As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessing of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness - just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm. Oh we have so much to be thankful for that we seldom think of it in that way!
—Laura Ingalls Wilder
This year we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on our Kentucky farm, just my husband and myself, and our youngest son and his new bride who live with us for now.
As I already embrace our relative rural isolation, staying home and being minimal is not a big hardship.
This year I welcome having less during the holidays — and that perfectly clean house (if ever!). Simple gifts. No worries about any demands off-farm and a good time to pause and rest and reach out across the miles to those we love and miss — whether by card, phone or Internet. To have more stretches to read. To reminisce about Thanksgivings past, while hoping to be all together again next year. More walking now that the soybean fields are cut — but after deer season!
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.
Here in Kentucky these past dozen years it has been different: quieter, less involved, revolving around farm chores, back to basics. Lovely, simple, and often just us. Here we have our own clan.
A few years ago my mother and my uncle, her older brother, were able to join us and all of our children here, too. A balmy 70 degree Thanksgiving day allowed us to set a large table on the porch. There was a bonfire under the full moon. I remember every detail of those few days which have brought some comfort after my mother died only two years later.
The year my mother died, two old school friends from my home town of Akron, Ohio had also lost their moms within a few weeks and months of mine. We decided to rally there for Thanksgiving and it will remain a most memorable, and meaningful, time. My oldest son came with me while my husband and youngest stayed back with our animals and new puppy on the farm.
There were our family Thanksgivings in New England and the friends we'd have each year in different combinations in our old family home.
For thirteen years, in different groupings, our extended families and various dear friends gathered in fellowship and feasting. Out of the pantry we brought the special crystal, our favorite blue Yuan china set, the old Indus servers with their brown Aesthetic-era patterning, polished family silver and pressed linens — a perfect pairing of family heirlooms and new traditions.
Our house, with the stuff of generations, was warmed with people gathered around us and the scent of meal preparations in our kitchen.
Our "farmhouse of dreams" will perhaps, one day, return us to those glory meals and gatherings but for now we relish these more intimate, more casual, meals.
And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
Further back there were those Thanksgivings on my grandparents New Hampshire farm, which became our home when I was eleven.
Now, rather than dread the holiday season for what I have lost, I remember what I have and those who have passed and have shared the journey.
But here was always the best part of the day: it was the spirit, laughter and good fellowship that we shared.
It was the happy voices coming from the dining room, the children playing outside in the first snow of the season, the fun and frolic around dish-doing in the kitchen later on. The long walks we took to the pinewoods after a filling dinner and before pie for dessert.
I am no longer a wanderer because I have a path and I don’t have to worry anymore. My path is the path of stopping, the path of enjoying the present moment. It is a path where every step brings me back to my true home. It is a path that leads nowhere. I am on my way home. I arrive at every step. I am taking my steps with leisure because I don’t have to hurry. That is my life; that is my practice.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
But here we all are, firmly in the present, however unknown the future. So in this very different holiday for all of us, nearing the end of an unprecedented year, I am reflecting on what is truly important.
It's certainly not the table settings, mostly still in storage, or the picture-perfect Norman Rockwell home that we left behind long ago. It’s not about those difficult moments in our family that have shaped who we are today.
Since moving to Kentucky we have downsized our house, and stuff and have pared away to the bones of our family.
Faith, family, friends, food, farm. This is what it's all about — the rudiments of what binds us. We'll gather together, call our other children, and be thankful for what we have.
To quote Wendell Berry, “What we need is here.”
What I am thankful for in this unprecedented year:
- For a farm, and surrounding land, that provides all kinds of sustenance and safe harbor from the world.
- For farm-raised food from our garden and pastures — or grown in the fields of other farmers that we know.
- For my husband who works hard off the farm, and on it, so that we may have the farm.
- For my three children and their partners — two recently married in small, quiet and lovely October weddings — and the knowledge that we will all gather again another year.
- For their great work ethic, jobs, and interests.
- For their kindness to others — and their empathy and understanding in the world.
- For their combined whacky humor, and connection with each other.
- For a nest that’s not quite empty with our youngest still on the farm.
- For our beloved pets and farm animals.
- For my friends and faraway family who, here or there or through the ether that connects us in our modern times, visit when they can in heart, mind and voice.
- For good neighbors who like us even though we’re “Yankees.”
- That my husband was spared the worst of his bout with Covid-19 and that no one else has had it in our family (with hopes that no one will).
- For my remote marketing job with a nonprofit dedicated to one of my favorite authors, and still time for my own freelance writing (all which I can do without leaving the farm).
I hope for everyone a blessed, warm, safe and bountiful Thanksgiving — please be well.