Monday, November 25, 2013

A Month from Christmas, Days from Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

A month from now we will have arrived at Christmas morning.  Dizzying.  Tomorrow, I'll run a post that I wrote last year for the Living Lutheran site about Black Friday--it's a few days before that event, but it's good to think about these issues before it all descends on our head.

Today we see the juxtaposition of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, a lining up of holidays that we're not likely to see again for 80,000 years.  I'll write a bit more about that later, but if you want some light-hearted thoughts, see this NPR piece.  It includes some strange-sounding recipes.

If you want a delicious, cheap recipe for tomato sauce, a dinner you can likely make out of items that you have in your pantry (or could easily keep in your pantry), see this blog post on my creativity site.  As the holiday season heats up, it's good to have an easy recipe that only needs 45 minutes to simmer the 4 ingredients:  an onion, a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, 5 T. of butter, and some salt.  Add a pound of pasta, and dinner's ready.

Maybe we need a different sort of nourishment today.  It's a good day for a poem, before we launch into our Thanksgiving hooplah.

Perhaps I should post a more spiritual poem. This blog is my theology blog after all. I should write a poem about gratitude and God and great feasts.

But Thanksgiving suggests a different kind of spiritual heritage to me. For many years, we went back to my grandfather's homeplace, where his relatives were still farming on a small scale. We ate a turkey that had been scratching in the yard very recently. We ate vegetables grown in the fields outside the door. We talked about our ancestors.

I learned about my great grandmother who was picking beans when she had a heart attack. She made the men wait to take her to the hospital until she could change into clean underwear.

Of course, I learned more than just funny stories. I learned about how people survived hard times and how they celebrated bounty. I learned about a quiet spirituality (of a Lutheran variety) that formed the backbone of my family. I learned about tables that were full of enough food to share with the family members who didn't have as much to contribute--for many starving student years, my husband and I would go to the feast with a meager loaf of pumpkin bread, and we'd leave with enough food for a week--and a Christmas tree cut from the fields!

So, here's a poem that celebrates that heritage. It was first published a few years ago in Big Muddy.

Thanks Giving

Finally, I am with my own kinsfolk.
I do not feel a freak of nature anymore.
Here beneath this hook
where my great grandfather butchered hogs and deer,
I stare into faces familiar to me.
My future face.

I have the strong, solid body
which doesn’t belong to this age
of computers and office politics.
I was meant to be up at half a crack of dawn,
fixing a huge breakfast
before I plowed a field and put an addition on the house.
All in a day’s work.
The strength of my people lies
buried in my bones and brain,
a genetic code impossible
to diet or exercise away.
My hips would balance a baby
while I shaped bread dough and slaughtered chickens,
if only I would comply.

But I’ll submit to my genetic destiny on some level.
I will always awaken before sunrise,
always keep an eye to the sky,
track the weather like a second religion.
I’ll cook enough food for a small third world country
and share my good fortune with others.
I’ll tell the family stories
about strong women
with indomitable wills.

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