Thursday, November 26, 2009

A day to give thanks

When our kids were little and we had extended family visit the house for Thanksgiving, everyone cooked. We used our wood stove as much as possible. Laurel at 3 or 4 began making cranberry sauce. Amber took over peeling, boiling and mashing potatoes. Dave learned to make pie crust. Our visitors all had jobs too. Some specialized in pie fillings, others in salads, some set the table, others washed the endless dirty dishes. The littlest kids used white frosting to glue chocolate cream candies to fudge stripey cookies, added candy corn feathers and clove feet to create Thanksgiving place holders for the table.

By mid-afternoon, we were all ready for something besides cooking and board games, so we put on jackets and mittens and headed out into the fields and woods. First we fed the sheep; then we went exploring. A big piece of prairie stretches beyond our pasture fences. I love to walk that prairie in the fall. The grasses have dried to a landscape of gold and russet. Brown stalks of weeds thread their way through the grasses. Even in the cold winds of autumn, the prairie in the sunlight glows with warmth. We collected pasture grasses, milkweed pods, and dried goldenrod stalks to the bouquet.

Red osier dogwood and cattails accent the edges of ponds and sloughs. On dry years we cut cattails and dogwood branches to add to the bouquet.

Beyond the prairie and the ponds, lies a wood. We walked the wood with our eyes on the tree tops looking for the brilliant orange of bittersweet berries. When we found a plant, we harvested a few long twisting branches with berried tips, and then headed for the warmth and rich fragrance of home.

This year is different. We are in St. Louis celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughters and their husbands. The fields at home are dusted with snow. A friend is feeding the animals. Our pre-dinner walk will be along suburban streets, admiring green lawns and a few hardy azalea still in bloom. But the day hasn’t really changed. The house is filled with the sound of happy voices, good smells and warmth. We are with family. A day to give thanks.

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