Keefe: Prayer Before Thanksgiving
#Keefe #Prayer #Thanksgiving,
Before the feast was expected to be perfect, responsibly sourced, cruelty free, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, vegan, Paleolithic meant early humans, ketosis simply what your body does when it starves. Feast and starvation are divides with plenty of middle ground. According to United Way, nearly 300,000 Orange County residents are unsure how they will eat tomorrow.
Before the feast ever begged to be shot by a camera, posing to evoke an inexplicable longing for something absent through the visual gesture of crisply edged pie and brown butter beans, sustainable meant the ability of family and friends to gather on chairs, some sturdier than others, year in and year out, and be grateful for everything under the sun or snow like the way your mother is still present to pop cranberries with sugar over fire, the way her mother did, and share with great grandchildren. The way your father’s face still lights up when he sees you. Organic meant the way we wove stories and listened until we were stuffed, as if that was cocoon enough to last all year against loss or loneliness, betrayal or hate, or the way the deep true story of the first Thanksgiving is undeniably braided with the deep true fate of the first humans to live on this land, as surely as my great aunt used to scrape the brown gravy-streaked plates white again under running water after dinner.
Believing in the only weapon I trust, I bleed love through winter squash and garlic, bread and pie. I will lay the forks next to the napkins, hide the knives and pray so strong for peace for each hand that raises to fill an emptiness called hunger at the table in this land made for you and me. If we all share this prayer I’m certain a powerful kind of peace will create a collective warmth like the kitchen gets hotter when it’s filled with steaming potatoes and conversation. A glow like vanilla votives in every window will brighten the night because yes, there are so many outside looking in.
But that’s a prayer like wanting to eat without saying, first I must cook and forage, or if I eat all the feast I’ll never be hungry again.
When we come to the table may we be so hungry we know we need each other. May we not confuse our need with anyone’s ability to fill it. May we be gentle with our expectations and may the critical voices in our heads go mute. May the brown bits crackle just the way you like. May you remember all the hands that worked in dirt and rain so you might have food on your table and may you be grateful for every small thing that fits in the palm of your hand. May you speak to someone who laughs at your punch lines and listens after asking, “How are you?” May the pie crust crumble with just the right flake to make you want to scoop up every last bit of that salty sweet and sigh and be grateful enough to walk back into the dark.
May your next day, and the day after, find you so buoyed by gratitude you do one thing for someone lonely or hurting or both.
May the owl sing as the almost full moon rises and may you lift your eyes to behold its shadow or hear it so clearly you believe it’s a sign for you alone and collectively you, and may you remember all that uplift until you gather once again.
Catherine Keefe is a poet and essayist. She spent many years teaching writing at Chapman University and as a journalist for the Orange County Register. She works now as a story coach, helping families shape and document generational narratives.
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Keefe: Prayer Before Thanksgiving