Thursday, November 20, 2014

Squanto welcomes the Immigrants

The 400th anniversary of the feast at the Plymouth Plantation is just around the corner, chronologically speaking. 

It's not the first thanksgiving celebrated in the colonies, that would be 1607 in Jamestown. In fact, the 1621 feast was actually a harvest celebration, not a solemn day of thanksgiving to God and prayer. That happened in 1623. Presidents Washington, J. Adams, Madison and Lincoln issued proclamations of Thanksgiving, but it didn't become a national holiday until 1942.

Despite our inaccurate idea of the holiday's origin, we've latched onto the Pilgrim's event because the colonists had so much to be thankful for. Fifty of the original one hundred were still alive after a brutal first winter for which they were underprepared. They had a good crop to celebrate, thanks to the help of Squanto who taught them the best method for planting corn. 

He's one of the people I'd like to invite to one of those imaginary dinner parties!

He was captured to sell into slavery. He may have ended up in Spain, and one version of his story says Catholic monks bought him, and gave him a home with them. I try to imagine that. He was a young teen, absconded by evil Englishmen, stuck on a ship to cross an ocean so large he couldn't fathom it.  He learned Spanish, and about the Christian faith, and convinced the monks to help him get home. 

He went through England, where he worked for a shipbuilder, and learned English. When he finally got back his village was vacant and in ruins, but he stayed in the region and met the Pilgrims. 

Despite the limited original source material about Squanto, and conflicting stories, we know he lived. He did go to Europe and learn English. He did return to the very spot that desperate English men and women needed a guide to survive in their new home. 

He was able to communicate with them, and they must have been astounded. What could have been less likely? No wonder the Pilgrims saw Squanto as a miracle from God. 

Squanto, a children's version of the events,  emphasizes God's role in Squanto's life.
Through the friars, God protected Squanto from slavery. Eventually Squanto returned home. Although he must have been gravely disappointed to discover his family and village were extinguished by disease, he didn't retaliate against the Englishmen he found in their place. He was an agent of hope for them,  teaching essential lessons. He lived with the Pilgrims until his death. 

What a wonderful part of our national heritage. Where would the immigrant Pilgrims have been without him? 

Online resources:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sprigs: Fall Freebie

Last week I gleaned in my own back yard.  Dried grasses and beauty berry  made colorful arrangement. 

A fall freebie! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thankful to Something or Someone?

Last week I asked you to "cook up" some gratitude. Let's play philosopher and dig a little deeper. 

It is my underlying belief that when we are thankful, we are thankful to Someone, not Something.

While as some folks, like Shirley MacLaine, thank the really big Something--the universe. Her Santa Fe ranch includes a stone spiral labyrinth.   It's her go-to spot when she  "had decisions to make, or I wanted to thank the universe for something." (WSJ, April 18, 2014) 

Photo by Widosu underCreative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 |Source

I tried to imagine that. Giving thanks assumes that the thanker acknowledges a benefit, a favor grated by the thank-ee.  What benefit does the universe grant to me? Dark holes? Stars? Galaxies I cannot imagine? Although a particle physicist might disagree, I don't think those things make any difference in my daily life. 

 While I concede the sun provides heat and light our planet depends upon, the sun didn't determine the placement of earth's orbit.

I can be glad that trees give shade and clean the air and produce medicines. But I can't really attribute my happiness to them.
A big tree on a hot day; I was grateful.

I won't thank the potatoes for their sacrifice on thanksgiving Day--that just seems weird. 

And thanksgiving isn't self-congratulatory. There are many blessings I haven't created for myself. I didn't create my innate intelligence (no matter its size) , or physical health. While I am responsible to develop my mind, and keep my body in some kind of useful shape,  I didn't gift myself with a brain that works pretty well, and a body that usually does what I need it to do.

I do not thank an impersonal Cause, electrical spark in primordial ooze or Big Bang, for the everyday wonders around me.

When the Pilgrims gave thanks nearly 400 years ago, and when I give thanks today, tomorrow, and November 27th, it will be to the God who made it all--me, tree, potato and universe. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

sprigs: Red leaf thou dost betray me

Red leaf thou dost betray me,
Summer’s pleasures now are o’er
For me no cheery fire waits
or steeping pot of tea.

I must be south for months to pass
where stronger sun will warm me
with seasons' cycle I'll return,
to flowers, heat, and grass.

I get downright poetic out in the yard sometimes. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Recipe for Giving Thanks

last Thanksgiving with family

Thanksgiving is in four weeks. Before you ready the menu, shopping list, and call the guests, prepare yourself for the holiday.

Recipe for Giving Thanks

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Ready instantly, but improves if simmered all day.
Number of Servings: The more you share it, the more there is.


a handful of memories from 2014 
cup of tea or coffee 


1. Sit down in your favorite chair. 
2. Close your eyes and think back on some highlights from the year. Don't forget celebrations, difficulties endured, travel, problems solved, favorite relationships.
3. Jot down short details from each: names of people, places, events, laughter.
4. Keep working until you have 5-10. The longer the list, the more you have to be grateful for!
5. Read the list quietly to yourself. Recapture the feelings: joy, relief, satisfaction. 
6. Give thanks out loud. 

anticipation, worry, relief

 awe, 17" snow

laughter and friends

travel: Whidbey Island

summer adventures in Washington

summer adventures here in NC

the jellyfish 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Grace and Sharp Corners

The military service for my father was dignified and respectful.

I was sitting very close to the Marines who unfolded the US flag, then refolded it with great precision: straighten the edges, tug, fold diagonally, crease, tug, fold, crease, continue until the end, tuck in the hem.

While I watched the resulting triangle flip over and over along it edges, I flashed back to another folding ceremony.

My father supervised as my sister and I each knelt over one end of a faded cotton sleeping bag. I guess he was tired of sloppy bundles that fell apart when he lifted them onto the upper shelves in the garage. We were going to learn the "right" way to roll and tie it. 

So we practiced folding the bag in half lengthwise, bringing the edges together evenly. The developing cylinder would only hold together well if we started at the open end. At the same time, we had to exert enough pressure to keep it tight and tidy. Once we'd reached the foot of the bag, we straddled it and tied the cord around the middle. Then we carefully wrapped its cover around it, snapped it in place, and pulled the draw strings together at the sides. It was like calf roping, only it was a fat green tootsie roll. 

I never did care about the sleeping bags, but the lesson stuck. 

My first summer job required I make beds in a nursing home. At that time, both sheets were flat, not fitted. I had to position the sheet, wrap it under  the mattress top and bottom. Then I made sharp, 45 degree angles and tucked the tails around the side corder, like wrapping a gift. If the sheet wasn't taut, it would get sloppy, and wriggle uncomfortably under the sleeper.
Six corners per bed, repeated over the course of the summer, I got pretty good at it. 

Since then, I've expected every bed I sleep in to meet that standard. That's okay for beds, but unfortunately, I also think people should meet my  standards. Inflexible expectations cause more relationship wrinkles than a slack sheet and more restless nights, too. 

It's proper to be persnickety about the flag.

But people can't be folded, tugged, and creased into perfection. People need
to be handled gently.

People need  grace.