Thanksgiving Weekend is a 'Spa Day' for the Soul
Thanksgiving is easily my favorite day of the year because it involves two of my favorite things: eating, and reading old friends without guilt.
If, as Einstein is supposed to have said, a definition of insanity is doing the same again and again and hoping for a different result, my gratitude for Thanksgiving Day is celebrated by doing the same thing year after year and hoping for exactly the same result.
Reading before dawn and eating my wife’s homemade pies are two of life’s finest pleasures, and Thanksgiving is the one day I fully indulge myself.
It’s like a spa day for my soul.
Off the clock of the world, I start super early at both activities, wandering downstairs to the kitchen with an accompanying animal herd to make coffee and nibble on whatever delicious baked thing I can sample without the danger of being detected by the household’s head cook, whom I always encourage to sleep late on Thanksgiving morning for perfectly obvious reasons.
After feeding the herd, which consists of two absurdly needy golden retrievers, one bossy black female foundling and an even bossier old cat named Rufus, I step out to have a look at the last of the stars and say thank you to whatever kindly force put me beneath this sky here and now. This past week, under clear and tranquil skies, the hooked moon and Saturn were jewels on the Southwestern horizon.
“God is a pure no-thing, concealed in the now and here,” wrote Angelus Selesius, the Germanic Lutheran mystic, a ditty I learned early in life and half a century later still can’t get out of my head. “The less you reach for him, the more he will appear.”
Every year is basically the same. For a few blessed hours before the birds start and the sun rises and madame comes down with her cute shuffling yawn to start her High Holy Day of cookery, it’s just me and old friends from my favorite books and perhaps the spirit of my wise Cherokee great-grandmother, who believed every faith was the same, and a generous wedge of delicious homemade pumpkin pie I can’t help but swipe and tote upstairs with a cup of coffee to my cubbyhole office where I sit in my favorite wing chair and eat pie and read from this and that. Sometimes it’s just a mere line or favorite passage, dog-eared and underlined, sometimes more than that, in any case nourished two ways even before Thanksgiving day begins.
Here are a few selected highlights from this year’s readings, ancient and modern, pie not included:
“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. The things of time are in connivance with eternity. The shadows serve You. The beasts sing to You before they pass away. The solid hills shall vanish like a worn-out garment. All things change, and die and disappear. Questions arrive, assume their actuality, and also disappear. In this hour I shall cease to ask them, and silence shall be my answer. The world that Your love created, that the heat has distorted, and that my mind is always misinterpreting, shall cease to interfere with our voices.” — Thomas Merton on life’s trials.
“If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Pheidias, by an Egyptian paying worship to animals, another man by a river, another by fire — I have no anger for their divergences; only let them know, let them love, let them remember.” — Maximus of Tyre, Greek philosopher.
“You have noticed that what an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the world always works in circles … The east gave peace and life, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. The sky is round, and I have heard the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.” — John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.
“Love comes from years of breathing skin to skin, tangled in each other’s dreams until each night weaves another thread in the same web of blood and sleep.” — The Kama Sutra of Kindness.
“Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into, are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason some old things are lovely, warm still with the forgotten life of men who made them.” — D.H. Lawrence.
“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” — Mary Oliver, in “Blackwater Woods.”
“My fingers were stiff and red with cold, and my nose ran. I had forgotten the Law of the Wild, which is, ‘Carry Kleenex.’” — Annie Dillard.
This year was slightly different than most, as all four of our kids were giving thanks at their other homes up north. The animal herd misses them something terribly, and so do we. But all four promise to be with us in the coming weeks.
Besides, as Emerson noted, the universe has lovely compensations. Whatever we let go of is never really gone. And whatever things we keep are really on loan from the heavens, briefly here to enjoy.
Like good pie, hooked moons, and friends whose voices never age.
“Habit is habit,” Mark Twain once said, “and not to be thrown out the window, but coaxed downstairs one step at a time.”
“We must have pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie,” advises modern playwright David Mamet, speaking for the ages.
And with that in mind, dear friends, another Thanksgiving weekend wanes and I’m headed back downstairs to finish off what’s left of the pumpkin pie and enjoy the thankful time off the clock.
Here’s hoping yours was every bit as good as mine.
Award-winning author Jim Dodson, Sunday essayist with The Pilot and editor of PineStraw magazine, can be reached at email@example.com
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