Mother Nature has given us much to be thankful for


When I looked on a recent morning, the one blooming flower on the Angel’s Trumpet was bowed over. Surprisingly, it had bloomed for two days. All the others before it had succumbed after just one day. You would see them, and then you wouldn’t. In the morning light you might think they were sleeping, with a lowered head, but alas, they were deceased. It’s a shame their life span is so short as the colors in these flowers are gorgeous; purple and white. I can understand where the name Angel’s Trumpet originated. They look like a trumpet used to signal the entry of nobility and they wear the colors of royalty and angels.

None of the flowers in the yard (and there are many), have attracted my attention quite like the Angel’s Trumpet. When their beauty is so fragile and short lived, I guess you had better soak it up while you can and give thanks for small favors. 

I’m in the middle of reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a wonderful storyteller and combines the wisdom of a scientist and a culturally grounded indigenous woman. I’m learning about sweetgrass and wild strawberries and witch hazel and water lillies and black ash. Most of all, I’m learning about gratitude for the amazing complexity and interrelationships of creation that make human life possible.

We are all learning, aren’t we? We’re learning that trees produce the oxygen necessary for our breath and can provide carbon sinks. Burning wildfires and deforestation rob us of breathable air. 

We’re learning that bees are necessary for pollination of at least a hundred foods we eat, including  peaches, pears, peppers and pumpkins. Sacrificing destructive chemicals is better than sacrificing our cantaloupe, carrots and cauliflower. 

We’re learning that rising seas, because of the way we are changing the climate, threaten our homes, flooding or undermining their stability. Ultimately, the waters of life threaten our lives as towers collapse and rushing rivers take everything in their path.

We’re learning that we are part of the natural world and not separate from it. Remaining trapped in an illusion of separation only digs us deeper into fire and flood, misery and pain. Even more unfortunate, our separation in our man-made environments keeps us from participating in the beauty and mystery of the creation.

Why do flowers on an Angel’s Trumpet only bloom for one day while the pansies have been blooming for weeks? Why do the cicadas come only once in 17 years but in South Dakota every three to five years? What makes that strange sound and how do the cicada nymphs live underground?

In “Braiding Sweetgrass,” there is a wonderful chapter called “Allegiance to Gratitude.” We are at a tribal school on the Onondaga Nation. The children are gathering together for the beginning of the school week. The third- graders are responsible for leading the pledge that starts and ends the week. It is not the pledge of allegiance to a flag, although there is no disrespect meant to our flag or those who say it. Rather, they pledge allegiance in the “Thanksgiving Address”; in the language of the Onondaga people, the “Words That Come Before All Else.” 

“Today we have gathered, and when we look upon the faces around us, we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one.”

The Thanksgiving continues with at least a paragraph of gratitude to Mother Earth; to the waters; the fish; the plants; the berries; the medicinal herbs; the trees; the animals; the birds; the winds; the thunder beings; the sun; the moon; the stars; the teachers and enlightened ones; and the creator. The final paragraph expresses regret if anything has been left out and concludes with the response, “And now our minds are one.”

May our minds be one. May we find ways to live in balance and express our gratitude for the single day beauty of an Angel’s Trumpet; for the cool unexpected breeze on a 90 degree day; for the promise of the developing tomato on the vine; for the bees buzzing from one flower to another; for the flicker on the feeder; for the sound of the cicada in the tree.

Could we start our week, even our day, with a Thanksgiving, with words of gratitude?

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