TGiving-2020: Gratitude, Grief, Real History

To give thanks.

A prayer. 

A practice.

A family celebration.

A bow of deep appreciation to  you,  faithful readers through the seasons.

For some, a Zoom Gathering on the 4th Thursday of 2020.

Now that we are somewhat assured that an orderly transition of political power will unfold between now and January, my personal capacity to give thanks has gotten a boost. 

It will get a bigger boost when I log in to Zoom later today to hear Monica’s Thanksgiving prayer before the meal. Monica and Beth and daughter Sari have been guests at our Passover Seder since Sari was a baby. Several years ago we began to say yes to their invitation to join their families and friends for Thanksgiving. I was ready to give up hosting our own. It was an easy transition.

Monica is a soul-ful pray-er, and invokes all manner of blessings received and blessings still needed.

She offers me the real dessert before the meal: a deeper meaning of the day. A day about which I was schooled in cringeworthy myths about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal.  She doesn’t pass over either the awful or the sublime. This year, instead of their post-meal ritual of sending home each guest with an individualized set of containers of left-overs, Beth and Monica and Sari made pre-Thanksgiving home deliveries on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Still, I grieve the loss of the “traditional” way we have come together, the breaking of bread together, the assembling of a meal that many hands and kitchens contributed to.

One more loss, one more season now belonging to the Before Times. And for me, one grief seems to tap into another, as if they all feed into one underground stream. 

Grief, love for what I have valued, loved, lost…they are a matched set, grief and love. 

I am not a gratitude practice person – if you are fortunate to find that your natural go-to, wonderful. I envy you! For me, letting in grief allows me to  find  my way to gratitude. It can take a while.

Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?

And this year I also feel a self-conscious pull to enlarge my personal sphere and include a deeper grief historically linked to this holiday. Thanksgiving, 2020 marks a National Day of Mourning, now in its 51st year. This event honors the death of Native Americans at the hands of early settlers and colonists, and shines a light on contemporary issues facing Native Americans. In October, the CDC reported that American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

The dynamic of celebration by one tribe signifying a day of disaster for another is not unfamiliar to me as a Jew. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on May 15: celebrating a safe home for Jews following the Holocaust. Naqba, literally meaning “catastrophe,” is observed to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who fled or were displaced from their homes. I am not making a political statement here or declaring any sense that I understand the historical complexities and realities. I simply wish to acknowledge that there are two sets of lived experiences here, along with some truths and some mythologies, leaving a trail of  unresolved, blood-stained conflict.

The land my house is built on, and where we have lived for 36 years, was home to the Piscataway-Conoy as far back as 800 BCE.

I do not know much of their history or way of life – when I do, I may be ready to write my own “land acknowledgement” – a statement crafted differently by Native Peoples and White people to recognize the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Naming what is true is the first step in healing. 

I am finding it more and more common on Zoom meetings among activists and seekers to invite participants to introduce themselves not only with their names and preferred pronouns, but also with a land acknowledgement of the place they are calling in from. It feels awkward and somewhat empty, a label on an empty box. But empty because I myself am empty of truthful historical information, lived historical human experiences, and an embodied appreciation to tribal knowledge and governance.

An invitation … to remember the land we live on is in our care, that we may rent or have a deed of ownership, but we are merely the current caretaker: you can enter your zip code at this website to learn the names of the tribal land on which you live.

Then see what you can find about their history – their way of life and governance.

A first small step towards yet one more conciliation that the waning months of 2020 summon us to make.

May our gratitudes help us rise to the occasion.

May we respect one another and do what we can
to keep one another safe, well, and nourished.

Happy Thanksgiving.

THE TIME IS NOW

Engage, recommit, repair, or take your first tentative steps to re-imagine and shape a world where equity is valued and embodied: Radical Inclusion Practice

Post-Election: Carry On. Love the World.

When I woke up on Post-Election Day, November 4, 2020, I knew I needed to carry on. But how?

I REACHED FOR WISDOM. WHAT COULD I PULL UP FROM WITHIN MYSELF?

I’ve learned that I need to practice before my feet hit the floor in the morning or my mind and mood seize control of my day. I sit for anywhere from five to twenty minutes just noticing what’s going on in my body, my mind, the condition of my heart. Abdominal gurgles took me by surprise today, as they are a prime indicator of a physiology in relax-and-rest mode. I was expecting to wake up on this of all mornings, in more typical fight or flight state.

After I checked the morning headlines on my phone, I reached for wisdom again, looking for outside help this time.

After a few false starts, I decided to crowd-source my wisdom on Facebook. I count myself lucky the odds are I will find an abundance of uplift on my feed rather than urgency, smack-downs, or un-funny memes. (Depending on your feed, you might not want to try this at home.)

There were these words from a Mary Oliver poem from writer Juliet Bruce: “My work is loving the world.”

Then I found, one after another, a string of declarations from colleagues and friends of how each does their work of loving the world. Here are a few.

From shaman Lora Jansson: “I cling to kindness, compassion and love.”

From death doula Beth Almerini: “working on my new hobby of transformation – creating paper from my old journals and plants from my garden, proving to myself that something beautiful can be created from just about anything.”

My big shout-out is to herbalist extraordinaire Sevensong, who taught me field botany some fourteen years ago. His post began with this statement: “Here is what happens for me no matter who wins.” He went on to share a list of what he will continue to do/be, ending with “I will carry on.”

He inspired me to take on this no-matter-what exercise for myself, and I invite you to do the same.

HERE’S MY VERSION:

Here is what happens for me no matter who wins:

I will continue to be in conscious practice as an imperfect human being.

I will continue to show up and hold space for people to be themselves.

I will continue to revel in learning with and from my students as I teach.

I will continue to investigate and harness my unconscious biases as I guide others through  the inner work of race and gender.

I will continue to nourish and refine my moral compass.

I will continue to cultivate my urban lot as a home for medicinal plants, and share the bounty with pollinators, squirrels, birds, rabbits, foxes, domestic kitties, and keepers of the land.

I will continue to cultivate friendships both likely and unlikely.

I will continue to participate in communities of practice, of worship, and of action.

I will continue to wonder at the ways the universe is described and explained variously by the Hebrew letters, molecules, neuroscience, and group and institutional dynamics.

I will carry on.

These are some of the ways I “love the world” through my work. What are yours?

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