Mortality and Thanksgiving: Why Cemeteries Are Good Spots on Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving morning I found myself walking through a cemetery, thinking about aging and mortality.

Not, initially, because of the tombs. No, I was feeling old because this cemetery, huge and scenic, used to be a favorite run of mine when visiting my Bay Area cousins. And lately I’ve been struggling with a knee injury and have pretty much given up running while I let my meniscus heal. And I slipped on a steep driveway and whammed the hell out of my tailbone. And I turned 56 and found a bunch of grey hairs nesting in the under-layer at my temples.

OK, that last one doesn’t count as an injury. Or even an insult. I don’t MIND the idea of aging…as long as it stays an idea. The reality, I’m discovering, is not quite as easy-peasy.

And that’s what I was thinking about on Thanksgiving as I walked through the cemetery. Which is why these fallen leaves brought me so much joy. “Look!” I could imagine the leaves saying. “Color! Let’s celebrate our impending demise!”

Goodbye cruel world!

Is that not the best defense against inevitable decay: celebration? Color? Suddenly I was seeing it everywhere, like these petals on the sidewalk.

So much was I appreciating my own personal discovery of the “when I am old I will wear purple” approach, that I nearly walked by this startling tombstone:

Well, hello there!

Wing, you see, is not a common last name. In fact it’s quite rare. And it’s certainly not Jewish! So seeing this stone with its Hebrew letters in the Jewish section of the cemetery (anyone else find denominational cemeteries ridiculous?), well…it gave me pause.

And then, like the colored leaves and petals, it gave me joy.

Because I’m mortal, I appreciate the beauty and the time and the health that still remains for me. If I weren’t, I’d take it all for granted. I’d walk right by those leaves and petals. I would forget to cherish the non-splendid, ordinary  moments that are the equivalent of leaves in a sidewalk.

You know what I mean: those thanksgiving moments—with a small “t.” The ones that count the most.

Happy those.

 

The ??th Annual What I’m Thankful For List

Thanksgiving is still several days away as I write this. But the more I contemplate the fearful unknowns and the ugly knowns of my country, the more I feel like turning back into a third grader and writing my I Am Thankful For list. This is one is completely off the cuff; I’m not even wearing cuffs. Just letting my mind ramble over bright spots. Like…

–having a job where I get to work with interesting, supportive people, and to make stuff like this:

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B's Bakery)

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B’s Bakery)

–having friends to sing with at (very nearly) the drop of a hat:

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

–being able to enjoy other people’s dogs vicariously, since we no longer have one:

"Which hand has the treat?" "Both?"

“Which hand has the treat?” “Both?”

Road Trips to visit Cute Cousins (more on this later):

"Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can't leave!"

“Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can’t leave!”

Will I be doing more of this in the coming months? Yes. Does it help? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Count whatever blessings you can, and be careful of one another.

Oh, and if you’d like to share some of your blessings here, I would love that.

Instant Vacation: The “Kids” Are Home

“Happy Thanksgiving!” “Merry Christmas!” I had a tough time keeping myself from calling out these greetings as I hiked with my family. Last Friday. January 15. But you can’t blame me for being confused. That was the day The Mate and I were having.

Sons One and Two (25 and 23) arrived in time for dinner Thursday night–a gift in itself, since we hadn’t expected them until the 9 pm ferry. For dessert we ate the leftover cake from my Mate’s birthday, which I’d been saving in the freezer. (This cake is SPECIAL: 15 layers and as tall as a tophat.)

The next morning I got up early and made our traditional Christmas morning Danish (from Holly B’s cookbook, of course). When the “boys” finally arose, it was time to open presents–okay, no stockings this year, but then we had no Christmas tree either. (I mean, it IS mid-January. I put lights on our houseplants.)

Dinner was full-on Thanksgiving: turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce (thanks to a friend who had some cranberries in her freezer–try buying ’em fresh in January!), roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and Yorkshire pudding. (Yeah, sounds weird, but we like it better than stuffing.) We couldn’t quite face pie after all that rich food…but I made one next day, just ’cause.

Christmas Danish, baby.

Christmas Danish, baby.

‘Cause why? Vacation, that’s why! In my book, when you’re down to rare sightings of your offspring, ANY time with them becomes instant fun-time. Grocery shopping? Sure! Folding laundry? Absolutely! Our best time on this “holiday” weekend wasn’t even that hike; it was working together to make a new compost pit.

I don’t have any digital baby pics of our boys, and I don’t like to violate their adult privacy by posting current pics, so I’m compromising by posting one from 8 years ago. They look a bit different now. 🙂

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can...sometimes literally.

Gotta grab those precious moments while you can…sometimes literally.

So, did I get any writing work done since my last post? How ’bout choosing that new blog theme?

That’s a big fat No. Do I care? An even fatter, happier, more grateful No. Merry Thanksmas!

