I LOVE Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite holiday and always has been. Even during my identity-experimenting youth, during that super-skinny period of my life when I was a vegetarian, I never passed up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner... That is how fundamental the holiday is to me.
Clearly, one reason is because I absolutely love turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce and gravy…lots of gravy. Yum! I’m sure I’m not the only one who will eat Thanksgiving leftovers for every single meal (even breakfast) after the holiday proper until they are gone, completely gone… I do save a little bit of the turkey and cook the carcass down for broth and freeze it all for soup for later. But it is usually not much later, maybe a month or two. Thanksgiving will never outrun me.
The completely carnal aspect of the holiday aside, I do also love the sentiment. The coming together of people in the act of sharing. The ritual acknowledgement of blessing and abundance in our lives. The mythico-historical idea that the “first” Thanksgiving in America was some kind of love-fest between Pilgrims and Native Americans… yeah, not so much really, but it’s a nice idea… Certainly the awareness of reaping the harvest after the hard physical and personal work we have done. The last couple of years have been different though, the idea I’ve always held, that Thanksgiving draws our attention to the appreciation of what we have, has changed for me.
I’m a farmer now. You can’t get much closer to the true significance of harvest than that. Farming is the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I’ve worked pretty darn hard before. Seventy- and eighty-hour weeks doing archaeological survey in the steamy, snake- and spider-infested jungles of Belize were a piece of cake compared to farming. Farming is a wholly physical and mental act of devotion…weekly, daily, hourly. It is the labor of harnessing the body to the yoke... the yoke that coaxes the life-force from the earth that then sustains the body… but not just the body of the farmer, also the bodies of all those dependent upon her.
Truly though, the satisfaction that I get from farming is completely and utterly worth the effort. Yes, I have grown this food. Well, really, I have only prostrated myself in order to help. Nature Impartial is the one who really makes it happen. If she’s in a good mood I just have the intention and then clear the way, and add a bit of support here and there. And then make a huge effort to get out of the way and let it happen, no need to micro-manage. But when she’s in a bad mood, look out. That is how it’s been in the last couple years with the wind, the drought and the heat. It has become all about mitigation, constant mediation, ceaseless coaxing to reach the harvest. No matter how hard I work though, it is Nature that doles out the blessings.
But this hard work of farming in an unpredictable climate has never been about sustaining myself. I don’t grow food simply to have abundance for me. It doesn’t just end there. How boring would that be? Farming has been a metaphor for my life. Yes, I am thankful that I have had a privileged socio-economic position in the world (Culture in a good mood) and that I have had the support of generous souls along the way. And yes, I am thankful that I have been capable of doing what it takes, made the choices and worked hard to take care of myself, to bring security and abundance into my life. But, to have done all that work and then to be able to turn around and provide some of the bounty to others, that is where the gold lies. To have worked hard to arrive at a level of self-sustenance, and to then know (and also choose) to not worry whether there will be enough is a beautiful thing. But to be in that place and also be able to give to others, to give them the opportunity to make their own steps towards this experience, that is true and deep satisfaction. It is not called Thanksgetting. It is called Thanksgiving, and aligning my life so that I can be a means for Nature to dole out her blessings has changed me forever.
By Tracy Sweely
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