On the morning of Thanksgiving, I pull the sprig of thyme down from the beam where it has been hanging to dry.
“Look how sweetly it curves,” I say to myself, and smile remembering the legends that tell how fairies sleep in beds of it, how it was gathered to make a bed for Mary when she birthed Jesus, how English maidens sewed it into the seams of their knight’s clothes for courage.
I crumble it between my fingers, breathing its aroma. It smells of summer and reminds me of butterfly wings even though a thick cold rain is sliding down the window panes.
Later, when I sprinkle it over the humble roasted parsnips, glazed with ginger wine and honey, I don’t even give it a thought. I am busy assembling a feast.
But when it comes around, accompanied by the guests’ laughter and the joy of our shared thanks, I spoon it up eagerly, and savor the taste of summer days bright with butterflies that dance like morning fairies.
Had you just plunked me down into this world, I would think it was paradise and give witness to its wonders:
The oaks, looking like pirouetting ballerinas, the sweep of afternoon shadows down the gentle slope of the hill, the blanket of leaves, the incredible blue of the late autumn sky.
I would try to tell you how fragrant and sweet was the air, how musical the rustle of the leaves in the breeze.
I would sing about the textures of tree bark and grass, the leathery surface of leaves.
Most of all I would tell you how glad it all made me, how my heart swelled with joy just to stand here this moment, witnessing the wonder of it all.
“Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” ~George Iles
It had been a struggle all along. The leaves from the oak above her had piled deeply on the soil the autumn before she was born. It took her so long to push through them that when she finally burst through to the light, she was late.
The others were already putting out their flowers while she was barely a sprout. But gazing at their accomplishments, she saw what she might become and her spirit filled with determination and her heart brimmed with hope.
The neighborhood was terribly crowded and she was small. She got only little scraps of sunlight here and there. But she made the best of what she was given and was happy.
Sometimes the other plants would mock her. But the oak, in whose roots she nestled, whispered to her to keep faith. “Don’t you listen to them, little one,” he would say. “You’ve got grit. It’s your dreams that matter. You just keep on keeping on.”
She was the last flower in the woods to finally blossom. But she had believed all along the day would come. Even though the hours of darkness grew long, even though the frost nibbled at her leaves, even though the other flowers were long since gone and the great oak had showered down almost all its leaves, her hope kept her going.
And finally, the day before the first snow, her seeds were finished and sailed away, burrowing beneath the fallen leaves where they would spend the winter before bursting to life in the spring. And the little plant was filled with satisfaction, and the giant oak whispered, “Well done.”
Before the winter comes, before the first snow, we stand stripped to our essence.
We stand, another round of seasons added to our girth, holding the memories of the bursting spring, the leafy dance of summer, autumn’s grand hoorah as if they were dreams. But we know they were much more than dreams. We lived them, and they grew us.
Now, as night descends, we stand with no distractions to keep us from unraveling the seasons past, absorbing their meanings into our beings.
“How rich we are,” we whisper to one another, “and how lucky.” The earth beneath us sings lullabies and in the sky the first star appears. Here, before nightfall, joy descends and we are wrapped in gladness and peace.
As the spinning globe tips us toward starlight, the sun’s rays curve their colors over the horizon, shooting streaks of hosanna into the sky, painting the clouds.
Beneath my feet, beneath the grasses and oak leaves, stiff with frost, the earth is alive. The dark fields quiver with her song.
And though the late November air is making clouds of my breath, the shiver that runs up my spine is not from the cold, but from the majesty before me.
Explain all you want. As I dissolve, wordless, into this living beauty, no theory can contain its pulsing joy, or describe the music of an awestruck mind.
Afterward, we go home, our pockets stuffed with the ritual’s remains. Our minds don’t grasp the meanings; but somewhere in our hearts we know that it all mattered.
How comforting our front doors, welcoming us back to the familiar, to our countertops and chairs, to the smell of our own pillows.
We pour a bowl of cornflakes, as casually as kings, and stare out our windows at November’s ordinary miracles.
Our everyday routines wrap so easily around us that we don’t even know that we have changed, that we’re richer now.
But somewhere in our hearts we know, and that’s all that matters.
The spirits of the fallen ones rise free, softer than breath, etching on our minds the memory of their summer days.
Oh, how they danced then, so supple and alive, as green and shining as the breeze. We thought they would go on forever, so joyous was their song.
Gazing at the emptiness of the spaces they once filled, we are bereft. The world is not the same without them, nor will it be, ever again.
There’s nothing we would not give to look once more into their faces, to feel their bodies, warm beneath our fingertips.
But no, the spaces that were theirs are vacant now, except for this river of tears and the awful sharp taste of pain. And how we cling to our anguish, for it’s all we have left, just this, to fill the unfillable spaces.
Yet, despite our pleas – Don’t take my pain! It’s all that I have left! – eventually the last tear dries, leaving only the space and its ringing silence and the great green breeze that we would not trade for anything, so deep and precious is its song.
Sink down past the superficial words of thanks. Park your hurry and your rushing by the door. They’ll wait.
Just for now, let yourself taste the sheer lucky of eyes, of ears, of breathing, of feeling everything you feel. Can’t you see that it’s a miracle?
All this—all of it—is for us, you know. We’re why they hang the stars at night and why they invented shoes and noodles. It’s all for us. Everything.
Think of the molecules they had to cram together just to make it real. Think how unlikely it is. And then to top it all off, they let us love.
The least we can do is be amazed, offer some applause. I mean check out that morning sky. Doesn’t it make you want to go into the day glad and singing?
Between the I and the Thou, the inside and out, the me and not-me is a line. Here in 3-D, you need to know where your edges are. How else can we dance?
Our edges hold our definitions and our dignity. Here’s what I’ll do, what I’ll give, what I won’t. Here’s what I’ll allow. Here’s where it stops.
Your edges tell me your character: Where you’ll compromise, where you stand firm, where I stand with you.
I’m not saying they don’t morph, grow, expand. We’re not rocks.
I’m just saying that your no has to be as real as your yes for either to mean anything at all.
When love cascades down, plunging its glory into your depths, streaming its radiant light, spilling its shining wonders into your very essence, give thanks, that love may remain.
When love cascades down, embracing you with its tenderness, immersing you in its goodness and compassion, pouring its beauty and joy into every crevice of your being, give thanks, that love may abide within you forever.
When love reveals to you that you are its channel and child, its meaning and message, its hope and its fulfillment, give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks.