This is going to sound whinier than I mean it to be. It’s just a reality. Kind of funny, actually, when I’ve worked my way to the other side of it.
In summer, troubles just roll off your back. In winter, they stick together and compound each other, like those little fuzzy seed balls that stick to your socks when you walk in the fields. They catch hold of each other and suddenly they’re one big mass, and you can’t really separate them from each other. For example, the car was hit by a deer, and the light switch in the bedroom broke, and the Prius tail light is out, and the kitchen light and the bathroom lights burned out on the same day, and when we did get a new car, the front light was out, and then the water pump starting gasping like it was going out of business. In summer, you fix things and then you move on. In winter, you feel the weight of cosmic fate pounding you down with each little thing. And so many of these tiny things had to do with lost light, it began to feel like someone was making fun of me: “You feeling a little anxious about the shorter days? The loss of light is bothering you? Let’s try this.”
Ugh. Tiny, minor details. Nothing to get fussed about. You fix stuff and you move on. In summer. In winter, you gripe about it, and you feel burdened, and then you fix stuff and move on.
Gratitude List: 1. There is a frog who lives in the springhouse. This knowledge makes me happy. 2. Sun streaming in to the hollow 3. The sleeping silence of a Saturday morning house 4. The Givers. Lancaster raised $10.5 million for charitable causes yesterday. I kept the ExtraGive main page and the page for our school on the board all day yesterday, and kept refreshing it for my students to see. Thank you, Lancaster, for giving your time and money and hearts to help build up our community. 5. The vibrant browns of late autumn. The salmon-beige beech tree leaves in the understory of the woods along Ducktown Road. The leathery burnt-orange of this oak up the hill. The auburn oak across from Flinchbaugh’s.
Gratitude of Resistance Twenty-Two: The giving hearts of Lancaster people. This is my favorite thing about the Thanksgiving season in this place: The ExtraOrdinary Give. It’s true, we can be pretty divided about many things, but the Lancaster Community Foundation brings us together on the Friday before Thanksgiving for a massive celebration of giving. Nearly five hundred organizations signed up this year, and people from all over the county (and beyond–I’m a Yorker, after all) donate whatever they can afford to these hard-working organizations. This year Lancaster raised 10 million dollars from 23, 545 donors. What an amazing community-building experience. I am proud of my community. And grateful. So, so grateful.
May we all be generous.
I’m doing the Poem-A-Day Chapbook challenge again this year, but on the advice of a friend, I have not been publishing the poems on social media, except as comments on the Poetic Asides site–in the hopes of making the more marketable. This is one I likely will not try to publish because it’s so tied to the Harper Lee quotation, but I like it. Yesterday we read chapter 11 in To Kill a Mockingbird (which is about courage), and Brewer’s poetry prompt was to write a brave poem. It felt like a lovely bit of serendipity.
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” —Atticus Finch
Courage is not a gun not a word that slices skin not a look that tears up a soul but a way to begin.
There’s so much to be angry about–despairing about, frustrated about–in these days. Why not stage your own protest? Begin with Black Friday and the Christmas/Yule holidays that approach.
Protest the Big Corporations and the 1% by buying your gifts from small stores, from Makers and Creators, people who lovingly craft items of beauty and usefulness.
Protest the racists and white nationalists who have been crawling out of the woodwork by buying your gifts from businesses owned and operated by people of color.
Protest the sexism and predation of the patriarchs by buying your gifts from women-run businesses.
Protest the consumerism of the season by taking your loved ones out to eat at local restaurants run by women, or people of color, or immigrants.
Donate to an organization that causes good things to happen in the world by donating to a cause that stands in the face of that which causes you pain. Donate in the names of your loved ones and make that a gift. Sit together at the Thanksgiving tables and talk about what organizations you as a community/family/tribe can contribute to together.
Volunteer, donate your time, take the little ones on a nature walk, or color together. Play games together. Make art. Write stories and poems together.
Share your dreams and your hopes with each other. Read each other your favorite poems. Tell stories. Listen. Make this coming holiday season about connection, about working together to create the future we envision.
In our family, the children have certain expectations of particular gifts, and we will probably fulfill certain of their desires, but I want to do it in the context of open awareness of who and what we support.
Gratitude List: 1. Giving. Today is Lancaster’s Extraordinary Give, a community celebration of local groups and organizations that do good work in the world. Here is the link to my school’s page. If you click on the title at the top of the page, you can see the other organizations involved. You can also see that since the giving opened at midnight 6 hours ago, already over half a million dollars has been donated to helpful organizations.
2. My friend Daryl Snider’s chapel presentation at school yesterday. Open-hearted and thoughtful–the kids were engaged. And I woke up this morning with his song in my head, “Yours are the eyes I see in the mirror. Yours are the cries I hear in my sleep. <I can’t pull out the words to the next bit> Because you are I and I am you.” We are all connected.
3. The helpers. These people often find their way onto my list. I can imagine nothing more hopeful and sustaining in the face of that which angers and terrifies us than the quiet and powerful work of those who simply step up and into the breach, reaching out their hands. People in many places will try to use our fear and rage and despair to distract us, but the helpers are ignoring the fear-mongers and getting down to work. And if our own stories or fears or needs keep us from stepping right up to the front line with the helpers, we can still reach out our hands to hold them, to make a net of support for the work that they do.
4. The coming break. Fall is a bit of a long stretch for teachers, with fewer natural breaks than the spring. The challenge is important, but it’s nice to see the end of this tunnel.
5. Late fall crops. I got home yesterday, and Jon and the crew had set up the market room for the first of our fall pick-ups: broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, radishes, spinach, sweet potatoes. . . Time to feast.