Good Work and Gratitude | Thoughts for Thanksgiving

My wife Nanci usually encourages me to take a relaxation day after coming off the road. And today I’m feeling a bit weary having just returned from four concerts in a row, and a television taping (Context, with Lorna Dueck) at Toronto’s magnificent CBC building. During that time I stayed several days with my daughter’s family, and had some fine time with the grand lads, Luca and Pax, whose energy is as exhilirating as it is exhausting.

So… Nance sounded a little sheepish when she called from her work today to say that given that the next few days are rather full—and frost is expected—today may be the day to dig the carrots from the garden, which, of course means clipping, cleaning and storing as well.

The suggestion felt like an added burden as I had already determined it would be a work day. I’m behind on two separate writing projects—and then there is the never-ending work that accompanies the release of a new album.  It’s hard to relax when so much is awaiting attention.

DaisySo I decided to cut short the morning walk with Daisy so I could get right down to work. But after about 10 minutes, when I assumed I’d be turning back home, a voice whispered, “no, no…keep going.” I hesitated, thinking of all that needs doing, and then decided to continue on.  Daisy and I walked for over an hour in the fall-fresh air, greeting other dogs and their owners, and happily chatting briefly with a builder friend whose crew is framing a house down the way. We passed by the river and paused to feel the mighty flow, then took a wooded walk on a pathway blanketed with soggy-soft leaves.  It felt good.

Dirty CarrotsWhen we got home, I thought I’d get right down to work, leaving the carrots until later, though only if I got enough work done.  But the voice again whispered, “…better, perhaps, to do the carrots now.”  Again I hesitated, and then went out to work in the yard: digging away, bending over to rub the soil off the harvest, cutting off the greens, doing a first rinse with the hose before tossing the discard in the compost and carrying the bounty into the house to be further cleaned and bagged.

All the while, my soul began to slow down and breath deeper.  Fall is magnificent:  the cool wind carrying sounds of another’s labour in the distance, the bug-lessness, the slice of my shovel turning dirt, the rub of moist soil from those roots, Daisy lazing on the grass in a patch of dappled sun…  all magnificent.   I forget how restful and restorative work can sometimes be.

And the first song of my first solo album began to run through my head. Lyrics from Psalm 90 (listen below) :

May the favour of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands
Yes… the work of our hands.

And with the song came gratitude.  If for no other reason that I love carrots.  Admittedly, it wasn’t the best harvest this year. The carrots are small and not as sweet as past years (the weather this summer has been weird).  But these are still a far cry from those oft-slimy, store bought, baby peeled carrots that are the vegetarian’s equivalent of the cocktail weenie.

Personally, I like to eat them freshly dug with the dirt still on. But I washed them none-the-less, as I’m sure our Thanksgiving dinner guests will prefer.

Clean Carrots

Gratitude for other things came as well: for meaningful work, for Nanci and our great kids and grandkids, for good friends and great memories, for the love and legacy of my parents and grandparents that I share with beloved sisters, for gardens and gardening…

At this point I recalled a traditional Anishinaabeg tale that I retold in a blog over a year ago:

A hunter’s arrow found and downed a moose.  As the hunter was gathering wood for a fire to prepare the meat, the  hunter discovered all sorts of wild vegetables and fruits as well. Overwhelmed by the bounty, the hunter didn’t know who to thank, but felt a bursting need to thank someone. So he simply looked around, and said “thank you.” This, is where giving honour (religion) came from.

“Gratitude is the highest form of thought.”  GK Chesterton

I feel the same impulse to give honour, to God, for every goodness—even for the hope of redemption for good things gone bad.

I feel… lovely. My head is clear. Now… down to work.