Gratitude & Grace

The word gratitude means “appreciation of benefits received” and comes from the Latin, “gratus“, which is also the derivation of grace, a word with many meanings, including “the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful” and “divine assistance“.

The expression “grace under fire” usually refers to someone remaining calm under duress. Using the above definitions of grace I offer a larger meaning to this expression: recognition, with gratitude, that we are the receiver of gifts, even when under duress. These gifts may include empathy, compassion, acts of kindness and love. No matter how small or large, these are the gifts of grace from others. Certainly recognition that these gifts are there for us can steady us in the storms of life.

When we express gratitude we are manifesting grace, our thankfulness shows consideration to the giver. We also attain grace when we are the givers of kindness, empathy, help, compassion, and love.  Grace flows, it connects us to others and to Spirit. It helps us remember there is good in the world and we are both the receivers of and, when acting with grace, the givers of this goodness.

Even in the most challenging of times personally or in our larger communities, there are elements of grace, acts of kindness and blessings received.

We do not need a calendar date to express gratitude for the grace in our lives, nor to pass it on. However, Thanksgiving, originally a holiday based on a myth, a misinterpretation of history*, has become a time to give thanks for the abundances in our lives. It is a good time to pause, focusing on what we are grateful for, and an excellent time to express not only our gratitude, but to offer our gifts of grace to others.

Gratitude and grace, when practiced often, will change our lives and the lives of others. May you be filled with gratitude and grace this week, regardless of the challenges you may be facing.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

*To read about the myth of a ‘first’ Thanksgiving, this is one of several excellent articles at the National Museum of the American Indian: Everyone’s history matters: The Wampanoag Indian Thanksgiving story deserves to be known

related posts:

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Yummies

Thanksgiving

A recipe for winter

A pumpkin by any other name

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A Pumpkin by any other name

this year’s porch booty, where the pumpkins, squash & gourds gather every fall!

Did you know pumpkins are squash? The word pumpkin does not actually describe a botanical distinction, it is a common name used for some squash. Generally, in the United States and a few other other countries, it is the name for round orange hybrids of the Cucurbita pepo squash species, the ones used for jack-o’lanterns. In Australia and New Zealand all winter squash varieties are called pumpkins. Commercially, most pumpkin pies and canned pumpkin pie fillings are made from other types of winter squash.

Mike’s jack-o’-lantern, face design by our friend Ke

Even more misleading, the tradition from Ireland of carving lanterns from vegetables, calling them jack-o’-lanterns, did not start with pumpkins, which were not grown in Ireland long ago, but were carved from turnips, or occasionally potatoes or beets. In America folks found the pumpkin, introduced to them by Native Americans, made bigger, brighter jack-o’-lanterns. And were a lot easier to carve than a turnip!

Since the word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning big melon, clearly the term pumpkin has a loose application and those round, orange winter squash have an identity crisis, which may be why so many jack-o’-lantrens look like they are in shock! 🎃

cheese pumpkin – which is a squash!

A very popular pie squash is called a cheese pumpkin, which is a type of moschata squash. We recently bought one, and though the folks at the farm where we bought it didn’t know the specific variety, it is definitely a type of cheese pumpkin, or squash. The name might come from the shape, similar to a cheese round, or from the “pumpkin cheese” early settlers in the US made with any pumpkin or squash that didn’t store well. If a squash showed signs of going bad they’d cook it down to what we would now call pumpkin butter as a way of preserving it.

Pumpkins/squash, have been around a long time, thought to have originate in ancient Central American. They’ve not only been around over 7,000 years, they’ve traveled around the globe. New varieties have come back to the Americas via the West Indies, England, France and other countries. There are hundreds of varieties, many developed in the United States. Varieties of the same species of squash easily cross-pollinate so when growing more than one type it is a good idea to grow varieties from different species.

We have pumpkin addiction issues in our house, and it’s not just me, I know when to stop, but Mike always thinks we should get more. He also campaigns for more gourds. I tell him we can at least eat the pumpkins, so I vote for more pumpkins. I adore gourds. The history of gourds, which are relatives to pumpkins and cucumbers, is older and more complex than that of the pumpkins/squash ancestry.  Some believe, from archival evidence, gourds may be the oldest cultivated plant, thought to have been introduced to the Americas from Asia 10,000 years ago.

Gourds have been used as food, vessels and utensils , musical instruments and in the creative arts for thousands of years. Early settlers found some Native American tribes used them to make bird houses to attract birds to control insect pests. There is something innately attractive about gourds, often very colorful and naturally decorated with designs and textures.  And the small ones are quite cute! The year we had three volunteer plants appear in our back yard, their long vines growing off into the woods, I felt rich with abundance as the harvest filled two baskets. Given their multiple uses and long association with people, it seems every household would do well to have a basket full!

Enjoy whatever you want to call your favorite colorful fall vegetable! But be warned, if you Google it you will find conflicting information on these ancient vegetables.

