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Thanksgiving in the Polar Vortex

By February 6, 2019 Uncategorized
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I stood in Tessie’s stall sifting shavings, manure and plates of frozen urine. The barn’s colors were brown tones, the sun shining in through the open door. Both mares were on this side of the barn because of gusty, wind chill, winds, blowing in from the west. The weather folks were calling for 50 or more degrees below 0 wind chill.

I wanted the mares out because it’s healthier for them to walk, which keeps their poop coming. They can warm themselves by moving. And the sun was bright. Their coats fluffed out, still thick even though they are shedding. The barn would have been cold and damp.

Thanksgiving rose in my prayers. (I’m not good at thanksgiving. Usually the names of friends in need fill my prayers because I was taught early on to intercede. It is proper to offer “supplication for the saints” but it has been something I’ve done because I can be self involved, a way to counter that selfishness, if only in my prayers. It’s a quiet way to serve.

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The cold seeped into my thighs, but I was grateful for the chemical handwarmers in my mittens. I was grateful for my mittens. I paid $34 for them at Farm and Fleet and thought they were a big big, but they are tough enough not to tear when I open clips holding buckets and gates. Thank you for the Sorel boots, with liners hard to pull on, but keep the

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On this bitter day I am grateful for: water buckets drunk down, and every last bit of hay eaten. The mares with frost around their eyes. Plates of frozen urine, leaving other bedding clean. Piles of manure. The mares not throwing their butts at each other, ready to kick, but getting along, even though their hay piles are as far apart as the barn to keep them out of the wind.

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Thanks to Bruce for cleaning the yard, so that it didn’t drift back. And our neighbor who has dropped his plow twice now in our driveway to clear it, as a favor. And the snow plow coming by twice, the blades like angel wings pushing back the snow, pooping salt behind. Thanks to Bruce for knocking down the icicles along the barn, and the ice dams in our gutters, when it warmed a bit.

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Thanks for our kitchen window for letting in the sun, so warm, it almost feels hot while standing at the sink doing dishes. And for water running through the faucets. Thanks for Old Snyders Honey Mustard pretzels, and salad with Olive Garden light dressing, and Earl Grey tea with milk and sweetener, juncos on the porch. Thanks for the blankets over the windows at night to keep the cold out. And thanks for our furnace drawing heat from the ground, keeping us warm, without drawing much on the auxiliary. Thanks for Com Ed cutting back trees this summer, so the electricity stayed on.

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Thanks for a warm shower, and Avon cold cream rubbed on my thighs, and White Linen sprayed on my chest, and Melatonin to smooth away that 4 am wake up.

Thanks for Gone So Long a dense, well described, slow novel about a man who kills his wife in a crime of passion, serves his time, and wants to see his daughter at the end of his life. It’s about his mother-in-law and her rage. And it’s about the daughter who saw it happen, whose life is fractured until she starts remembering and writing about it. Would you forgive someone who murdered your daughter or mother?

I lie awake the night listening to the house crack in the wind. The wind shoved against the house. Even in bed my nose is cold. But I am grateful for Bruce’s knees shoved into my side of the bed. And the cat’s weight at the foot of the bed, later the dog’s. I was afraid the house would buckle. I was afraid of the ferocity of the cold and wind as hard as you’d get in a thunderstorm, but it was twirling violent cold around its spindles. I lay under my wool blanket and was afraid until the Melatonin kicked in and I slept. The next day Bruce wondered why I was afraid.

The weather folks have told us we could die. I hope the horses and chickens will survive this. (They did.) It’s scary walking the dogs when five minutes in this could cause frostbite. Night was shaved for his surgery and ultrasound so there isn’t much hair. I give thanks for the blanket left over from Bundy, who needed an ultrasound years back.

Being fragile in the cold, the exhilaration of my face hurting, draws thanksgiving out of me. There’s a bite to this joy.

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My Thoughts on Psalm 50

There’s the Psalm we read in Morning Prayer, Psalm 50, that talked about our fearsome God, who runs with a flame of fire, a tempest billowing from his nose, like a giant, fearsome dragon, who doesn’t want the flesh of bulls or the blood of goats. I read a line from a gospel chorus I sang as a very young girl, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” It’s not sacrifice, but thanks He’s looking for. “The one who offers thanksgiving as sacrifice, glorifies me; the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” Oh to see the salvation of God. To lift up my heart in thanks.

Years ago on a canoe trip in the Adirondacks, there were long days of paddling and portaging. And stunning clear nights with stars so bright their light pricked me like needles. I didn’t sleep. But thought of the line, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

It’s lovely to feel joy rising, even if it’s in response to stuff, humble stuff, that protects against the cold, that offers joy because we can touch it with our hands, or eat it, or use it as a tool to make something.

In a Brevity review of Karen Babine’s All the Wild Hungers, a book about how the author cooks in response to her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Marya Horbacher refers to one of Babine’s observations, ” “Is it too much to say that I love this pot, the kind of visceral happiness that should be reserved for people, not inanimate objects? And yet: I love this pot. We tend to disparage the pleasure of things, the joy we gain from objects, but in their best sense, things are icons…windows between ourselves and God.”

In another place the Psalmist talks about how God is enthroned on the praises of Israel. Eucharist, the eating of bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood, is another word for thanksgiving. When I take the bread and wine, I meet Christ on a cellular level and healing. I lift up my heart, my belly, my blood, taking him into myself. I lift my face to the cold, to the sun, and the moon, my lips to the bread, the wine.

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I used to be Mrs. Whine, Cry and Complain, just ask my friends. If I saw you at lunch, I’d say, “Woe is me, woe, woe is me”, and you’d be bored because it would be the same story you heard the week before. Retiring has eased this, allowed me to step away from playing the victim, and just plain rest. Bruce says, “You should just do what you want to do, you’ve earned it.” He remembers the ugly crying better than I do. I walk down the road with the dogs first thing, thankful for my breath and my footsteps.

Books that have helped me turn towards gratefulness are Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and The Five Minute Journal. Voskamp writes a long lyrical meditation on looking for the good things that happen. She writes, “And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, make me full and I ‘magnify him with thanksgiving’ (Psam 69:30, KJV), and God enters the world. What will a life magnify? The world’s stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God?…I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot” (59).

The Five Minute Journal trained me to write down three things that I was grateful for and how the day would be great at the beginning of the day, and an affirmation during the day. At the end I wrote “three amazing things that happened, and how I could have made the day better.” I’ll admit I stopped this practice in August because I forgot to write these out and my writing energy was going toward this and not my writing work. But the practice changed my focus to seek out goodness in my days.

One last thanks for the weather pitching into the fifties a day after the vortex moved east. Such a hard temperature change is hard on horses, what we call colic weather. But so far the mares are eating and drinking, relishing their hay.

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