Many people question why we need to focus on the diversity of our nation and celebrate heritage days and months; why can’t we simply celebrate our sameness as Americans.Also questioned is why we look back on the way we treated the indigenous peoples who were already here at our country’s very beginnings.
People want to forget the bad parts of our history.
The racist parts. The genocide. The meanness and the bigotry.
We can’t let those memories fade. They are a part of our history, and as we saw earlier in the year in British Columbia, Canada, it is part of the collective history of this continent.
While we were on vacation in August, we couldn’t help but notice the signs, the memorials for the two hundred fifteen First Nations children found in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The articles read and linked below, as well as others were difficult enough to accept and they are still being processed emotionally by Native and non-Native peoples alike. However, happening upon one such memorial in Kanawake, the Mohawk tribal lands in southern Quebec tugged at emotions I was unaware of. The sight of the small shoes, representing the dead and unremembered 215 children, some as young as 3 was a lot to take in. It left me with a profound sadness, but also an emptiness that even the sadness couldn’t fill.
I leave you with links to read and photos to meditate on.
When we travel to places with Native American distinction and I plan to buy something to remember my visit, I look to see if the object is Native made. There are so many knock-offs and items appropriated out there that I feel that if I’m going to buy Native crafts, symbols, and jewelry, it should be genuinely made by Native peoples and the income should benefit them.
The picture below highlights my three most recent crafts:
The photo on the left is a dream catcher. I have had one in my bedroom for decades. I had received a small one but it has been mislaid. I chose this one while we were in Montreal. I didn’t realize it at first but it is a necklace. I have hung it over the lamp on my bedstand to keep away bad spirits and dreams.
The top right is a simple lapel pin that I purchased at the St. Kateri Shrine in Fonda, New York. It is the flag of the Iroquois Confederation. These flags can be seen flying in many places across New York State and lower Canada.
The bottom right picture is a pair of earrings I discovered in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was drawn several times to the three colors – the silver, the bronze, and the turquoise. While this design could easily be Native American jewelry or ancient Egyptian, and I was so happy to find that they were indeed Native made. As my birthstone is turquoise, I am often drawn to the stone and color.
The Thanksgiving holiday is full of disharmony as we come to grips with our historic (and recent) treatment of the Native American peoples who were here before we arrived from Europe.
A few personal thoughts:
Growing up Jewish, this was always my favorite holiday. We didn’t need to explain our religious holidays and we weren’t excluded from the mainstream Christian holidays. This was an American holiday, one that everyone could participate in, both as a harvest holiday and as a day of gratitude. It brought our family together as well as allowing us to be a part of the greater family of our community.
This year comemorates the 400th anniversary of that traditional first Thanksgiving hosted by the Pilgrims who survived that first harsh winter. The basics of that first holiday, a gathering in gratitude brought two different communities together to share what each had. The helped each other and maintained a friendship against great odds. In modern days, we have much to be thankful for. I won’t list mine, but take a moment to reflect on your own blessings.
At mass this morning, we continued a tradition at my parish that I have always loved. Instead of a collection, we bring a bag of non-perishable food to the altar (for our food pantry and Christmas baskets), and at the end of mass, each family is given a small loaf of bread that has been blessed to share at our dinner table. We are called to pray and to break bread.
Give us this day, our daily bread…
Last year while visiting Niagara Falls, New York, we learned of a nearby monument in Lewiston that commemorates the Tuscarora Indians coming to the rescue of American citizens during the War of 1812. The British invaded from Canada to the north and were mobilizing an attack on the village with their Indian allies. The Tuscarora, being outnumbered gave the appearance of greater numbers and were able to give the Lewiston families time to escape the inevitable horrors of death and watching their loved ones brutally murdered.
This monument is breathtaking in its emotion. The sculpted faces of both the mother and child fleeing and the Tuscarora helping them is so vivid, it tells the story in deeper and more profound ways than reading about it could ever do. I stood in awe of it for several minutes, even though it was pouring rain for much of the time.
Enjoy the day with family and friends or alone, in peaceful quiet or boisterous noise, with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce or whatever your family traditions call for.
I want to acknowledge that my family and I live on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee. I grew up knowing them as the Iroquois, which is the French name. Haudenosaunee means People of the Longhouse and they have a rich history in New York State. The map below shows the other tribes traditional to New York. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the oldest, participatory Democracy and our US Constitution is said to be modeled on theirs.
