Monday, October 1, 2012

#17 The Death of Thanksgiving

    It’s Sunday and I am standing in the park waiting for the dog to do her business when I hear the honk and cackle of about fifty Canada geese overhead.  We both look up with curiosity at the big birds shifting position within their V formation.  It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I see this Canadian event; my impulse is to stop, look and point. To me, it means three things: summer really is over, fall is here and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

    Most gardens are taken down, leaves raked, windows locked and winter clothes are inspected for possible replacements. The clocks will go back an hour soon, trees are naked, and there is always that smell of burning wood floating through the neighbourhood.  Canadian football is on the TV; maybe there'll be a pool going on at work.

    When I was in grade two we would draw a horn of plenty complete with ears of corn, squash, apples and pumpkins.  The lazy teacher would tell us stories imported from the U.S. about 'Indians', and Pilgrims in great wooden boats landing on the shores of North America.  We might have been given a lesson on the importance of God's influence on the food supply.

    Now, little is done in my school, it is just another holiday. The heat might be turned on in the classroom for the morning, some kids take more time to jam the extra clothes in their locker.  Once the clocks go back, everyone will suffer for a week while they adjust to the new routine. Fall sports are in full swing, but there is nothing about the past or current reason for Thanksgiving. Many kids, especially new Canadians, think Thanksgiving it is a Christian holiday and seem relieved when I tell them it isn't.   

    I can't tell if the death of Thanksgiving is because of our more urbanized population or possibly the secular nature of our public schools. Maybe it's the public board's obsession with marketing such an all inclusive system that all the character has been drained out of it.  It's difficult to maintain uniqueness when you are trying to please too many people. I can't tell, it's probably a bit of everything. 

    Everyone inherently understands the topic of food. I always make a point of talking to each class about the real origins and traditions of Thanksgiving in Canada. I'll open a lesson with about five minutes on the topic and then transition into the other lesson. The truth really knocks down some walls and encourages many to celebrate without any social obstacles. Thanksgiving is more about a celebration of harvested food, and the luxury of having enough left over to get through the long winter.

    As an accidental gardener, I have come to realize that all plants depend on the weather.  We can water, weed and till, but you need worms, soil drainage, sun, rain, wind, bees, and birds, in appropriate doses for plants to flourish.  We can use chemicals to force grow, but if nature decides to deal us the harsh hand of drought or excessive rain, we will all cry mercy.

   You can give thanks to a higher power or praise technology, but we are all slaves to the impulses of the weather. Somewhere in between the highs and lows, it provides us with an opportunity to earn everything we need to live. Thanksgiving is about celebration that our food supply adapted to the climate; somehow, we won this time. If it was a good season, give thanks for the harvest.  If  the season was unforgiving, give thanks it wasn't worse.  Be thankful you don't have to travel with the geese to a warmer climate just to eat.