This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. In the spirit of things (and since it’s a feast, after all), I wanted to feature a post that highlights the ways we can journey with intention everyday (and especially on holidays): with community, with food, and through the seasons of the land on which we walk.
And that’s why I asked Daniel Tidwell to write this post; with his passion and attentiveness, I knew he could express this journey far better than I could. Or maybe I was just desperate to hear more of what he has to say about sustainability, relationships, and the kingdom of God. Little did I know that the holiday holds even more significance for him (for better or worse) since it sometimes falls on his birthday.
Read on to discover his thoughts on Thanksgiving, gratitude, sustainability, and pilgrimage. Plus don’t forget to download the recipes he’s shared at the bottom of this post!
In my mind, pilgrimage is about attention to place. It’s drawing our minds and hearts down into connection with our feet and the soil on which we walk. This kind of attentiveness often comes through travel–through moving our bodies across the landscape, so that we gain a sense of distance, space, and our smallness within the vastness of the world.
Often, at holidays, we gather together in physical proximity to the people who are close to us in heart and story and through that tenuous bond called family. We often come together in some version of the geographical category of “home.” This activity is, of course, a most revealing pilgrimage, uncovering our gratitude, our insecurities, and our curiosity about how to hold onto who we know ourselves to be, while at the same time, traveling into places (physically and relationally) that make claims about who we are.
“[Coming home for Thanksgiving is] a most revealing pilgrimage…”
Over the past few years, I have taken my holiday meals in the homes of friends. Since 2007, I have lived as a transplant from the southeastern United States in the city of Seattle, WA. Thanksgiving is a complex holiday for me. Roughly every seven years, the day-of-the-turkey falls on my birthday (as it will next year on my 30th!). While it might seem like a goldmine to have a feast, football game, pie, and parade of oversized balloons for your birthday, as a child I was unappreciative. Add a dawning awareness of colonialism in my college years, followed by growing concern for sustainable food systems (and learning to make a pecan pie without corn syrup), and you can begin to see that I bring a lot of baggage with me to the Thanksgiving table.
But through my holiday practices of the past few years, something has been shifting inside of me. As I have found myself sitting at the Thanksgiving table, I have been eating this meal with gratitude for the people that I share life with. From where I have sat, the waters of Puget Sound hem us into our little peninsula of West Seattle, and farther out, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges linger behind the low-slung clouds and mark the natural boundary of our foodshed.
“As I have found myself sitting at the Thanksgiving table,
I have been eating this meal with gratitude for the people
that I share life with.”
This place and these people have lived with me and my ex-spouse through a divorce–both of us welcomed to the same table before and after our separation. This pattern of belonging to the landscape and the community has proven bigger than me–I find myself being drawn down into the mystery of a common place, a common table, and the uncommonness of feeling my welcome in this world.
There is something about my journey in this single place that has allowed for the hospitality of strangers to slowly become the hospitality of friends. As my hands have learned how to tend to sandy, northwestern soil, I have become attentive to the truth that the difference between weeds and vegetables is often just a matter of what we are used to tasting.
The first garden I had as an adult, I pulled out weeds with fervor. I fought slugs and built a cold frame, coaxing leaf lettuce from the soil and the weak, winter sun. The next year, I learned that chickweed and claytonia would freely fill my garden beds–flourishing in the autumn rains that marked the end of the presumed agricultural season. The place was offering nourishment appropriate to the season, I just needed to learn what it was to look and see.
Similarly, I learned to treasure the seasonal crops of winter, allowing local farmers to shape my palate with the produce kept in cold storage and under row covers. I began to see that these wise souls who keep the land, have been keeping me as well. While the glistening jars of my summer preservation offer satisfaction and delight, I can resist the sterile urge for total self-reliance. This lesson is as overt as surrendering to the repeated invitation to a Thanksgiving table; it’s as subtle as depending on the bounty of a CSA farm-share of food that is subject to the same seasons as my own body.
Walking, kneeling, watching, being open to surprise, receiving nourishment, surrendering to the landscape, letting go of what cannot be forced to grow—these are disciplines of pilgrimage that, for me, have been born in the garden. But the garden leads to the (Thanksgiving) table. Among friends who have welcomed me in a season of life when family is being redefined, I find myself awestruck by the nourishment that comes where I least expect it.
“I find myself awestruck by the nourishment
that comes where I least expect it.”
I do not want goodness to come from a holiday predicated on colonialism and genocide. I do not know how to receive a community celebration of gratitude that has room for celebrating the particularity of my small life. I have as little practice seeing the vast availability of nourishment growing at my own doorstep as I have practice seeing my unconditional welcome in the family God has provided me.
And so, I pilgrimage.
I journey into openness within my own soul, my garden, my neighborhood, my landscape, my local farmers, and the world. I journey through the practice of gratitude–the gratitude of the table; the simple thankfulness that because I have a body and take up space, there is a place for me in the world–a place full of provision.
“I journey through the practice of gratitude–the gratitude of the table…”
And at this complicated holiday table, I feast on paradox. As I stay in my neighborhood, I travel deeper into pilgrimage, grappling with hospitality and wrestling old family recipes for some kind of a sustainable blessing; some growing trust in the provision granted by a local community and place that are bigger than me. Through practicing attentiveness to the who and what around me, I walk on this journey in-place. I find myself at-tended to by this same community of people and geography. And the response that springs from inside me is nothing less than awe.
This opening toward gratitude, that we mark with celebration around a table, is a local journey in-place that is led by community; it is the gift of learning to receive.
Guess what?! Daniel’s shared some recipes from his Thanksgiving table to yours.
Click below to download the pdf.
Where are you being invited to ask for and trust the provision of your local community? How do you practice gratitude as you journey through your neighborhood?