Is it already Thanksgiving? It is.
Stephen here, in this fourth week of November, two-thousand and sixteen, anno Domini (in the year of our Lord)—as history is written.
The last column was posted a lifetime ago. On November 7th, Ted talked about Halloween, bobbing for turnips, the Day of the Dead, Before the Flood, and the upcoming vote. The weather was hot—shorts, t-shirts, swimming in the pond even—and now the tomatoes are finally frozen. Last night I even covered our kale with a bedsheet. Soon I will open up my box of winter clothes and start wearing long underwear, though in most years that day, by now, would have long since passed.
How to make sense of things? How to adjust the cycles of planting and harvest in a changing climate? Some say the world is always changing, and we should therefore always be adjusting. (Mostly, I agree.) Would that mean that there isn’t any ideal long time ago when all was well that we can retreat back into? That progress—for better and worse—is always moving forward?
Thanksgiving. What a celebration.
I love the turkey and stuffing and gravy; the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pie. Pumpkin Pie. Being too full to move. There have only been two Thanksgivings that I have skipped with my family in California (this is one of them). It can easily seem like that table is what this holiday is all about.
Summer and winter at odds yet again. Photo by Stephen.
But we also celebrate something else, don’t we? We give thanks for what we have. We give thanks for the continual return of the harvest that—even if we don’t realize it (as I didn’t, growing up in Los Angeles; but living at Dancing Rabbit, I certainly do now)—is a foundation of our ability to survive and thrive.
Yet in all of our Thanksgiving feasts across this country, we do, in fact, recognize the gratitude of harvest (to some extent) as we celebrate the story of “the first Thanksgiving”. We recognize that that specific group of religious immigrants (Pilgrims, we call them) who were fresh onto this land, not knowing how to cultivate food here, were actually welcomed and aided by the people (as the story goes) whose home the newcomers were entering. They knew our arrival meant their world would change, and yet they offered their helping hands. Without that welcome, it is said, those Pilgrims would not have survived the first winter: we would not be here. (Of course, there were also germs and guns and ships, and the balance was bound to shift.)
So, do we celebrate our survival or do we celebrate the Wampanoag’s generosity to help our survival? Or do we celebrate our gratitude for their warm welcome? Or our gratitude for all that we are lucky to have in this fourth week of the eleventh month of two-thousand-and-sixteen years after one story is said to have occurred?
There are now three Rabbits up at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest and I can’t help but think that—no matter what comes of their efforts—I sure do use a lot of oil. Less than many people, yes; but I drive, I fly, I take the train, I use the tractor, and I eat food that comes from many places that are not right here. I wear clothes, print with ink, and buy an infinite amount of plastic and synthetic things that all started as oil.
But we’re not just talking about what comes out of the ground. We’re also talking about a people having a voice.
It seems to me that that is one of the defining characteristics of this moment (many moments) in history.
It’s not just one group of people who were pushed onto a land that we now want access to (again).
Everybody wants a voice.
I want a voice (I’m writing this article). My partner wants a voice (she tells me that again and again when I don’t know how to listen). Protesters all over the map want voices. Women who are silenced. Men who don’t know what their mouths are saying. Immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and all people who are marginalized by mainstream culture. White people who turn on the TV or Facebook and are ridiculed by the media. People everywhere who are ignored by our government. Most governments.
With our vote, we want to say—all of us—that we are important, too. And we can say that, also, by choosing what we do.
This week at Dancing Rabbit we’re holding an alternative form of feast to go alongside the traditional Thanksgiving. We’re calling it a ‘Come as You Are Feast’. An Ubuntu—my humanity is inextricably bound up in yours—feast. Bring your gratitude if you have it, your fear and despair if you have that, too; your hope and your anger, your sadness and happiness, and whatever foods they manifest into.
It’s no surprise to many that the story of Thanksgiving is exactly that: a story, a myth. But while that might seem frightening to some (that it is a fabrication), the value of myths grows far beyond the events that occurred. They tap into what we feel in us as a people, now, and relate it to something more enduring. They speak to the listener and unify us with story.
We have myths about the American Revolution, about Galileo and his telescope, about Plato and his cave. From long before that, we had many myths that have now been deeply buried and forgotten. We also have myths about a wizard named Harry, about a Katniss Everdeen who fought against oppression, and about a lion cub who returns to be king. We have myths that teach us that dark powers can be beaten if we reach into ourselves and stand taller.
This past month I have been obsessively listening to Hamilton (the musical). Listen and repeat. Over and over again. There is so much I could say about it—so much that is said elsewhere—but here I want to speak of one thing it has done to history. To myth. To the present. The transition from being Britain’s colonies to a growing (and re-unifying) nation lives at the foundation of what this country is. What many countries are. And yet it is an old story. Its words made sense in a different era: “…all men are created equal.” What about women? What about people not European? What about those born with differing spoons in their pockets? Hamilton didn’t change any of that, it can’t. But it redefines how we tell that story (any story); it redefines what that story can mean to us. It redefines who we are as a country. Who I am as a citizen of it. That what happened is one thing, and the other is what we do with it.
“And? If we win our independence?
Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?
Or will the blood we shed begin an endless
Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?”
(Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, “My Shot”)
Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863 (the Civil War was ’61-’65). Many say that, understanding the power of myth to unite a people, Abraham Lincoln and company fostered the caricaturized portrait of the friendly Pilgrims and friendly ‘Indians’ with the hope of uniting a divided country. Maybe it wasn’t the truth—and it certainly wasn’t the only thing that brought the country back together (mostly back together)—but there is a lot to love (and learn from) in a beautiful origin story. A people who had called this land their home for as long as they had known welcomed the newcomers onto the shore, taught them how to survive, helped them, and celebrated a new beginning together.
It reminds me of what Jesus said at his last meal: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
We live in a divided country, a divided world. We are a people divided from the land that sustains us. What stories can we create (and re-create) to bring us back together?
Yes, as Stephen notes it’s the start of the holiday season, which means our non-profit branch is in the midst of our end-of-year appeal, the time when we ask for donations to support the work we do. If you enjoy receiving these updates and want to support us, please donate now!
Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.