Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving in our neck of the woods

Why did the wild turkeys cross the street? Because it is Thanksgiving, and they have a long memory. Turkey is on the menu, and the Pilgrims’ ancestors live here.

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors,” wrote Pilgrim Edward Winslow to a friend in England in 1621. “The four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.”

To celebrate that first Thanksgiving Day, hunters went out into the vast forests and fields and returned with turkeys, which were abundant in their neck of the woods, as well as wood pigeons, partridges, geese and ducks.

Living in rural southern New England not far from Plymouth Plantation, we see and hear wild turkeys every day. We brake for flocks of them, taking their sweet time as they saunter across the street. They forage in our yards or visit our bird feeders. The other day one of them climbed the brick path to our front steps, and I was waiting for the bell to ring.

We awake most mornings to the familiar gobbling sound, which can be heard a mile away. They roost at night in the top of the one-hundred-foot pine trees, where they sleep protected from prey.

Those who have only seen turkeys wrapped in white packaging in the frozen food section of the supermarket would be amazed at their size. They are huge. Males span four-feet high; and females, three-feet. They have powerful legs and can run up to 25 miles per hour. In flight they can travel top speeds of 55 miles per hour.

Frankly, we give them free rein because if we confront them, we fear they will remember the Pilgrims and plot revenge.

One of my neighbors, a kind woman and animal lover, lost her flower garden this year when they gained ground. She told me that she carries a big red rake that she waves at them in defiance, trying to shoo them away.

Consequently, they move on temporarily but seem to like her place best, climbing or flying over the fences to recapture the territory.

This Thanksgiving turkeys are everywhere, but most often found on our plates.

Pilgrim Edward Winslow said it best: “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Take time to pause, reflect and rest

My husband drives our truck over the pebbled beach, and we park behind the weathered picnic table. Fogland State Beach is empty except for an oyster farmer's boat drifting aimlessly on its mooring.
Scanning the horseshoe-shaped cove, I spy a couple of vehicles in the distance dotting the sand.

Now we have Fogland all to ourselves. Yet I cannot help but feel sadness for those who have gone away. They think of this place as a summer resort and are counting the days until their return. But they miss so much in the interim.

Late autumn is far from dreary for us.

The author of over 50 books, Gladys Taber wrote about New England and its seasonal changes.

“I have never heard a single soul speak a good word for setting the clock back an hour,” she said. “Some of us only set one or two clocks back and keep on with our familiar schedule for a while, but in the end we give in. Nature, however, sets her own time schedule. She decides when the first white frost will come and when the geese go over and when the leaves will begin to drift down and when the hibernating small animals will feel the urge to snug down in their burrows. She brings the first heavy storms and turns the air to brittle cold. And, clocks or no, man follows her plan. Fire on the open hearth, storm windows, warm boots, furnaces clean, bird feeders ready – these mark nature’s timetable.”

The sea also reflects this passing. The Sakonnet is a deep navy blue, rocking back and forth in a gentle rhythm. Across the bay, Portsmouth is without its cloak of color.

My husband gets out of the truck and walks the beach. I prefer to remain snug within, sipping tea while I sit and ponder.

The quiet, open space in this in-between time or interstice reminds me of a musical composition. As a lifelong musician, I think of the Grand Pause.

The concert band rises to a crescendo, and then there is a sudden silence. The performers have come to a G.P. or Grand Pause, which is a notation over a rest indicating that they are expected to extend the silence until the conductor signals the beginning of the next note. The function of this pause is to create a period of silence at the discretion of the director.

Late autumn is like a grand pause.

Sunny summer days are but a memory. The colorful leaves in red, orange and yellow hues that lit up our world are now underfoot, brown and crinkled.

Dark, gray November days loom ahead, and the hectic pace of the holidays will be unleashed on Thanksgiving Day.

Winter hovers around the corner.

Yet, as I gaze at these familiar surroundings of sea, sky and sand, I see the simple beauty that lies before me and realize how essential it is to pause and take stock of the world around us. Late autumn offers us this gift.

The Great Director created a symphony and stage in which we are the players. We need to pause and reflect on the Master’s plan, and savor the silence of this brief interlude before the cacophony of contemporary life intrudes. 

Take a rest.