For example, Hubbard Squash, which for the obvious reason of it’s name, I’ve known about all my life, has a debatable lineage. What we called Hubbard squash growing up was a larger, darker green, squash than what most farmers grow, and markets sell, here in Washington, which is a small Hubbard variety called Blue Hubbard, a cross between Hubbard and another type. The origin of Hubbard squash is thought to be the James Gregory Seed Company. Mr Gregory brought it to the seed market from seeds given to him by his neighbor, Elizabeth Hubbard. But not all agree on where Gregory claims Mrs Hubbard got her seeds. Regardless of its origins, it is a flavorful, very popular squash served at many Thanksgiving feasts, and what a great name!

Happy Halloween!🎃

Past Halloween posts:

The Driver

Festivals and Fruit Crumble

What Scares You?

Familiars

Some of the Pumpkin and Squash articles I read to compile this pumpkin biography.

http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-pumpkins-recipes/
http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=12109
http://www.allaboutpumpkins.com/history.html

Festivals & Fruit Crumble

img_6229 It is a festive time in many cultures throughout the world.

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My Dawali mandala is inspired by my friend Rashmi, who is from Nepal but lives in Spain. To view more of my mandalas check out my Flora Mandala page!

In India, Nepal, and other southeast Asian countries, and by Hindus everywhere, and those who appreciate and celebrate Hindu  festivals, the multi-day festival of light, Dawali, or Dipawali  falls in late October. It’s date, determined by the Hindu calendar, can vary on the Gregorian calendar.  This year the primary day of Dawali is October 30.   Depending upon which country, there are many stories and legends associated with this festival of light, but everywhere it is a time for joyous celebration, gift giving, holiday foods, family and friends, a time for light and goodness to claim victory over darkness and evil. 🔥

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my tiny acorn squash jack o’lantern!

Those whose autumn celebrations hark to early Celtic culture celebrate Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve October 31. Originally called Samahain, it was time to prepare for winter at a time where such preparations were a matter of survival.  It is seen as a time when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is lifted, letting the former raise havoc with the later.  Bonfires, candles, and other means of discouraging such behavior were, and still are, popular, while at the same time, the tradition of trick or treating implies a certain amount of encouraged mischievousness! 👻

picframeDia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, November 2, is celebrated in Mexico and by those whose roots, and hearts, are in Mexican culture.  The holiday includes the Day of the Innocence, November 1, to honor the souls of children who have died. Though there is a belief the veil between the after life and the living is easier to pass through, souls of loved ones come in peace, to counsel and console those living, not to raise havoc! A beautiful and unique folk art that is popular from the traditions of the Day of the Dead are ‘sugar skulls’, usually made of sugar to be placed on altars to deceased loved ones, but also made of clay or other materials. 💀

If you were to combine the intent of these three fabulous holidays, you would be focused on letting light into your life, into the world, celebrating the victory of good over evil, while appeasing the ancient spirits, who may do you some harm, but who also may offer you wisdom.  Well anyway, that’s my summary and I think all these intentions are worth celebrating!

img_6129Any holiday that involves lighting candles, which all three do, on a dark and rainy autumn day I am all for!

Below is a recipe for my latest favorite comfort food,  my version of an all American, easy-peasy fall dessert. You might want to make it to offer whatever spirits you need to appease, honor, or any evil entities that need sweetening! The ‘secret’ to the recipe below is my usual mantra – fresh spices! In this case, if possible, grated fresh nutmeg, a warming spice that is calming to the nerves and mind, adds a unique flavor.  Note: If you have trouble sleeping, with all these spirits wandering around, take 1/4 to 1/2 t. of fresh ground nutmeg 4 or 5 hours before you’d like to go to sleep, in warm milk or milk substitute, or in applesauce, nut butter, etc.

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adorable little jack o” lantern by Karen Brown in Kentucky. Mug by Jerry Weatherman on Orcas Island.

fall-fruit-crumble

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Times

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Blueberry leaves on a sunny fall day

Between times. That’s where both the weather today and the “climate” of our country seems to be.

The last several days have been beautiful fall days with blue skies, sunshine, and a touch of clouds. Autumn crispy cool temperatures in the shade made sitting in the sun even more delicious. BIG windstorms predicted for the next few days, with remnants of a typhoon swirling around the Pacific Ocean hitting us Saturday, create a feeling of anticipation.

img_6036It was calm when Abby and I took our morning walk, the forest felt “moody” and I wondered if trees anticipate the approach of storms. I’ve often observed animals seem to.  The ducks in the park where we walked this afternoon, usually assertive in checking to see if I, as a human, brought food (I never do), were quietly tucked into the reeds, barely visible. I assume members of the plant kingdom also have a sense of pending changes in the atmosphere, as plants have been shown to be very sensitive to environmental stimuli.  I ponder how we humans once had that ability.  There are cultures still, removed from our technology consumed societies, where people use their intuition and attunement with Nature to “predict” change. With our dependency on TV and internet pundits, we look more for answers outside ourselves, for the weather and much more.  Though people often say they feel the impact of changing weather, seasons (even the political “climate”) on their health and well-being, we’ve lost, from lack of use, the sharpness and nuances of many innate instincts people once depended on.

