We are reading about the First Thanksgiving in first grade. Every year at this time I find myself reading to my students about the harvest and the hunters and the gatherers and I think to myself, “Thankfully I would have been a gatherer; I would not have been a hunter.” It sounds much more peaceful, much more humane. Gather, bring in, bring together, collect. That’s the way I want to live. I think I earned a Girl Scout badge in Collecting. Then I think about myself at this time of year, searching for gifts as if they were prey, getting to the store early just to hunt down the product that inevitably will be devoured in some insignificant way and never thought of again, hunting down the ‘best’ price, even if the cost is rising out of bed at some ungodly hour! Even with Thanksgiving dinner, I find myself fantasizing about the perfect food with the perfect presentation from the perfect restaurant - and Pinterest doesn't help! I have to remind myself that It doesn't matter. This year I want to remember that this is about Gratitude, that the harvest is plenty – we have more than we could possibly need and I can gather what is around me. The harvest is rich. Whatever food or gifts I find are sure to be appreciated. There is nothing truly worth hunting for. I can stroll down the avenue with a cup of cocoa and my mom, and look in windows, and see what strikes my fancy and I can Gather. It doesn't have to be about things. I can focus on Gathering Time with family, Gathering friends, Gathering sisters-in-law and sisters and cousins, Gathering neighbors and strangers even, into the fold, into the joy of the season. I will not hunt.
I was reminded of this last week as my husband and my son and I traveled to Holmdel, New Jersey, to watch my daughter compete in the Cross Country Championships. It is a beautiful part of our state that almost reminds me of Pennsylvania! (Just Kidding, I'm a Jersey girl!) Anyway, in the midst of the hustle and bustle and literal RACING, there is a small sheep farm tucked in the middle of the field where the runners all prepare to race. It is an idyllic scene, just breath-taking. The Farmer was out pulling up fencing posts and, I assume, putting new ones in. The Farmer’s Wife was trimming what I think were herbs, Gathering them in a basket for the winter. Really, in another life, I think that would be me. The women are the Gatherers. Ironically, teenagers from all over the state are also roaming the fields, full of anxiety, anticipation, and stress as they prepare for a run to surpass all others of the season, a 3 mile run at a 6:30 pace. So fast! I am sure they do not even notice or appreciate the sheep, who barely move at a pace that's recognizable. So, the three of us ran over to watch the sheep for just a second before we trekked off to our spot to watch Annie run. This moment of peace and quiet and tranquility reminded me that no matter how busy we are, no matter what we are racing off to, we can always stop and breathe and take in the moment. We can gather wherever we are, gathering memories, gathering time, gathering a laugh or two. I even ‘gathered’ a picture of Matt and my husband as they quickly leaned on the fence, then basically said, ‘We’re done - off to the races.' When we went off to find the right spot to watch, we entered “The Bowl,” a legendary field where you run down one side and up the other, around a rim that is full of surprises, and we were greeted with another surprise. On the way we actually saw deer, 3 of them, racing through the woods, up one side of a mountain as we walked down another. It was beautiful. I gathered it all in. There was no hunting involved, just gathering.
I am reading a book now called, "The Power of Moments," by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. A friend recommended other books by these authors to me, but this was the only one available at my library, so I snagged it. Sometimes we are on the hunt for something and we are presented with something we can simply gather. The book is a reminder to us that we can create significance in our daily lives in the very ordinary things we do. The authors tell us that moments can be EPIC. These are moments that are Elevated, full of Pride, touched with Insight, that create Connection. While the authors say that they don't like the acronym, I do! I fully embrace living EPIC lives and we can start with very simple moments.
It is so easy to forget the meaning of the season. It is easy to become a Hunter, or to trade in what we truly, deeply crave in the season for the jewels that are laid before us. I want to refuse that.
This will be a year and a season of gathering. This will be a year to take care of the moments, to gather them in, and not drive myself mad by hunting. It is just not natural to me.