in a golden wash. It was a map come alive where famous Americans had all made important imprints on our country’s checkered history.
The three-mile hike from Harpers Ferry to the overlook was exhilarating. A hint of haze hung above the surface of the churning rivers on the cool morning.
My goal was to arrive at the scenic overlook opposite the town as the day’s sun rose above the Appalachian foothills. I crossed the footbridge, a part of the Appalachian Trail, which paralleled the bridge of the railroad tracks. The tracks split at the town and followed the two majestic rivers, one south, the other west.
Once across the Potomac, its melodious rapids singing all the while, the Appalachian Trail followed the river and the old C & O Canal east. I walked west along the towpath to the trailhead that led up the rocky, forested hillside.
I couldn’t imagine how soldiers, Confederate and Union alike, had muscled heavy artillery up these steep slopes. Massive rock outcroppings protruded everywhere beneath the hardwood forest. The rich greens of mountain laurel and cedars complemented the coloring leaves of the mixed deciduous trees.
I arrived at the overlook in less than an hour. The view, as Thomas Jefferson once declared, “was perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.”
Across the Potomac.
The Potomac River.
Harpers Ferry at sunset.
Ghost of a house.
Lamplight in Lower Town.
Then and now.
John Brown’s fort.
The Potomac sparkled as it sang.
Lower Town windows.
As I sat on the cool rocks I looked down on the spot where John Brown had made his ill-fated raid in 1859. I envisioned Jefferson, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and all the others who had made their lasting marks there striding along the slanting, narrow streets.
Harpers Ferry was a strategic town in the Civil War since it housed the federal arsenal. Both armies occupied the town intermittently during the war. It was the sight of the largest surrender of United States troops in the Civil War.
Behind me birds of the forest searched for breakfast amid golden, backlit leaves. Carolina Wrens, chickadees, cardinals, robins, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers scavenged the forest floor and trees.
A Black Vulture sailed west above the Potomac just off of the cliff. A Red-shouldered Hawk, its black and white striped tail fanned out, glided east. Beneath me a freight train rumbled through the tunnel, across the bridge and whistled past the old station.
I had gone up to the sheer cliff for some pictures. I came down with a renewed spirit of gratitude for all that has transpired and will transpire in my life, in our lives.
Together we have a lot for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving.