On this day of ThanksGiving, I reflect back with great gratitude, to those who paved the way for me to be here, in all the goodness and abundance with which I have been blessed.
In this morning’s meditation on the gathering family, friends and food, I think about the people who inspired this day’s activities. What strikes me is that the first gathering this day is attributed to, happened only one year after the Mayflower arrived with 100 persons. Landing in December, they had to live on board the ship until winter passed. By spring, half of them had died from lack of nourishing food and poor living conditions. Without the assistance and guidance from the local indigenous, they would have all died.
After the thaw they moved into shelters on land, and by autumn, they had their first crop of corn and knew how and where to hunt to survive. When you consider the year they’d just had, leaving everything and everyone they ever knew, jobs, warm homes, stocked pantries and niceties, to live aboard a cramped boat with not enough food and people sick and dying everywhere they looked for months on end…it’s a wonder they gave thanks at all. Everything was new and unknown, and hard.
I think of the pilgrim women who were there. By that first fall harvest, there were only four women left alive. What must they have been thinking and feeling, after many months of experiencing deep hunger, filth and death? I think of the tribal families, whose land and fishing waters these strange people came into – and how they reached out to help, seeing that they were sick and dying.
That first celebration was clearly an act of seva – of sharing and giving. They’d all seen such a difficult winter and they all worked together to help the unfortunates make it through. They had a tough summer of very hard work – planting and tending, hunting and building, in preparation for the second winter to come. The settlers had so much to learn about this new land.
The human spirit is strong and resilient, but it was the comm-unity that formed between those first pilgrims and the First Peoples that kept the strangers to this continent alive that first winter. It is always and only by coming together in the unity of hearts, that we survive and grow to thrive. On this day of giving thanks, I give thanks to those indigenous people’s who chose to extend their hands and hearts in assistance to the weak and the needy.
Oh, and I looked up the name “mayflower” to find that it is a medicinal shrub (epigaea repens, or trailing arbutus) indigenous to this continent and traditionally used as medicine by those who lived here first. It has beautiful and fragrant white flowers bloom in the spring. They say those first settlers gave it that name, and as I sit with them in my meditation this morning, I can see the gratitude they had for those tiny white flowers that started to bloom in February, giving them hope for a new year and a new life.
May we all consider the gifts that lie before us, not only today, but in every moment, giving thanks for each day and all that comes our way. And in this final moment of writing, I give thanks for you, for your presence and continued support in this life, and I send my greatest gratitude and blessings out into the ethers that it may find you and bless your house today and each day.