Find some pine trees
and a wide rock in the sun.
Settle down and feel gratitude
curl around your shoulders.
Listen to the wind
sense that there is sorrow too
in this place,
deep and old,
threaded through the
lines of sun
slices of shadows.
It tells of what has been lost,
what has been stolen,
of silenced stories,
and of fracturing.
Make a vow,
silent and sacred,
to do what you can,
to rebuild the web
to reweave the fabric.
Lie on your back in the pine needles,
feel your body soften into the ground
and become still.
Allow yourself to feel held,
heavy bones and soft skin
becoming part of the land.
Wonder how many of your
ancestors kept other people
from becoming ancestors themselves.
Watch the sunlight making tiny rainbows
through your eyelashes and pines.
Find a pretty rock.
Don’t take it.
Leave it where it belongs,
on the land that gave it birth.
Keep your promise.
Something that I have had to grapple with over the last several years is the legacy of colonization and how it has shaped my own life, history, resources, opportunities, and story. I am a white American of nearly 100% European descent. My ancestors have inhabited North America for more than seven generations, but this is not where we “came from,” it is where we settled, colonized, and took over. As someone who feels deeply embedded with the landscape, deeply rooted on the land in which she lives, deeply informed by the magic of place—this place, right here right now—it is difficult, confusing, and painful to reconcile that my people were colonizers, people who invaded, controlled, co-opted, and colonized the land, taking part in the eradication of other people as they did so. There may be no better time to reflect on this legacy than on American Thanksgiving (side note: I always make a donation to the Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts on this day each year and suggest you do so as well).
Last year, on Thanksgiving, I walked down to the pine trees and laid on my back on the brown needles. As I did so, feeling gratitude curling around my shoulders and listening to the wind. I let my mind drift back to further distant times in which these lands were inhabited by the Osage people and before them, the indigenous people of the Paleolithic, bluff dwellers and mound builders whose stone cairns and sacred spaces still dot the rocky landscape above the springs that feed the rivers that runs below my own hilltop home.Even in my sensation of gratitude and peace, I felt the sense of sorrow there too, deep and old, threaded through the lines of sunlight and slices of shadows. With the sunbeams filtering through the pine branches and making tiny rainbows through my eyelashes, I felt like I could hear the wind telling of what has been lost, what has been stolen, of silenced stories, and of fracturing. Even in the sensation of feeling so held by the land, my own heavy bones and soft skin becoming part of the earth right here, I also wonder how many of my ancestors kept other people from becoming ancestors themselves.
As I rose to leave the warm pine needles and the cradling ground, I found a pretty rock in the moss, dotted with sparkles of crystal druzy quartz and shining in the sun. I stooped to pick it up, and as my fingers touched the rough surface I heard: Leave it. This is your ritual of Thanksgiving. To see something pretty and not feel entitled to take it for you own, but leave it where it belongs. Go home. Keep your promise. Reweave what you can.
So, I lifted my fingers and blew a kiss into the wind and walked home, empty-handed.
In April of this year, we took our four kids on a historical trip to Virginia and to Washington D.C., visiting historical sites and reconstructions of forts and villages, sites of wars and colonies. In the fort at Jamestown, site of the first European colony in the U.S., I was looking at the sky at just the right time to see two tiny cardinal feathers drifting through the air into my open hand. Fine and gray and tipped with the slightest bits of red, I carried them pinched between my fingertips like a precious treasure as we wandered through the stories and suffering of men’s history, a long chain of who captured whom, who killed whom, and who fought where and for how long. This weight of colonialism seeping into me until my head began to ache and I wondered, as I often do, who invented jelly, who experimented patiently with leavening because they somehow knew wheat and water could be enticed to rise. I read placards about who enslaved whom and who sold whom and who starved and who ran and who shot and who burned, and I wondered about all the mothers nursing babies and watching for first steps, who ran fingertips across first sharp teeth cutting through the soft gums of beloved infants, some of whom would grow old enough to bear arms and strip the lives from other mothers’ babies.
Outside the mud-plastered reproduction colonial kitchen, I knelt down to run my fingertips across soft leaves of lamb’s ear and ran my fingers across tall spikes of rosemary, bringing my fingers to my nose to inhale the slender and determined memories here too, soups tended and medicines brewed, teas steeped and tinctures bottled. I looked up to see two bald eagles circling in to land by their high, wide nest in a tall pine tree and osprey busily gliding back and forth carrying sticks larger than their own bodies to form a home for their young. I wondered how much life has been tended every day right above the heads of war.
The tiny feathers in my hand are so soft I can hardly feel them as I stand there, looking up at the sky.
Molly Remer, MSW, D.Min, is a priestess, mystic, and poet facilitating sacred circles, seasonal rituals, and family ceremonies in central Missouri. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of nine books, including Walking with Persephone, Whole and Holy, Womanrunes, and the Goddess Devotional. Her newest book is In the Temple of the Ordinary and she is the creator of the devotional experience #30DaysofGoddess.
3 thoughts on “A Ritual for Thanksgiving, by Molly Remer”
Thank you for this exquisite post. Like you, my family roots go back at least seven generations, among the first to colonize and steal land on this continent, and like you, I carry that heavy in my heart. Like you, I made that vow to do what I could to reweave that web, to restore where I can, to heal relationship. I loved your imaginings and reflections when you visited Jamestown — the tending of life amidst the taking of it. This was a Thanksgiving gift. Thank you.
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This is a magnificent post – thank you. Colonization is still happening – the colonized mind rules the planet – and my earnest hope is that people will begin to see that what we did (I have Indigenous roots but European roots as well) we are still doing..
.My experiences in nature are always two fold – gifts and joy – and the feelings of deep sorrow… nature is always speaking – if only we could listen.