A Thanksgiving Walk With the Eyes
I was trying to figure how to express thankfulness, and fortunately others have done it for me.
On Wednesday’s editorial page of the New York Times is a lovely essay by Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest. (“This Year, Exercise Your Thankfulness Muscles”) Her fifth and last suggestion was “Take a gratitude walk,” about her young daughter who “invented something called the Beautiful Game,” finding sights that touch the heart. My responses to her essay:
SIGHT 1: Fall Colors: I lifted my eyes off the printed page and saw the northern sky outside our home, with autumnal trees. Even though some people are figuring out that trees are vital in the struggle to save the planet, trees nevertheless are under attack in traditionally leafy suburbs like ours. The Town of North Hempstead, which pretty much allows leaf blowers and tree choppers to spew gas fumes and dust, making our suburb feel like an airport runway, is fretting over trees getting lopped off. These privacy-giving autumnal colors above are on our property, and we are grateful.
SIGHT 2: A Young Nurse: The other day I had a common procedure as an outpatient at Glen Cove (Northwell) Hospital. The young nurse who prepped me was getting married – three days later. When they shooed me out a few hours later, I could still remember, over her mask, the glow of her eyes. I was thankful for skill, and youth, and hope.
SIGHT 3: A Crowded Restaurant: The other evening, I took a walk around our town and slowed down outside Gino’s on Main Street. Since my wife sussed out the pandemic early in 2020, in our caution, we have not eaten out – not a terrible loss because she is such a good cook – but there are familiar places we miss in our town: Diwan on Shore Rd. and DiMaggio’s on Port Blvd. and Gino’s. I peeped in a side window at Gino’s and saw every table and every booth filled, the staff moving fast, and I hallucinated about a Gaby’s salad and a daily special and those hot chewy rolls and the cheesecake a la nonna for dessert. We’ll be back soon, I keep saying, but in the meantime I am thankful for the bustle at Gino’s.
SIGHT 4: Books About Thanksgiving. I am currently reading “Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America,” by David Hackett Fischer, about very different strains of English immigration in the New World. I never fully understood what it meant for settlers to call their new home New England – but as I watch a very divided country display major stress faults, I am more thankful than ever for the “New England” emphasis on education, producing a high level of literacy and study. May it prevail.
As the U.S. Thanksgiving loomed, I took another book off our shelves, “Mayflower,” by Nathan Philbrick, who tries to re-create the fall of 1621:
We do not know the exact date of the celebration we now call the First Thanksgiving, but it was probably in late September or early October, soon after their crop of corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas had been harvested. It was also a time during which Plymouth Harbor played host to a tremendous number of migrating birds, particularly ducks and geese, and Bradford ordered four men to go out “fowling.” It took only a few hours for Plymouth’s hunters to kill enough ducks and geese to feed the settlement for a week. Now that they had “gathered the fruit of our labors,” Bradford declared it time to “rejoice together…after a more special manner.” The term Thanksgiving, first applied in the nineteenth century, was not used by the Pilgrims themselves. For the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a time of spiritual devotion. Since just about everything the Pilgrims did had religious overtones, there was certainly much about the gathering in the fall of 1621 that would have made it a proper Puritan thanksgiving. But as Winslow’s description makes clear, there was also much about the gathering that was similar to a traditional English harvest festival—a secular celebration that dated back to the Middle Ages in which villagers ate, drank, and played games. Countless Victorian-era engravings notwithstanding, the Pilgrims did not spend the day sitting around a long table draped with a white linen cloth, clasping each other’s hands in prayer as a few curious Indians looked on. Instead of an English affair, the First Thanksgiving soon became an overwhelmingly Native celebration when Massasoit and a hundred Pokanokets (more than twice the entire English population of Plymouth) arrived at the settlement and soon provided five freshly killed deer. Even if all the Pilgrims’ furniture was brought out into the sunshine, most of the celebrants stood, squatted, or sat on the ground as they clustered around outdoor fires, where the deer and birds turned on wooden spits and where pottages—stews into which varieties of meats and vegetables were thrown—simmered invitingly. In addition to ducks and deer, there was, according to Bradford, a “good store of wild turkeys” in the fall of 1621… The Pilgrims may have also added fish to their meal of birds and deer. In fall, striped bass, bluefish, and cod were abundant. Perhaps most important to the Pilgrims was that with a recently harvested barley crop, it was now possible to brew beer. Alas, the Pilgrims were without pumpkin pies or cranberry sauce. There were also no forks, which did not appear at Plymouth until the last decades of the seventeenth century. The Pilgrims ate with their fingers and their knives (117-118).
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I am also thankful for readers of My Little Therapy Site, who contribute so much.
Coming soon after Diwali, and with Chanukkah and its celebration of life following so closely, can you share any thoughts about thankfulness?
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(With thanks to the website Reformation 21, Lancaster, Pa., for the excerpt from the Philbrick book:
With thanks for the essay by Tish Harrison Warren:
11/24/2021 02:11:07 pm
George—a thoughtful tribute to the beauty of the world around us. In today’s world of instant access and immediate answers, it has almost become an art to observe one’s environment. This includes both people and things.
11/24/2021 04:34:20 pm
Alan, thank you, and our best to your family at Thanksgiving..
11/25/2021 10:39:21 am
Agreed--the female obituaries from the past are wonderful. It is unfortunate, but woman in history ave received an insufficient amount of attention.
11/24/2021 06:30:09 pm
Here's the link for the Sika Henry piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/sports/sika-henry-triathlon.html
11/24/2021 06:33:39 pm
Hi George: A old dear friend often says “gratitude is an action verb” and you proved him right. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for your blog. Michael
11/25/2021 08:10:08 am
11/25/2021 09:23:56 am
happy thanksgiving to my 'merikan neighbours....tho as i often opine to george, you should have it earlier as we have ours in the socialist haven on your, mostly, northern border....
11/25/2021 10:09:55 am
I am grateful for this website, where George and other writers great enough otherwise to be justified in embracing more exclusive gathering places seem to tolerate the likes of a wannabe like me. I suspect that participants here share traits like open-mindedness and appreciation for truth - perhaps even science! - and I benefit from your ideas.
11/25/2021 10:31:50 am
Andy, tandoori turkey! now you're talking.
11/25/2021 10:41:02 am
Thanks, George. Jackson Diner has opened another location at 256 Street just east of Little Neck Parkway, on - of course - Hillside.
11/25/2021 10:35:54 am
11/25/2021 06:41:54 pm
Moved to express thanks to George, for his writing over the years, which I have labeled, “Humanist,” what Andy might see as centered.
11/25/2021 07:21:26 pm
11/25/2021 10:27:30 pm
Bruce, Merci Beaucoup!
12/2/2021 11:48:10 am
Ed--St. Lewis was a major powerhouse around the time that we both played. They won 1959, 1060, 1963, 1965.
11/25/2021 10:30:45 pm
11/27/2021 07:58:55 pm
George: Brilliant piece about Thanksgiving. The world became a dangerous place. So, to be thankful is cool. I wish a happy Thanksgiving to all readers of your blog.
Terry Troiano Masi
11/29/2021 08:46:10 pm
Enjoyed your tribute to Thanksgiving!
11/29/2021 09:15:33 pm
(Teresa Troiano was the reason home room was my favorite class at Jamaica High.GV.)
12/1/2021 06:25:23 am
Good post guys!
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.