There’s a movement that began in San Francisco about twenty years ago where anyone and everyone with a bicycle flocks to the streets in “spontaneous” celebration and reclamation of public space, riding together without destination. It is often referred to as an organized coincidence. It has caught on and now occurs in over 300 countries worldwide. It is known as Critical Mass.
About a week or so before thanksgiving I was cc’ed on an email from a friend of a friend who was proposing the idea of a Turkey Trot in Ojai. Multiple people were replying to this email, everyone seemingly all in and excited about this without any definition of a Turkey Trot. They all seemed to know. Me, I had no idea. I shot out a one liner message asking, “What exactly does a Turkey Trot look like?” and I got no response. A couple of days later another email came in announcing the details to meet at 8:30am at a local park on the morning of Thanksgiving, sporting your running shoes, ready to run the 5k loop conveniently illustrated in an attached link. My first thought – Oy. No thanks. Running for fun is not my bag. Left to my own imagination I had been envisioning droves of people walking, trotting if you will, through the streets of Ojai. My hopeful picture included flasks being passed and sipped on, thermoses full of steaming spiked cider, and chai and coffee in the hands of the less rebellious. Babies in strollers, kids in red Radio Flyers under blankets, and well behaved unleashed dogs. A mass of people banded together in a thankful spirit spanning from curb to curb, in the late morning, after the turkeys had all been stuffed into their respective ovens. This is my idea of a good time – Critical Gratitude!
In the weeks that have passed between Thanksgiving and Solstice, I have run into numerous articles and videos highlighting the importance of gratitude. From the mouths of mainstream magazines to online personal development advocates, naturalist programs, and NY Times best selling authors, the message is the same. Be thankful because it’s good for you.
On this darkest day of the year, maximized with the new moon moving across the sky, I share the most potent practice of gratitude I have learned – The Thanksgiving Address. The numerous mentors I have received this teaching from were all mentored by Chief Jake Swamp of the Mohawks who gifted them this practice of gratitude that uplifts spirits and instigates peace of mind. It is encouraged to make it one’s own.
There are no rules about when or where to speak or write your own Thanksgiving Address. However, the Solstice, a day of darkness and long shadows, seems incredibly fitting as a time to begin as it marks the end and the beginning of a cycle. What better way to have completion and to start anew than to give heartfelt thanks for all that is around and within us. There is an order to expressing thanks in this way that is rooted in lineage, reverance and connection. Allow wildness and form to dance together as you move through this practice from one element to the next.
Here is my Thanksgiving Address for today. May you step outside and enjoy creating your own.
I send my gratitude out to my friends who see me for who I am and continue to smile at me even when I’m not at my best. I am thankful for storytellers and parents and folks who make excellent eye contact. And I am thankful for my husband and the lessons in compassion and tenderness he teaches me without effort.
I am grateful for your movement and illusion of stillness. The smells that you release after the rains, a place for me to sit or lay and be held are some of the sweetest gifts you offer me. And I thank you.
The raging ocean that made me run in retreat last week feeling like a child, and the bellowing creek that is rushing so loud I can hear it from my front door. The excitement these moments bring me from your power are like none other.
Yerba Santa and White Sage you look relieved after the recent rains. I am grateful to know you and to be reminded by the look on your faces to bask in the aftermath of the storms. The nourishment you offer me through tea and smoke is greatly appreciated.
Sweet deer and clever coyote whose paths I’ve crossed recently, you remain so mysterious to me. Thank you for your illusive nature that keeps me guessing. And my sweet dogs that allow me to saturate them with love, I am so indebted to your ongoing willingness to let me smother you.
I have such fun tucking under you in the night with friends to escape the masses and have a small party of our own. The shadows you offer at night are as enjoyable as your daytime shade. And your dead limbs that have been heating my house are fantastic. Thank you.
I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many of your sounds. The hollering Ravens, repetitive Roosters and fleeing Varied Thrushes of my neighborhood, I am stoked to be a minority in your world.
You brought me fear and peace as I slept last night. Your strength and warmth shook me to pay attention and you were a great excuse to stay in bed late into the morning hours. Thank you for being merciful on the tall oaks that peer over our home.
THE THUNDERS, WEATHER, RAIN & CLOUDS
Your many recent visits are so appreciated. Please come back again with that same persistence and steadiness. I thank you for your nourishment and invitation to have fires in our yards again.
Grandmother Moon I am amazed at your power. I am honored to be tied to you as a woman and I so appreciate your reminder that we are always amidst a cycle of some sort. Ever changing, growing and contracting.
Oh, Warm Sun! You feel so good on my body. Thank your for soaking up the excess waters in my jade pots and shining on me in our outdoor shower. You are delicious and so cozy to be with on this first day of winter.
Remembering to look up and go outside, away from the warm fire long after dark is often a challenge for me. You make it so much more inviting and rewarding. Thank you!
CREATIVITY IN OUR LIVES
The need to create and build, adorn and tend, beautify and give brings such pleasure to my life and that of others. I am not troubled to understand how you manifest but rather indebted that you do so often these days. Huge thanks!
THE UNIVERSE, FUTURE GENERATIONS, ANCESTORS & CREATION
For all that is unseen I am humbled and inspired by you. I thank you for this incredible life, for the energy that moves through all things, for my mother who was a vessel to get me here and for all that supports and surrounds the beginning of new life and the closing moments and aftermath of ended lives. Please continue to remind me to be gentle. I am grateful for your guidance.
IT WAS MY INTENTION TO SEND THANKS TO ALL AND TO LEAVE NOTHING OUT. FOR ALL THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MISSED I SEND A WARM EMBRACE AND SINCERE BOW OF THANKSGIVING.
May you and yours have a splendid solstice and holiday season. And may you gather in droves to offer Critical Gratitude with repetition throughout your days ahead.