We sent our oldest son, Kole, to college this past fall. It was difficult for our very close family to send off its first son with bags packed to a bunch of strange people in a strange place. We shared a big family hug and more than a few tears in front of his college dorm as he went his way alone, and the rest of us returned home.
Doing good honest work together – snow shoveling, feeding and watering the cows, goats and chickens – helps grease the wheels.
The last few months have challenged us more than we imagined as we all adjusted to the new realities. Kole is finding his way, making new friends and acclimatizing to a much more rigorous academic environment. Back home, we are finding our way in a new family dynamic, somehow getting used to a life where it continuously feels that some essential part has gone missing.
As you might imagine, we all counted the days to the Thanksgiving break when we would all be together again for a nice long weekend. Kole arrived on Tuesday and we shared a lovely evening reconnecting around a favorite family meal. After, we all worked together preparing for our Thanksgiving tradition. My wife, Jerilyn, and I began hosting our family’s Thanksgiving while she was pregnant with Kole. Twenty Thanksgivings later, we are, of course, still doing it with excitement and joy. Brining the turkey, processing the herbs, mixing the rice pudding, boiling the cranberries, loading the front porch with firewood – there is lots of work to do as we prepare for thirty-four guests this year.
When the snow starts early Wednesday morning and continues throughout the day, we are stuck home together – what a blessing! While I am sure Kole would have loved to be visiting his missed friends, we get the prolonged opportunity to remember our strong family connection. Doing good honest work together – snow shoveling, feeding and watering the cows, goats and chickens – helps grease the wheels. We are finding our rhythm easily, and it feels so good to be together again.
Early Thanksgiving morning, we all run the Turkey Trot, another tradition, in the village of New Paltz. The kids all kick and scream about having to wake up early. This year, with snow in the trees and a rather mild day, it is a great day to run, and a really nice opportunity to connect with our community and support a good cause. After the run, everyone exclaims how nice it is to start Thanksgiving Day this way.
We return home, put the turkey in the oven, set a fire in the hearth and make final preparations for our guests. Our friends and family arrive. Before dinner, each person shares something he/she is grateful for – everyone’s heart opens a bit, we eat and drink, sing and celebrate together for hours on end. It is so wonderful to share the abundance in all of our lives with each other.
A few days later, we load Kole back into a friend’s car, for the drive back to Ithaca, the final few weeks of his first semester at college. We had a great 6 days together, reconnecting. I hope he is overflowing with the love and support of his family, his friends, and his home.
I see gratitude as a kind of reset button, a return to baseline, and an invitation to new or re-connection.
I am grateful for the challenges life presents me, challenges that stretch me, make me work hard, and ultimately help me persevere and come out on the other end stronger. I am thankful for traditions, holidays and happenings that keep my family, friends and community connected to each other. I am grateful for the rhythms of the seasons and the magic of the Earth that delivers the most beautiful and bountiful Thanksgiving Eve snowstorm just when I want it most. I am thankful for all the animals that rely on me – dog, cats, cows, goats, chickens – that remind me that I am connected to a web of life that often requires and always requests my participation. I am grateful to the local farmers that work with the plants and grow food and the local merchants that provide necessities for a nourishing and easeful life. I am thankful to all my family and friends, teachers and students, elders and youngsters who support my family and my work in the world.
At Wild Earth, sharing and expressing gratitude is, perhaps, our most foundational and core practice. We begin our programs in the woods with gratitude and we start our meetings in the office with gratitude. Why do we do this? Well, I see it as a kind of reset button, a return to baseline, and an invitation to new or re-connection. Participants to any gathering (or meeting) are often arriving from different places, both physically and emotionally. One may be arriving from a long and difficult drive, another from an argument with a parent, another from a wonderful walk with their dog. When we begin with gratitude, we invite everyone to brush off the road dust, leave behind the story of where they have been and join together in the present experience. Beginning with gratitude helps us all to arrive in this present moment, together. What a gift!
This is part of our “Thanksgiving Thursday” series. Check out the other posts, What are you thankful for?, Why I’m Grateful, The Green Shoot Inside Our Greenhouse, and Gratitude: The Doorway to Abundance.
In 2004, David co-founded and, today, is the Executive Director of Wild Earth, where he seeks to help regenerate healthy community culture and create opportunities for people to connect with themselves, each other and the Earth. Prior to founding Wild Earth, David worked as a wealth advisor on Wall Street for twelve years before realizing a life dream – fully sharing in the care and parenting of his three children, and creating a small family farm. Today, the Brownsteins raise dairy cows, goats, chickens, bees and vegetables in season. David also maintains an active counseling practice called Root Connections, where he focuses on helping individuals, couples, groups and business leaders identify and manifest their unique vision. More about David's work.