Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Attitudes of Gratitude

22 Nov

This morning, I tried hard NOT to flail my arms out in African dance class as I had surgery last month and don’t care to rip stitches out prematurely. But how can one not feel joy when you hear a drum beat? Drums are akin to our hearts. They are the pulse of life itself – lub dub, lub dub. Years ago when music therapists and myself would bring drums into groups at the Hebrew Home for the Aged, even acute stage Alzheimer’s patients would tap a hand or a foot, despite being practically comatose and near death’s door.

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I have the privilege of taking African dance with a magnificent teacher. I studied African dance fairly extensively in college, so it’s part of my blood. However, the reason I love my teacher is because she understands dance as a form of worship. She practically radiates something higher than herself.

Dance is a way to express joy and praise; a way to mourn and rage.

I dance so I don’t forget I have a body that is often far superior to my mind. The body has its own knowledge and its own divinity. As Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric!” and as Hafiz waxed eloquent:

Every child has known God, Not the God of names, Not the God of don’ts, Not the God who ever does anything weird, But the God who only knows four words and keeps repeating them, saying: “Come dance with Me.” Come dance.

This is the week of giving thanks. Dance reminds me of the vitality inherent in gratitude. Often, thanks is pretty basic: I slept well last night. This coffee tastes terrific. Friends make me smile. Strangers can be kind. Let me give you a hug. The dog wagged his tail. I’m doing what I love. It rained in LA. Sunday is football. People still care.

Amen.

 

 

Content to be Content

21 Oct

I have 15,000 things to do today but the sun streams in through the windows, bouncing off the hardwood floor, and I am content to sit here. I am content to be content.

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Autumn is a time of sweet reflection. The heat breaks. The days are shorter and darkness drops in earlier inviting in cozy and rest. As a young girl, I loved being huddled under the covers in the bliss of childhood slumber. My mom would have to rouse me for school in the morning and I’d slightly protest, wanting to stay in the cave of oblivion that we only really get when young, cared for fully, and unencumbered by the pressures of the adult world.

In her recent memoir, “M Train,” Patti Smith writes, “The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there,” she writes. “Oh, to be reborn within the pages of a book.” Although I read voraciously year round, I associate books with Autumn and Winter and the start of a school year. I also think of holiday foods, the crisp in the air, and cherished television specials and films. It is a time of reunion with loved ones, past and present. The smell of a turkey and fragrant pines, reminding us of people no longer alive and memories yet to make with new players on the stage.

Our lives move in seasons – seasons of darkness and depth and seasons filled with the lightness of being. It is the light and the dark that provides perception, depth, and contour. That makes our lives a living, breathing piece of art in the process of becoming.

Harvest. Pumpkins. Leaves and fading sun. Lessons stored and drawn upon like a squirrel’s cache of nuts for Winter.

This is not a season to be glossed over and rushed through. It is time to sip the hot mulled cider, to put one’s feet up and to rest after a considerable amount of work and exertion. It is time to prosper and be content.

 

Grateful for Granny

27 Nov

I saw my 94 year old grandmother yesterday and today will have Thanksgiving dinner with her at my aunt and uncle’s house, although we are doing things a day early. At 44, I reflect back on the many blessings of having been close with my grandparents, particularly when I was young. Here are some thoughts:

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My parents wisely made sure that I spent time with their parents despite the geographical distance between California and Wisconsin. From the time I was five years old, they put me on an airplane to spend an entire summer month with my grandparents and extended family. Likewise, many Thanksgivings and Christmases were also spent with this lovely company.

For someone with divorced parents this was a rare treat, as I was able to witness marriages still in tact. I was also enamored by the fact that my grandfathers went to work while my grandmothers stayed at home. To me this was a thrilling arrangement that meant children didn’t have to go to daycare and delicious dinners of pot roast or pork chops would be served every night instead of just on weekends. It triggered my deepest fantasies that until this time had only been fostered by watching shows such as “Leave It to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy.” I remember being seduced by the smell of bacon and coffee wafting down the hall lulling me gently awake on my first morning with my grandparents. These were not smells I identified in my own home on weekday mornings. For one thing, neither my father nor mother drank coffee. They both preferred Coke and Diet-Coke instead. And there simply was no time to cook breakfast in the morning before my mom went to work and I went to school. Eggs and bacon were something I tended to get for dinner instead. For breakfast, my mother often gave me a Twinkie or Ding Dong because Hostess Treats didn’t require any cooking. Later when I got older, I made myself oatmeal, which I liked very much because it was hot, creamy and supposedly “Old Fashioned.”

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I loved old-fashioned things. In both of my grandparents’ homes I would gaze longingly at the china displayed in hutches and sterling silver tea sets displayed on fashionable tea carts. I would help polish the silver to keep it from rusting and as I rubbed the cream into the silver with a cloth, I would eventually see my own reflection looking back at me. I loved that extra sets of sheets and linen were kept in hall closets and I would spend hours playing in the attics and basements of each respected house pretending I was Nancy Drew. Likewise, the architecture in Wisconsin was so different from that in Southern California that I would stare out the window as we drove along Lake Mendota to the University where my Grandpa Porter worked at UW Madison as a biochemist and fantasize about which houses I wanted to live in when I grew up. I loved the Tudor style homes best. I told myself I would eventually live in Madison and would be a writer and professor there.

Those summers in Wisconsin were incredibly idyllic. My dad’s parents both grew up on farms so they kept a huge vegetable garden out on an actual farm. After dinner we’d often go work in the garden. Well, they would work while I ran through the cornfields, sang songs and did lots of cartwheels. Then we’d clean up afterwards and go to A & W for a soft cone.

There was always activity going on in my grandma’s kitchen. She made her own jam, Ketchup and applesauce and froze and canned the surplus produce, which in addition to vegetables included raspberries, cherries, peaches and apricots. I would often take jars of things down to the cellar after we labeled what was in it and put a date on it. Sometimes Grandma would name something after me like what came to be known as “Lise’s cherry jam”.