“Whether it’s Mama’s house, Auntie’s front porch, Grandmama’s kitchen, or Sister’s cramped apartment, go back to the place where you are loved, accepted, missed, prayed for, encouraged, and supported - unconditionally.” ~Wendy Coleman, American Cleric
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of its emphasis on gratitude, the simple drawing together of family or friends to acknowledge blessings in a warm, well-fed nest, and a lesser emphasis on the materialism that consumes most other holidays. While the history of Thanksgiving celebrations is fraught with inaccuracies and injustice, I believe we can acknowledge and address the problematic history while deeply honoring this season for gratitude and also for homecoming.
To sit back as an observer on a Thanksgiving afternoon or evening, flushed and warm, listening to the murmur and swells of conversation, the spontaneous, raucous jubilance breaking out among present company, reminds me of this gorgeous description by writer Ila Ara Mehta, from Gujarat, India:
“She sat for a long time with the brother and sister, savoring the easy flow of conversation: the simple chatter that bounces off the walls of a house giving it the dimension of a home… skeins of laughter and companionship spun a shimmering cocoon around her.”
Maybe this week you will gather with family the same as you do every year, cherishing “the simple chatter,” reveling in the “skeins of laughter” so familiar and comforting. Maybe you will honor a “Friendsgiving” (sometimes friends make the best family being, as it is said, the “family you choose”). Perhaps you will be observing Thanksgiving alone or are grieving the loss of a loved one who is embedded in all of your Thanksgiving memories, irreplaceable. You can still experience a homecoming of your own. Let homecoming signal more than a return to a physical place to include a returning inward to the inner core. This reflective season, we can consciously take time to drink from the abundant, still pools down inside of us. In that quiet, contemplative space we are most likely to encounter gratitude. I like Rumi’s observation that the act of giving thanks “is sweeter than abundance itself,” which suggests the corollary that we can express thanks, regardless of the circumstance: alone or in a crowd, lonely or sated by companionship, flushed with luxury or subsisting on little.
“Giving thanks for abundance
is sweeter than abundance itself:
Should who is absorbed with the Generous One
be distracted by the gift?
Thankfulness is the soul of beneficence;
abundance is but the husk,
for thankfulness brings you to the place where
the Beloved lives.
Abundance yeeds heedlessness;
thankfulness brings alertness:
hunt for bounty with the net of gratitude.” ~Rumi
When can you set aside time this holiday weekend for fishing inward, calling up the gifts too easily obscured by life’s darkening complexity, retrieving gratitude from your sacred well? Do you feel a call and perceive an opportunity for an outward expression of gratitude towards someone who has helped you become who you are or who has been a true friend through days when despair threatened? When you still yourself and breathe deeply, what can you discover to be thankful for, and how can you mark it with a ceremony or celebration, however small? You might honor it by forming a prayer, a journal entry, or by crafting a letter. You might choose a pictorial representation of your appreciation or write a poem, or paint a stone to act as a touchstone: every time you touch it, noting how it takes you back to that place of thoughtful recognition of good fortune, pleasure, and blessing.