The Spirit of Thanksgiving Past

by moonwatcher on November 15, 2012

This Wednesday evening my loved ones will pull into my driveway for the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the long day trip from Portland. The dog will run to the back door with his ears at attention, and I will wipe my hands on my apron or jump up from the computer screen and scamper to the door, all smiles. We’ll be together again for another wonderful vegan Thanksgiving. We’ll use my  Mom’s silver, and at dinner I’ll get out my Native American Medicine Cards book and we’ll read about the spirit of give away that is embodied by living turkey. Then we’ll each say something we’re grateful for. Mike will probably snap a photo of his full plate with his iphone to put up on his Invincible Dude webstagram before diving in. We’ll laugh at the dogs insisting on eating each other’s food, then sleeping together like long lost buddies. At night, we’ll lounge around the fire burning in the masonry stove, deciding whether we’re ready for another piece of pie.

About two months ago, we’d been having very mild, Indian summer temperatures here. The tomatoes were still ripening on the vine. But it was dry, very dry. The first half of the summer, was moist, humid even, for here. But it hadn’t really rained in several weeks. And there were regional forest fires in every direction and surrounding states, so it had been smoky too. Very poor air quality, week after week, with only small breaks from the smoke here and there.

The smoke had been hard on me. I’d noticed I was more tired, sore, and a brief wash of pins and needles accompanied my yoga stretches, or greeted me when I woke up in the morning. My feet were slapping a bit more. I needed more sleep. My eyes burned at times, and so did my throat. My swallow threatened to act up. Even though it was all so much better and more mild than it used to be, I still didn’t like these reminders that I better take it a little easy. But I listened.

In the late afternoon or early evening, before dinner and after our nap, Romeo and I take a second, usually shorter walk. Sometimes it involves an errand, sometimes not. While it was smoky, I tried to stay away from the old grain tower sites in my neighborhood, where the towers are being dismantled and the dust of nearly a century is now unsettled in the process. One evening we walked up into town, away from that, and then turned north, going a little farther than we usually go.  I was following a hunch.

Before I knew it, we were standing across the street from a little white house on a lot that slanted downhill in the back.

I had found it. My son Mike and his girlfriend Kelly had lived here when they were in college. It was their first place together. I remember how excited they were to have a backyard, and room for their various art projects. They hung their laundry. Kelly was happy to try growing a few tomato plants. It was here she began to make her beautiful, whimsical  felt sculptures. And Mike was glad to have room to build a life-sized paper mache space ship in the backyard for a movie he was making.  (The finished project is a short film that can now be viewed online called Space It’s been shown at 25 film festivals internationally.)

When Thanksgiving came, they invited me to their house for dinner. That was five years ago. At the time, I was pleasantly surprised. I remember that Thanksgiving day very clearly. They were so excited and had decided to make everything themselves but the pie, which I brought. They came to get me in Kelly’s car (Mike didn’t have one then), apologizing profusely for the door that stuck on the passenger side. Their kitchen was piled high with dishes from all their preparations. The table was set and a plate of healthy munchies was on it. Mike had worked at creating a homemade tofu “turkey.” Kelly had made a beautiful salad, stuffing and other sides. We were not eating this way yet, didn’t know it existed. That would come after the turn of the year, in Winter. But we were all vegetarian. Tinne, our golden retriever, came with me. We met Kelly’s ginnea pig, Bubbles (who would later be the subject of another short film). We watched  Hairspray, the movie remake. And the pilot for Freaks and Geeks. We called my Dad and he talked to Kelly for the first time.

But as I stood there, I also remembered how sick I had been. How hard it was for me to get in and out of the low car. How much I depended on my walking stick to get me in and out of it and up the steps to their front door. How tightly I had to hold on to everything as I made sure not to miss a stray patch of ice on the cleared walk. To move was like inching myself along a ledge or a cliff, even getting up from a chair.  How careful I had to be of vertigo. How unpredictable and unstable my body temperature was. How much the nerves in my face always hurt. How bad the rosacea was. I couldn’t sit next to the heater, or without support for my neck. I was always trying not to be too hot or too cold. I had forgotten some herbal tincture or homeopathic remedy I was dependent on to manage the inflammation. Mike went back to get it because I couldn’t make it for even a few hours without a flare-up that would require some attempt at amelioration, given the extra stimulation and energy output of the holiday. They arranged an easy chair especially for me with extra pillows. How weak and tired I got, even just sitting up and watching the movie. Nevertheless, I had a grand time, surrounded by their love and their fun.

I remember saying to my friends that I was going to my son’s house for dinner, and feeling so proud of them for hosting, that they had arrived at a gracious milestone in their young adulthood. Now I realize that they must have talked about it and decided it would be too much for me to do with how I was feeling, so they would try it themselves. And how concerned they must have been for me to undertake that, amid their busy school schedules and jobs and their tendency, like all college students, not to plan a meal until the last minute, let alone even think in terms of traditional meals.