Some links to check out about Native American Heritage Month:
I’ve mentioned my affinity for our local saint, Saint Kateri Tekawitha (pronounced “gaderi dega-gwita”). She is the first Native American saint to be canonized. Her official elevation was in 2012 and her most recent miracle was in 2006. St. Kateri was Algonquin on her mother’s side and Mohawk on her father’s.
Since I was going to visit her shrine in Quebec, I wanted to have her chaplet to pray with while I was there. I wasn’t able to acquire it until after so I drew one and used that for my prayer. Here is a photo of both of them:
My daughter came up with this recipe. It is excellent for those in your life who prefer their vegetables crunchy and just barely the other side of raw as she does. I was complaining of her lack of vegetables in her cooking and she decided to show me up by frying up some apple slices and baby carrots in what was left of the chicken tenders in the pan. We ate it over rice, and it was not only very good, it was refreshing as well.
Later on that same weekend, I made a similar dish with fried chicken breasts and buttered egg noodles. My veggie combo consisted of: apple slices, grape tomatoes, and dried cranberries sauteed in about a quarter stick of butter with a tiny sprinkle of fresh ground pepper and a pinch or so of apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice).
My apples were not crunchy at all (and that was how I liked them) and unfortunately, I was the only one who liked the tomatoes and cranberries, but experimentation is at the heart of cooking. Had I mashed them, they would have made a nice chutney.
Try something new. That’s been my husband’s refrain for the last couple of years: TSN! (Try something new.) I wonder if chopped pecans would have improved it a bit. Ah, but next time.
What would you have added to my sauteed apples that would have been better?
I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual.
– Henry David Thoreau
November is full of thanks and gratitude. If only, we held onto these sentiments throughout the year, what a wonderful world it would be. I don’t know that I can show gratitude for the difficulties I had in October, but I can offer thanks for the inauspicious start to November. Somewhat quiet and subdued. While we will not see our cousins for Thanksgiving, we will see my brother-in-law and hopefully have a nice get-together later on with my son’s girlfriend and something quiet for my birthday. I am hesitant, but cautiously optimistic.
Sitting in front of the typewriter/keyboard, I am clacking away at the keys, and while I still haven’t taken hold of my Nano projects, I have been jotting things down on all matter of things.
I still have hope to take Thoreau’s words to heart, and be grateful for who I am, for what I have, and remind myself perpetually of all that I have to be thankful for. Every day can be thanksgiving if given the mindfulness to quietly look around and take in the life around me.
The picture below is a reminder that not everything is expected. About once a week, my family goes to The Fresh Market chain. They have what they call a “little big meal”. It feeds a family of four for $25 and usually comes with five or six components. The most recent one was a chicken roll up dinner and surprisingly one of the items was a bouquet of flowers. I thought it strange since they are not edible, but instead they fed something that was missing from me recently. The brought on a quietness, a contemplative series of moments as I trimmed the stems and arranged them in my vase. I smelled each one, adding water and a bit of the powdered food daily. We got them Sunday and they are just as strong, just as beautiful as when I brought them home. They are a welcome addition to my work space. I didn’t know I longed for them until I received them.
Sometimes looking past the expected brings us from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
A few years ago when my son was still in high school we asked him what he wanted to study, and he responded that he wanted to major in fire protection service, which he did upon graduation. Prior to that he joined our local volunteer fire department as what they call an explorer where teenagers can get an introduction to fire fighting as well as age appropriate training. He went on to be an EMT and to train as an ambulance driver which needed a special license.
In addition to continuing as a volunteer fire fighter, my son is also a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
On every visit to a hands-on/children’s museum, he would make a beeline to the dress up space, grab the boots and fire coat, and head over to the fire truck. Every time.
When he dressed up as a fire fighter and even slept in his fire coat, we thought it was a typical preschool phase, but he surprised us with his choice and has stuck with his five year old self’s dream.
Don’t give up; keep working and you will discover something you love to do.
Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is commemorated each year on October 7th and many churches have special rosary events. Many of these happen all through the year but they have a special significance during October and May.
I personally find great comfort in praying the rosary. I participate in a weekly recitation every Monday with my Cursillo group and I’ve been part of a Living Rosary at my church for a few years now. They’re starting it again post-pandemic this month.
Since today is Thursday, the mysteries of the Holy Rosary recited are the LUMINOUS MYSTERIES.
1. The Baptism of the Lord
2. The Wedding at Cana
3. Proclamation of the Kingdom
4. The Transfiguration
5. Institution of the Eucharist
Visit How to Pray the Rosary on the Vatican’s website for prayers and directions if you’re not familiar with praying the rosary.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
St. Francis of Assisi
I was happy to find the above quotation in my collection for today since today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is well known for his love of animals; in fact, many churches do blessings of animals during this weekend of his feast including my own parish. He is the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology and is known to have set up the first live nativity scene around the year 1220.
In devotion to our common home and its care as well as his concern for the poor, Pope Francis took that name as his Papal name in 2013. It is the first time a Pope has been called Francis, and truly speaks to the heart of our current pope and brings on much inspiration to do for others in many ways.
The above photo is of my most recent labyrinth walk. Located behind the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, it is placed in serene, pastoral setting, surrounded by grass, trees, and a farm in the distance. There was the opportunity to walk it, pray the walk, and then to sit just taking in the space around me. There was a vegetable garden, a gazebo, and a court for lawn bowling. If my family wasn’t waiting for me in the car, I could have stayed there at least an additonal hour. I may plan on them dropping me off for a bit longer the next time we’re in the area.
It was a very hot day, but once I settled onto the marble bench after my walk, I was able to feel the breeze, letting it cool me off while I contemplated the bucolic area. Despite sitting relatively still, I felt energized and inspired, and all I wanted to do was to sit and write for a bit. That is one of the reasons that I always carry pen and paper, although in this case, I left it in the car bringing only my mask and my phone camera.
When I first saw the shape of this labyrinth online about two years ago it seemed an unusual shape. Upon seeing it in person, I realized that the shape itself wasn’t unusual or the design, but the way the turns were so sharp with acute angles. For me, it created the feeling of looking inside a keyhole or walking through the inside of a keyhole like a miniature person, Elves and the Shoemaker style.
As I said in yesterday’s reflection, I like falling headfirst into the photos and letting myself be inspired as if I had returned to the original place of the photo.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
Vacation’s over. School’s begun. The Jewish Holidays have come and gone without nary a new goal or resolution in sight. First therapy session of the new season is in the books. And what do I have to show for it?
It’s not nothing, but I honestly don’t know.
The monthly greeting: How are you doing always feels like a trick question. If I’m fine, am I fine? If I’m okay, why am I here in the first place? Will I actually say what’s really on my mind?
I don’t know. Somehow, I muddle through another session, sometimes wondering why I still come. I’m not suicidal. My anxiety is under control. It is more than the familiarity and routine of it. Part of it, I know, is that having it on my calendar gives me something positive to look forward to. If I have moments of struggle or lows, I see the appointment on the calendar and it gets me through; I know it will be okay until the next time. It gives me something to strive for. Could I get through the month without this one hour? Maybe. But why risk it?
It’s a safe place. We all need them. Big, small, in public or private, look around for yours.
The fall is the beginning of my year. Will it remain so when my kids are entirely finished with school? That day is sadly growing closer, and I both dread it (for me) and relish it (for them). I also have so many ideas. So much to write about. Places I’ve traveled that I want to share about, both as reflections and travel advisories, advice, and photos. I have ideas for new series, new columns, new book ideas. I have ideas to expand my Facebook page for those of you on FB. I even have a list of prayers to write.
My six week memoir class has begun again. The library is sponsoring it, and even though they won’t let us in the library (a change since we registered), they have found us a pavilion in a local park that really gives off a super creative writing vibe. We’re gathering with some people who we haven’t seen in two years. We’re missing a long time friend who died last year (not Covid related). Hopefully, it remains warm enough for the six weeks we’ll be outside, but cool enough to keep the mosquitoes dormant. For those of us who’ve been meeting in the park for the last year, this weather is a piece of cake. The library provided clipboards and the teacher brought cushions for the picnic tables. I brought my own chair but I may swipe one of those cushions next week.
Our ongoing park-meeting group has a new inside place to meet – the local fire house!
I’m hoping all of these writing groups with assignments will inspire me for the rest of the fall and into the new year to come.