Gratitude and thanksgivings

November 22, 2010

At home on Bluestone Farm, before sitting down to eat, we make a circle around the kitchen table, holding hands and offering our thanksgivings. We call it our "gratitude prayer."

Over the years I have slipped into a kind of mantra with this daily ritual. "I am grateful for this circle and for our life together on the farm." Sometimes the circle is just the eight of us -- four sisters and four resident companions -- small and intimate; and sometimes a regular gang with guests, retreatants, interns and volunteers. Small or large, I am always grateful for the circle and our life together -- on the farm.

This place in Brewster, New York, was not always a farm, and I, not always a farmer! We took our lawns and turned them into gardens, and the Community of the Holy Spirit took me, a librarian in my last workplace incarnation, and turned me into a farming nun. The transformations, on both fronts, have been remarkable.

As I work in our gardens, mostly on hands and knees, right down in the rich soil, I become intimately acquainted with slugs, beetles, worms, you name it, and I begin to notice things: birdsong and raptor flight, the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. The sound of the breeze, the look of sunlight on the corn field -- so different early morning from late afternoon.

When my senses are filled with the farm, time slows down, space expands, and I realize I am happy down in the dirt. I am grateful.

The fruits of our labors in the field fill the kitchen table with wholesome, delicious food. Day after day and season after season, the meals produced in our kitchen, from our own produce, are not only health giving and tasty, but prove to be downright adventuresome and joyous affairs. Our culinary abilities have grown by leaps and bounds as we prepare dishes from the morning's harvest or, in winter, from stores put by.

Thanks-giving on the farm has become a way of life. The official holiday has a hard time competing with the thanks we give every day! The food just cannot get better. On the holiday we, like everyone, will cook more than usual, but truly the abundance of small farm living (or home gardening for that matter) is a genuine miracle. How do you talk about "more" of a miracle?

This is what makes every day a holy day; and the happiness, the abundance, the adventure, the joy, are mirrored for me in chapel. As we chant our way through the Psalter, day after day and season after season, I get the feeling that it is the same work as digging and tending my way through garden plot after garden plot. Chapel or field -- I have a place to focus my thanksgivings -- for the abundance of earth, for one another, for our life together, for the sense of abiding with God.

Our community will be together in one place this Thanksgiving. We will be grateful for another holiday, another occasion to celebrate God's goodness. We pray that it is so for everyone, knowing that some will be alone and some will not have enough. For them we open our hearts and offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving; for them and for the One who bade us remember, let us keep and share the feast.

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