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Big Leaf Maples, unique to the Northwest and so awesome, some 13″ across, make great leave mulch. Seen here with tiny vine maple & osier dogwood leaves.

I believe people truly in-tune with Nature through their intuition and instincts, without the hype and drama of headlines and social media, prepare calmly for such changes – in the weather, in the seasons, in their own bodies, for they know these events are part of life – both inevitable and necessary, with both “good” and “bad” outcomes.
img_0528As devastating as “natural” disasters are (“disaster” being a human applied label), we hear also of the benefits afterwards…….beautiful wildflower blooms in deserts after unusual rainy seasons and flooding, seeds that need forest fires to sprout, etc. I’ve always called our wind storms (which usual occur in November) Nature’s annual pruning, as necessary as the pruning we do in our yards, or when we cut our own hair! This fall pruning makes for a stronger tree, more able to withstand the possible heavy snows of winter. The debris brought down by storms have a myriad of useful purposes, leaves for mulch, trees that become nurse logs, or divert streams, creating pools for salmon to spawn, and so forth. Nature goes for the big picture and there are benefits to what we see as disastrous to our human lives.

Modern technology that provides accurate forecasts definitely saves lives, unquestionably a good thing, people can better prepare for storms, hurricanes, etc.  I suspect our ancestors were able to prepare also by listening to their own intuition.  These events are not evil actions of Nature, but part of Nature’s cycles, to be appreciated even as we prepare for them.  (This is not to downplay the tragedy of lives and homes lost in the recent hurricane, or in any natural event. I hope we all rally to help those impacted.)

Or maybe such powerful events are Nature’s way of getting angry with us for misbehaving, a Mother pushed too far saying Enough! Pay attention!

Stay cozy as fall, this season of change, brings us good excuses to snuggle in, make soup, or a bowl of comforting pasta (suggestion below) and read a good book, no power required as long as you have your flashlight or candles!

last-taste-of

Fall, the time of molt

“In September the birds were quiet. They were molting in the valley, the mockingbird in the spruce, the sparrow in the mock orange, the doves in the cedar by the creek. Everywhere I walked the ground was littered with shed feathers, long, colorful primaries, and shaftless white down. I garnered this weightless crop in pockets all month long and inserted the feathers one by one into the frame of a wall mirror.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

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I too collect feathers, as no doubt many of you do. Forty years living with chickens and ducks, I notice not only the wild bird feathers of fall in the woods, but feathers piled and scattered throughout the coops. This shedding of feathers starts in the heat of late summer. By the October rains, Thanksgiving at the latest, fresh feathers are in place for winter.

Missing their primary wing feathers and the under feathers more explosed, our muscovies are reserved and caution, not able to fly as well. Here they are listening to a predator bird, full alert.

Missing their primary wing feathers, exposing the feathers underneath, and less able to fly, our muscovies are reserved and cautious.  Here they are listening to a predator bird overhead, full alert.

Our two Muscovies have been less active lately, choosing to stay in their coop even when the door is open. Growing new feathers requires energy. I’ve noticed in years past older or unhealthy birds often don’t grow back all their feathers.

In my recent cleaning out of ‘stuff’, I sorted my feather collection, decided to keep less, and tossed the rest. I’ve been molting too, my feathers and more.

The purpose of molting is to make way for new growth. When new feathers grow back on birds they are fresh, clean, perfect, without damage. How wonderful to have a part of your body rejuvenate itself in this manner! Our bodies rejuvenate. Some cells last only a few days, others years, (though apparently our cerebell cortex cells, cells in the inner eye, and the heart cells last a life time.) It would be nice if our rejuvenation, a more stuble process, made us look as fresh as a bird with new feathers!

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Fall, the time of the molt, is a time to reserve one’s energy resources, to nurture ourselves. Plants send their ‘juices’ deep into the ground to be stored through the winter in roots until needed for new growth, which mostly occurs in the spring.

In Ayurveda fall is the Vata time of year. From an article on the Banyan Botanicals web site about fall foods and herbs that nourish us this time of year, “Fall is a time of transition. It is evident everywhere around you. Many trees and shrubs are quietly undressing in preparation for the winter.” It is the season of the elements air and either.

Foods that help balance us during this time are those of the elements earth and water, foods of the fall harvest such as winter squashes, pumpkins, parsnips, root vegetables – grounding foods.

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Enjoy this time of harvest, fall color, molting, rejuvenation. Conserve your energies, prepare for new growth in your life!

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Note: My last post had less readers, no web site comments and only one email commenting on it. It may have been too wordy, too philosophical, maybe it just plain didn’t make sense! The famous poet John Lydgate, (a quote later adapted by President Lincoln) said “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. My expectations are modest, some of the people some of the time would be great! I blog because I like to write and to have a purpose for sitting to write.  After 8 years of blogging, it’s a good time to take stock of what people would like to read and see here. I would love feedback on what readers enjoy from my blog.

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