The First Thanksgiving, by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)
It’s fall, and Thanksgiving is upon us.
Nature seems to be taking a deep breath to prepare for winter.
Summer’s blistering heat is fading and the air is cooler and purer.
Leaves still cling to wind-shivered branches, but their colors are changing.
Yellow, gold, red, maroon, they glow in the late afternoon sun.
Lighted from behind, autumn leaves glow, their mission nearly complete.
Are they relieved, or just tired?
Sumac is bright red, and sweet gum is golden.
Maples seem slow to recognize the need to change, and oaks the last.
Leaves are gently falling like little parachutes settling on the ground.
A few butterflies still fly about, but only listlessly.
Like animated leaves, their flights seem aimless as they drift on the breezes.
The evening chirps of katydids are silent, and crickets play a slower melody.
Skies that were deep blue in summer are now delicate with a paler hue.
Clouds drift more slowly. Are they unsure of their destinations?
Days are shorter, nights are longer.
Evening twilight comes earlier.
Perhaps the sun is tired too.
In these gentle evenings, there is a welcome reprieve from rush.
Some birds have migrated south. Others seek new food supplies.
Their fluttering at my feeder is less frantic.
They cluster together and eat bright-red Yaupon berries at our window.
A great-horned owl hoots gentle, mournful calls in the night.
In stark contrast, crows raucously complain about the shortage of pecans this year.
Peace and quietude are shattered by their noisy caws and crowing.
Are they disappointed, or just insensitive?
Frogs no longer thrum and trill at our pond, as they seek dark hideaways for winter.
Dragonflies still flit about but with less vigor, their lives almost over.
The night skies are changing too.
The brightest constellations of the year are rising in the east.
Taurus, the Bull, gleams with its brilliant red eye – Aldebaran.
Above it sparkle the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades, an ancient sign of harvest time.
Orion, The Great Hunter, is rising from the east, lying on its side.
The full moon of November 14th has risen in the east and filled the night with light.
Closer and brighter than any time since 1948, its orange orb enhanced that peaceful night.
Am I relieved or depressed by the fall changes?
Perhaps a little of both.
Hopefully a little more relaxed and grateful for the pause.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, pickled beets, mince and pumpkin pies are just around the corner.
Fall is my favorite time of year, and usually brings to me a measure of relief from the frantic hustle of other seasons. I hope it will this year, too.
Although a complex mixture of fact and fiction, Thanksgiving takes me back to generations long gone, and their gratitude for harvest blessings. As with other holidays, I will filter out the parts I don’t like and focus on the gentle parts that bring relief from stress and tension.
There is so much of hate and hurt in the world. It will probably always be so. But we can control our feelings and words to make this holiday a welcome tranquilizer. We can’t allow ourselves to be dragged down by negative thoughts and actions, in our families, or around the globe.
Perhaps this Thanksgiving we can all accept it as the blessing it originally was, and can be again. We are strong and can control our emotions. As pilots do, we can gain altitude and bank away from the thunderheads and rough spots.
This year, may you find love and balm in the holiday.
Reorient your emotional compass and take the high road to happiness and peace.
Above all, don’t forget the ultimate source of this bounty.
Give your Divine Maker heartfelt thanks for all that is good and peaceful.
May you enjoy a wonderful and renewing Thanksgiving this year.
Dr. Risk is a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Content © Paul H. Risk, Ph.D. All rights reserved, except where otherwise noted. Click firstname.lastname@example.org to send questions, comments, or request permission for use.