Thanksgiving, a practice of gratitude and grief

We are watching the parade this morning, snuggled up all cozy on our couch while the cinnamon rolls rise in the oven. The announcer wears big fuzzy ear muffs, sitting at a desk covered in flowers. She flashes a brilliantly white smile and says “Friends, family, love. That’s what thanksgiving is all about. A time to think about where we came from, how we’re all connected. Did you know you can learn about your ancestors with this easy kit…” *cue ancestry dna advertisement* This fades into commercials advertising all the black friday deals, then zooms back to a close up of giant Tom Turkey and two jolly looking people dressed up as pilgrims.
Sigh. Today I am struggling with the tension. The chasm between the wonderful family memories I have of this holiday, the joyful moments I am sharing with my own children, and the horrible and ongoing slaughter, oppression, and erasure of the 567 indigenous tribal nations this holiday commemorates invading. Our colonizing mythology runs so deep sometimes it’s hard for me to learn the truth – not just because it’s uncomfortable but mostly because I have such a hard time dismantling the american myths I’ve always believed to be true.  It’s all confusing and complicated and I don’t know how to hold it.
Yesterday we escaped to the mountains and spent the afternoon in wonder. We marveled at the power of water to carve out the amazing natural bridge and the towering rock walls. The trees that stretched hundreds of feet from the mossy floor up towards the sun. The filtered light. The quiet. It was like descending into another world. Another time. A thin place. We stopped and sat on some fallen, moss covered logs and imagined the people who called this land home hundreds and thousands of years before us.
We read aloud this piece by Layli Long Solider. She taught us about the Dakota 38. How Lincoln slaughtered them the same week he signed the emancipation proclamation. Another piece of the history I am complicit in, but did not know. Her words hung like the mist, seeping into our pores.
But then the kids were expiring and we still had almost a mile of ground to cover so snacks were doled out and jackets re-zipped and step by step we carried this complicated, painful story and our questions back up out of the canyon, back across the beautiful Kentucky hills, back home.
I don’t know how to hold these stories. That is my privilege. I carry only my own grief, tell only my own history. That is the way of my people – our culture the definition of egocentric. Slowly, with humility and with practice, I am learning to submit to the voices of those who have been living on the margins for generations. I am learning from their wisdom, their rich traditions of storytelling, their healing practices, their communal rituals of remembering and lament.
Today I hold the tension. I teach my children to hold it too. Today we will cook recipes that share our family history, and we will cook recipes that share the story of the Sioux. We will tell them stories about the dark history of our nation and the people who lived here before us. We will play with legos and ride bikes and watch movies and do crafts. We will pause and light candles and hold space for remembering and lamenting.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful benediction I read this morning.

“May you remember we are all on stolen Indigenous land and speak truthfully of the past and present.

May you lean into hard table conversations about white supremacy, LGBTQ affirmation, feminism, and more.

May you honor your own needs.

May you practice engaged patience for sustainable change-making in the areas of your privilege.

May you not food shame yourself nor anyone else.

May you bring in those who are left out.

May you be nourished in body and soul, whether alone, with friends, or with family.

May all the sources of love, delight, and sacredness in your life draw near and fill your spirit with gratitude for the good that persists.

May you remember you are loved. That your worth is ineffable.

Blessed be your day, 
whether it’s hard or perfect or messy or ordinary
whether you’re lonely or surrounded by beloveds
whether you’re angry, grieving, or content.”

And this gift:  Layli Long Soldier’s powerful words, spoken here in her own voice.

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