Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, although I prefer to think of it as just thanks-giving (minus all the hype and stress and expectations that go with the capital T-Day). This traditional holiday is one filled with internal conflict for me, so I try to spend part of it quietly alone, breathing deeply, and consciously summoning all that I am grateful for in this moment. This year, for the first time ever, Mr. EndlessSeeker and I will spend the day alone-together, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, there will not be 50+ family members in a house, trying to chat it up, sharing all the Southern cooking, and, in some cases, pretending we have more in common than DNA. Being separated from the rest of the family this year is not a bad thing. In fact, we are both pleased to have the day and space to ourselves.
So, I take a walk around the homestead early this morning, in search of…nothing. Just wandering and poking about the woods to see what might catch my eye or speak to my spirit. It’s always the quiet times in the woods without an agenda that give me the greatest pleasure and teach me an often-unexpected lesson. I see a maple leaf caught on a Smilax vine and think about the many times I’ve felt like that – caught in a thorny tangle of obligation and guilt, torn between expectations and desires of different people as well as myself. Thanksgiving has often been one of those times. But the vine and the leaf feel no animosity toward each other, no obligation, no guilt, no reason to be anything other than what and where they are right now. I give thanks to the vine and the leaf.
I see a tiny pine seedling pushing up through the leaf litter. It tells me life goes on around me – in spite of me even – in circles and cycles and seasons. I marvel at its soft, feathery needles, still tender and uneaten by the dozen deer who browsed past it last night. I give thanks to the pine seedling.
I look skyward and see the now naked branches of tulip poplar, oak, maple, and sweet gum. They sway gently in the morning’s breeze. A few individual leaves, still hanging on, wave to the passing clouds. The forest pulses with its own rhythms and beats, and the trees dance to their own music. Below the trunks, under the leaf litter and soil, mycorrhizae help these trees communicate with each other, connect to each other, support each other. They are steadfast and strong, even in winter. I give thanks to the trees above me.
A small clump of Usnea attached to a broken twig rests on a mossy rock. Usnea is a lichen – a life form made possible only because of a symbiotic relationship between two organisms, a fungus and an algae. They are tough organisms, able to survive dessication and even reproduce when dried out, and they have a complex chemistry that helps reduce attacks by predators. Usnea, like many lichens, is also very sensitive to pollutants and so is a great indicator of air pollution, surviving best in unpolluted areas. In Usnea I see connection, protection, strength, and sensitivity. I give thanks to Usnea.
A lobed oak leaf sits atop an old decaying log covered with a patch of moss. The moss looks for all the world like a dinosaur or alligator head, mouth open and ready to chomp on something. The oak leaf adding an air of whimsy, like a misplaced antler or a frilly collar. I see it as art created by random bits of nature, and I laugh. Joy like that – spontaneous and bubbling – is a gift and a healer. I give thanks to the moss and the leaf.
Thanks-giving is a lifeline of hope and a gesture of love. The trees and leaves, birds and water, moss and lichen are deserving of my thanks. I hope you find someone or something to give thanks to today. Happy thanks-giving to you all.