Thanksgiving is my favorite celebration. It allows us to pause, reflect and express gratitude. I was not aware of Thanksgiving until we visited family in the USA back in 1980s. It was not as well known around the world at the time like it is today, thanks to Facebook, email and the many other ways people exchange messages without really connecting in a personal, meaningful way.
There may be historic and liturgical reasons for giving Thanks, for harvests past and present and Aunt Google is able to provide various rationales. In the Punjab (India and Pakistan) harvest is celebrated at Lohri early in the year typically in January and marks the end of winter. Here, at Thanksgiving we prepare for the onset of winter.
I am however intrigued by the timing for altogether different reasons. Fall is the time of the year when nature reminds us that a life cycle is ending. Trees begin to shed leaves, flowers and shrubs slowly wither away and all that we have nurtured in the gardens around us starts to disintegrate. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Time lends itself to introspection.
I reflect on the summer that is ending, grateful for yet another year that afforded me the most precious commodity – time – to enjoy nature’s bounty of fresh produce, the laughter of children in the soccer fields, grandkids chasing baby squirrels and skittish cottontails, the smell of freshly mowed grass or that of parched grass receiving the first welcome drops of rain, barbecues with family and friends, contemplative walks and cycle rides along the shores of a lake. So much that we take for granted. Stuff that others around the world would die for, and literally do.
“Shukrana” is a beautiful expression. Literally, it translates as being in a state of gratitude, or giving thanks. Sufi and Muslim saints, Sikh Gurus and Bhagats like Kabir, the Buddha and other enlightened beings exhort us to exist in a mindful state of gratitude. Each morning I wake up conscious of my breath and thankful for all that I am about to receive through the day. At night my last thoughts turn to my parents, teachers and all the souls whose actions continue to shape my being. Each of us is like a bowl of soup in which many ingredients come together and help create a unique flavor. We can only bow our heads to acknowledge each contributor and thank them for what we receive.
In the words of the lyricist and poet, Shailendra:
“Bahut diyaa dene waale ne tujhko, aanchal hi naa samaaye to kyaa kije
Beet gaye jaise yeh din rainaa, baaki bhi kat jaaye duaa kije”
[Providence has provided you bounties aplenty, (so much) as not to be contained in your cloak, what might you do
just as these days and nights have passed, pray that the remaining (life/time) also goes by]
And finally, the befitting evergreen “Autumn Leaves” by Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis, created when I was five!