I am a lucky soul. I have chosen a life that suits me and, no matter what would happen next, I’ve had the most amazing four months so far. I am right where I should be, doing the thing that makes me feel most alive. A vagabond in her element, living in the elements with everything she needs. My drive here from Medford, through the smoke of the California fires, gave me pause to think about just how fortunate I am. I chose to get rid of almost all of my belongings. I chose to ditch brick and mortar. I chose to leave my job. I chose to leave behind the security of the known. I am a lucky soul.
I wanted to get to Gold Beach in time to settle in a bit before Thanksgiving. Once it was decided that this is where we would come for the next month or two, I was chomping at the bit to get here. Suddenly, I was looking forward to Thanksgiving. I love this time of year. Not for the frenzied consumerism that grips our country (and world), but for the less tangible, and far more important, reasons. I am not big on the shopping madness that happens starting in October (it seems to get earlier every year!). I find it ironic that we celebrate a holiday in which we honor the aid of the Native Americans who helped us survive in this new world before we obliterated them. But I do find value in what this holiday has come to symbolize now, for the idea that we all need to pause and give thanks for what we do have in our lives, for the things we take for granted, for the big things and the small things. But I am a firm believer that we should be doing this every day. Not just on the fourth Thursday in November. I do love this time of year, though. I love it for the reflectiveness brought on by shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather. I love this time of year because of the time spent slowing down, the time spent with family and friends, and the time spent in a natural world that is also slowing down, nestling in, and insulating itself from the wildness Mother Nature can bring in the northern hemisphere this time of year, the time spent turning inwards.
I do enjoy some of the traditions of the holidays. Comfort foods and red wine will be on order for my day. I now eat a vegan diet, but I still eat foods that remind me of my family’s traditional fare. I cannot be with my family this year, but when I bite into my dressing, I will be drawn into their presence, pulled into memories and nostalgia of family gatherings where first my grandparents, then my mom, and then each of us kids concocted the family’s dressing in the kitchen. No measurements provided for this family recipe. Just ingredients and years of tasting passed on from one generation to the next. The creator would create, and the rest of us would taste test, and then discuss. More sage? More poultry seasoning? Too thick? Do we need more turkey juice? There was no need to ask for volunteers, as we all hovered close to be sure we were included in this time-honored tradition. I don’t know when it was exactly, but I recall making the passage from taster to creator. It became my time to help out in the kitchen. And then my brothers took their turns at the helm as well. In this way, our family’s recipe lives on. It is a living thing. It only breathes because we give it life through our time and the love of what it means to our family. I will not be in the presence of my family this year. I will miss that dearly. But as I work in my tiny little kitchen to create a dressing using a recipe that results in a delight reminiscent of my family’s dressing, I will be drawn into the warm, glowing, energy of this tradition, into the love symbolized in this one dish.
A few years ago, another tradition began. This time of year, I love watching holiday movies. I have my favorites, and on Thanksgiving Day, that favorite for the past several years has become Dan in Real Life. I introduced this endearing, funny, lovely little film to my family, and we’ve watched it a few times now as a family on Thanksgiving. We will watch it here, after dinner, on a laptop (we got rid of the TV in our RV). And I will hope that my family also watch it, that this is another thing we will share, even with almost 1,900 miles separating me from the family gathering in Champaign (though there are some other family members missing from that gathering).
While I will miss my family on this Thanksgiving, I am so grateful to be spending this holiday in the wet, emerald, coastal forests of southern Oregon. And while I do miss my family, I cannot honestly say I would rather be anywhere else than where I am right now. I spent the day before Thanksgiving listening to the rain falling outside, with cats curled up next to me, as Gail made her mom’s pumpkin pie (veganized), and I wrote blog entries and planned for the cooking for tomorrow. And I could not think of a better leadup to this holiday. I am thinking about how much I have to be grateful for. I am thankful for the life I lead. I am thankful to have everything I need right now. I am thankful to have had the chance to see so much beauty in so short a time. To have experienced the kindness of fellow travelers. To have entered the smoky places and come out on the other side. To have a home that takes me safely from one place to the next. To have known the love of furry family throughout the years and now. To have the gifts of health, mobility, and a free spirit. I am thankful for the many incredibly thoughtful, engaging, and lovely friends I’ve had the honor to know over the years. I am thankful to be traveling with my best friend. I am forever thankful for my family, for all the love, crazy, fun, tradition, laughter, and togetherness of the bonds that will always tie us together.
And I am grateful, so grateful, to those of you who are taking the time to read my words, today and any other day you do. It means so much that you stop by, once, or time and again.
I hope all of you have the most beautiful day, even if you do not celebrate the American Thanksgiving.