Giving Thanks

Finding myself in a somewhat pensive mood, I thought I’d reflect a bit on giving thanks. I think that giving thanks is a disposition that broadens the spirit from what might otherwise be pretty cramped quarters. Back in 1884 Walt Whitman said:

Thanksgiving goes probably far deeper than you folks suppose. I am not sure but it is the source of the highest poetry—as in parts of the Bible. Ruskin, indeed, makes the central source of all great art to be praise (gratitude) to the Almighty for life, and the universe with its objects and play of action.

We Americans devote an official day to it every year; yet I sometimes fear the real article is almost dead or dying in our self-sufficient, independent Republic. Gratitude, anyhow, has never been made half enough of by the moralists; it is indispensable to a complete character, man’s or woman’s—the disposition to be appreciative, thankful. That is the main matter, the element, inclination—what geologists call the trend. Of my own life and writings I estimate the giving thanks part, with what it infers, as essentially the best item. I should say the quality of gratitude rounds the whole emotional nature; I should say love and faith would quite lack vitality without it. There are people—shall I call them even religious people, as things go?—who have no such trend to their disposition.

Although it’s not a belief unique to them, one that’s encountered frequently among the traditional beliefs of the people who were here before Europeans came to stay was that the purpose of human life was to give thanks. I find that belief reflected in the Iroquois thanksgiving address:

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms-waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Epictetus wrote:

Wise is the man who does not grieve for what he does not have but rejoices for what he has.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.

Cicero wrote:

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.

Albert Schweitzer wrote:

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Seneca wrote:

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

And, finallly, Meister Eckhart said:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.

13 comments… add one
  • Beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Dave.

  • I’ll be taking these to Lansdowne.

    They’ll thank you, too.

  • Andy

    Thanks Dave, love the WW quote. Are you cooking today?

    I’m doing my usual, but just a Turkey breast this year since we only have one guest.

  • Thanksgiving at Lansdowne:

    The company was terrific and so was the food. Lisa, Marsha’s siter was the cook. She visited my brother when he was hospitalized in Jackson.

    I acquainted her with two Thanksgiving hymns:

    Then we sat on the veranda and drank wine and told jokes.

  • And we talked about a porch modification for a house in New Orleans, with a digression into structural engineering.

    Terrific fun.

  • Then I went Under-the-Hill to have a scotch and water and watch the American Queen depart:

    The calliope played “God Bless America” as the boat pulled away. (After they lowered the smokestacks forward so the boat could pass under the MS bridge.)

  • We Gather Together with lyrics:

  • Lansdowne is in Natchez, no? I think it’s just barely possible I saw it about 50 years ago when we went down there one spring for Spring Pilgrimage.

    I also note, approvingly, the china and glassware in the case in the background of the pictures. It reminds me of my own and makes me think about posting pictures. Was that a scallop I saw at the base of the silver?

    Also, can you comment on the place setting? For me that was a rather unconventional way of placing the silver.

  • Yes, it is in Natchez, but on the outskirts. The land is lovely.

    For the scallops, could be.

    The julep silver was used for water. And they were sorting silver when I took the picture. My brother told them they were using the wrong soup spoon. It was an oyster chowder served in consomme/cream soup dishes.

    A very nice chowder, too, though it could have used a dash of Tabasco. Lisa agreed.

  • The house begs for Federal, but those are all original pieces.

  • My brother’s partner, Reagan Caraway, was an interior designer who specialized in Empire. He was featured in Architectural Digest many years ago.

  • And they really appreciated the satsumas.

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