That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.

So...freakin...grateful!!!!!

So…freakin…grateful!!!!!

Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!

 

Road Trip? J/K: Wings Take to the Air After All

Have you been hearing about the Arctic Blast in the middle of the country? Or maybe living in it?

Yeah. We Wings might be idiots, but we’re not crazy. Driving to Vermont suddenly became a choice between snow-packed roads and blowing snow in Idaho vs. icy passes in Oregon. Seeing as this trip was entirely discretionary, we decided to create our own third choice. We’re flying. By the time you read this, we’ll be somewhere around 3,500 feet trying to keep our muscles from cramping in those tight little Coach seats.

As I mentioned in the last post, flying is actually cheaper, since we won’t be eating out or sleeping in motels for a total of two weeks. Once we get to New England, we’re with family. In fact, thanks to the miracles of flight, we’re with family for a helluva lot longer than if we’d driven!

Huh. Wonder why we never thought of that before.

So, now is NOT the time to begin the litany of Everything I Hate About Airports and Planes. It’s almost Thanksgiving! So I, for one (and hopefully The Mate and Wing Son One as well), will be giving thanks not only for family togetherness, but for the option of making it happen this way.

IMG_0197

Unless, of course, Red Rover the Intrepid Subaru refuses to take us to the airport. She’s pretty pissed off.

Now’s your chance to weigh in and let me know a) how smart we are; b) how stupid we were to even consider driving to Vermont in November; c) how much more fun the train is (yeah, but have you seen THOSE ticket prices??), or d) what’s your worst Thanksgiving travel story ever.

In Defense of Road Trips: Got None; Going Anyway; Not Sorry.

First of all, let me answer two questions. Yes, we are driving from Washington to Vermont in late November. And no, we don’t know what route we’re taking. (Mother Nature will let us know that.)

Oh, and a third question: Yes, Really.

Wing Son Two announced this fall that he intends to stay indefinitely in Vermont, where he’s been working since graduating from college in June. The Mate & I instantly thought about joining him for Thanksgiving, since Son Two is living on a beautiful farm which belongs to some of The Mate’s cousins, a huge, delightful clan of whom we are very fond.

This created a dilemma, however: Wing Son One is still in California, where we’ve been spending all our Thanksgivings since both sons gravitated there after high school. Which son to spend the holiday with?

Then The Mate added another twist: “If we go to Vermont, I want to drive.” (He’s not scared of flying, he just loathes it. I’m sure none of you can relate to this, right?)

I vacillated. Who road trips across the northern latitudes on the cusp of winter? We’re already committed to our annual cross-country pilgrimage to North Carolina in Feb-March; can I handle THAT much trippage? On the other hand…we have time. Road trips are always a bonding experience for us, a huge part of our relationship. But what about Son One?

Red Rover LOVES road trips!

Red Rover LOVES road trips!

Son One, in fact, settled the matter. When I hesitantly invited him to join us, he surprised me by accepting. His job is ending now, his new one doesn’t start till January, and he apparently likes his parents enough to spend two weeks with them in a fairly small car.

Did I mention that Son One is 24? And not real good with the whole staying-in-touch-via-email-and-phone thing? I’d happily spend two weeks idling at a traffic light with him, catching up.

I haven’t done the math on the carbon emissions, but I’m pretty sure that driving three people in one car still uses less than flying three people in a plane. Monetarily, though, we may actually be coming out behind. Yes, plane tickets are expensive, but this trip will entail a good two weeks on the road. Usually when The Mate & I go, we camp and stay with friends more than half the time, but this trip will be different: faster, darker, colder, and much less predictable. We can’t really make dates with friends; cold-weather camping holds no appeal. We’ll be seeing the interior of a number of Days Inns, I expect, paying for three people each time. It’ll add up.

(and that was in Arizona, yet!)

(and that was in Arizona, yet!)

7,000 miles. Three people doing 600-700 miles a day in a Subaru. Icy roads. Darkness at 4:30. Am I daunted?

Nah. I’ll be with my boys. I don’t care what happens. It just feels like Christmas came early this year.

Anyone else traveling this holiday season? How far, where to? Any mixed feelings there? 

Happy Thanksgiving From Wing’s World

From my world to yours…here are some wishes for all y’all:

  • That you are with someone you love right now
  • That you had enough to eat today…and hopefully not TOO much
  • That any pain you or loved ones might be suffering is outweighed by the love and hope you provide for each other
  • That you are able to feel thankful regardless of burdens
  • That you are able to help someone else
  • That you feel some hope for the world
  • That you feel you are making the world a better place–locally, globally, however you think about it
  • That you have a good book to read
  • That, when you take a shower, you feel thankful for hot running water
  • That you are taking care of your body that works so hard to keep you moving
  • That you aren’t spending too much of your Thanksgiving reading blogs like this
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

And now, my all-time favorite question: WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR???