Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Afternoon

It is middle afternoon.  Outside the woods preserve their winter twilight. Thanksgiving dinner has been cooking over the coals in the hearth since late morning.  The hours have passed in the kind of wakeful stillness I always associate with Innermost House.

The pot is ready to come off the hearth.  We don't have bulky potholders, but instead use two palm-sized squares of black sueded leather, which also serve Michael for handling the hot tea kettle.  They have the advantage of simplicity, if the disadvantage of regularly disappearing into the darkness.  

So the first thing I do when the pot is ready is look for the holders.  It is a daily ritual for me.  I proceed in the faith that they must be somewhere.  Thankfully we haven't many places to look even in our shadow world.

The built-in pine cutting board in the kitchen holds the hot cooking pot so there is still plenty of room on the counter.  The standing space in the kitchen is less then two feet wide by three feet deep, but I have never needed more.  

I recall a friend's visit to Innermost House, in whose Carmel beach cottage we have often stayed.  She stepped into our kitchen and filled the room, just as I do.  She just stood there for moment in a kind of daze.  I understood.  We live in parallel worlds.

I choose my favorite pair of bowls for the occasion, earthen-colored and finger-ridged by some unknown Japanese craftsman.  These homely bowls are now approaching a hundred years old.  The man in Japan who made them is gone; the man in San Francisco's Japantown who sold them to me is gone; the people who first lived with them are gone.  

Yet here the bowls stand in the late autumn light.  The sight of them fills me with a strange sense of wonder at our being a part of their history now, and they being part of ours.      

I remove the heavy lid from the pot and have to call Michael in to see the transformation.  It is another daily ritual.  I have seen the stew transformed like this from the raw to the cooked hundreds of times, and so has he.  But this time is this time, and it is always the first time in Innermost House.

While the hot stew cools a little Michael opens the red wine and pours it into a small green-glazed bowl we share between us.  I usually only take a taste or two.  With dinner I mostly drink water.  

I bring in the bowls, each on its own wooden tray, and set them on low stools beside our chairs.  Before we begin we sit quietly for a moment.  The afternoon light streams into the darkness across the wall over Michael's chair. The quails call their autumn cry outside.  The fire is mature with warmth and welcome.  There is so much here to be thankful for.

We eat with the wooden trays on our laps in our low chairs.  The wine and water bowls rest on the broad, flat chair arms.  So for surfaces we have our laps, the stools, the chair arms, and the hearth.  Together they serve as a several-leveled low table.  So close as we are to the raised hearth, we have the sense of sitting very near the floor. 

Michael washes up, which greatly increases the likelihood of the bowls surviving for another century!  I serve some of the aged local cheese and ripe fruit from the farmers market, along with apples we picked yesterday here on the farm. The recent cold has nipped the apples into an especial sweetness you can actually see when you slice into them.  In a homely semblance of the Innermost Life, they turn translucent around the core.  

Our special Thanksgiving meal is like any other dinner we share at Innermost House during the cool weather months.  The ingredients are much the same, give or take a carrot or two.  Somehow that is the way it is supposed to be.  

I have to think for a moment what I mean by that.  I think I mean that thanks-giving to me is for what is
everydaythe ordinary things of this life.  It is the ordinary goodness of things I am so grateful for.

If the sweetness of an Innermost Life depended on a wide variety of pleasures served in a wide variety of ways, it wouldn't be the Innermost Life.  To me Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday from ordinary life, but a holy day in celebration of the translucent sweetness of life at the core.   


  1. Absolutely beautiful, thank you Diana. What a wonderful life, and I sense at my deepest level that what you say is true and good and what life should be about once all the superfluity is taken away. I still have the encrustations of 'useless' and 'meaningless' and 'ugly' in my very modern life, but you help me to see the way, clearly, to what is. I am running towards a better way of living and your words give my feet wings.

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  3. i know i am supposed to maybe ask a 'question' here about the innermost life for discussion . . . but the truth is ~ it left me with no questions. only calm and happiness.
    i find this post like so many others ~ simply a beautiful refreshment for my soul. i could almost smell the vegetables. and see the beautiful little ancient cups and taste and hear the crispness of the apples.
    this post was a thanksgiving gift.
    thank you diana.
    tammy j

  4. It is very common in the World to feel the need to create an elaborate (different) meal to make the day or moment 'seem' special. Also, it is often an excuse to satisfy some unhealthy dietary cravings. Many times these gestures are actually a way of ignoring the unhappiness, or at least unsettledness (is that a word? :) underneath.

    I have realized that I don't need holidays and travel but would prefer to make everyday a special day complete with a balance of activities that I enjoy and maintain my life. Your Thanksgiving day is exactly that kind of day in a life of daily appreciation for all and a desire for only what the body needs. You have ritual, but with a relaxed heart. It is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your Innermost Thanksgiving, Diana.

  5. Thankyou Diana,beautiful words.

  6. "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Romans 14:5 Diana, I see that we are alike in this much: We esteem every day the same.

    After all of my dinner chores were done, I took my usual walk. Three of my neighbors stopped to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving, which was, of course, very nice. All went on about what they had eaten, which was, naturally, the same thing most everyone else had eaten, after all. But seemingly most of their dinner conversations had centered NOT around being thankful at all, but upon hammering out their shopping strategies for Christmas! All three of these folks were on their way to shop. "Black Friday" starts on Thursday now. Thanksgiving is something to be dispensed with quickly in order to get on with Christmas. A winning strategy is needed, as well as ruthlessness and cunning.

    My husband and I have never gone "overboard" on Christmas. No matter how thoughtfully I tried to determine just the right thing to get each of my granddaughters, it generally turned out that they already had at least TWO of whatever I had gotten them!

    This year, we are buying zero Christmas. After discussing the matter and coming into agreement about it, I confess, I felt real bad about it--for about five whole minutes. Then I felt lighter than air! There is no consequence of this choice that can possibly outweigh the pleasure I'm feeling now. If, indeed, we are excluded from some frivolous, expensive, meaningless holiday "cheer", what a fine relief. Christmas will be CHRISTMAS this year.

    "Making do" has its pleasures too. xx

    1. kudos to you julie. lovely! you will enjoy this christmas like no other!

    2. We are "buying zero" Christmas as well. And yes, I feel a huge release from the pressures and expectations. My motivation is slightly different - I no longer have religious ties to the day, but look forward to a quiet week with family, celebrating peace and gratitude. I guess not much different than today!

  7. Diana, I love that you and Michael have found a way to share the tasks of the day. Every time I prepare a typical 'recipe' or two (three, or more, depending upon the crowd eating!) and end up with the clean-up I feel like I am not doing the things that are most important to me. I used to feel such satisfaction in feeding my family and friends in the way that the World has determined to be the best way and right thing to do. Now I feel I could choose more rewarding ways to spend my time with family and friends. My teens are old enough to look after themselves a little more, but still it is a little bit of a shock to everyone. I realize that I have trained them over the years to expect me to buy and prepare certain foods and this change and growth can be a little unsettling, but we are finding newer ways to relate that don't involve food. I will always have some naturally prepared fresh food to share with them and all visitors, but now the focus will be on the company and the conversation.

  8. Thank you for your writing, you make my day with your words.


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