I became very aware of my present self looking at the house it had been such a big deal and a huge undertaking to get to five years ago, even a few minutes away by car. And that now I had simply walked here. With Romeo. No walking stick even. Back then it would have been as unrealistic to consider walking to this house as it would have been to consider a walk to China.  As I stood there, my face and eyes were a little sensitive from the dust and smoke, but they were, for all practical purposes, clear. In fact just the day before I had received a lovely compliment on how clear my face is. No more neuralgia. No more terrible rosacea. No horrible fluctuation of body temperature resulting in pulsing feverish heat I would nearly pass out from, and then chills like the flu. No more exhaustion from simply holding my head up to talk or watch a show.

There I was, “now,” near the end of a long warm day, taking a second walk, after having walked for an hour that morning. I had also hung laundry, done some light weeding, picked a few pears, written e-mails, followed up with a client, talked on the phone about some local park issues, cooked some lunch, taken a nap, read part of a novel, taken in and folded laundry. And I would go home to do more: water, make dinner, upload photos, freeze pears, write the first draft of what would become this post down.  Mike has joked with me that I had more energy than they did when they came to visit me last summer.

If time bent back on itself and the present “me” could have stood there, then, five years ago, watching my past self make her deliberate way up the steps to the door, would she have noticed me? Not likely, she had to concentrate so hard  in the moment to put one foot in front of the other, locked in effort and pain. But I was “there,” somehow, waiting, having faith in her to find me, somehow, someday. And she did. Even though, like the characters in Mike’s film, we had to go in opposite directions first, one in search of the other.

Suddenly my flurry of pins and needles and my extra fatigue, slightly slapping feet and touchy throat didn’t seem like such a worry. If this was a “slump,” I’d take it. And run. Well, maybe walk. Up a steep hill I hadn’t anticipated on this new route. But then back down. Toward home. Pacing myself, Romeo at my side.  Having gained new territory, and perspective. Tired, but not exhausted.  Thankful.  My heart glad.

 

Maria

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim November 16, 2012 at 8:39 am

What a great story and a reminder of where we’ve co e from prior to changing our diets. You are at rue inspiration! I thouroughly enjoy reading your posts. Happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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2 moonwatcher November 16, 2012 at 8:52 am

Thank you, Kim, and a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you and yours too! No worries about the typos. They make me feel right at home. I make them all the time myself. LOL

Maria

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3 Kim November 16, 2012 at 8:40 am

Typing on a phone, not so great, sorry for the typos.

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4 Julie November 16, 2012 at 9:28 am

Your writing is so beautiful. You inspire me to listen and learn. I have spent so many years just powering through. I wish you and your family a healthy and joyous thanksgiving with so much to be thankful for. You are a blessing.

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5 moonwatcher November 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

Thank you, Julie. This lovely comment feels like a blessing itself. A healthy and joyous Thanksgiving back to you and your family, too.

Maria

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6 Nicole O'Shea November 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

Wow, Moonwatcher, such a contrast, and such a positive one! I think I grasped the depth of the contrast more, reading this now.

“But I was “there,” somehow, waiting, having faith in her to find me, somehow, someday. And she did. ”

I love this. Miracle is the right word for this. And Grace.

Nice to see the photo of the tiny house – and adorable and cozy “first house.”

xoxo

Nicole

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7 moonwatcher November 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Dear Nicole,

Yes, indeed. Grace. Thank you for all of this, so eloquently put. And isn’t the house cute? The one they live in how over in Portland is, too. It has a red door.

xoxo

Maria

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8 carollynne kelly November 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Moonwatker, you are a true miracle. I love reading your posts. thanks for sharing it with us all. Makes me feel so insignificant with my minor complaints.

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9 moonwatcher November 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Thank you so much, carollynne. I am so happy you love reading my posts. We all have things to deal with, large and small. None are insignificant. And each one of us has something to offer.

Thanksgiving blessings,

Maria

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10 narf7 November 17, 2012 at 1:25 am

Now THAT is a reason for Thanksgiving :)

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11 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

:) :)

Maria

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12 Christi b November 17, 2012 at 6:56 am

Incredible how you can totally change your world to become so much more healthier and happier. And in the moments of your worst days of pain and feeling all alone…. How you know your faith (GOD willing) can bring you to a place of renewed health and spirit. 8 years ago I was in a terrible place… most people I knew had given up on me… But my sweet daddy never did (he prayed daily for me) his prayers were heard and I was delivered from the HELL I had given in to. I have now been sober for 7 years and have never been happier. :-)
Praise GOD.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story Maria!
P.s. Please excuse my horrible literature. Lol

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13 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

You’re welcome, Christi b!

Thank you for your wonderful comment about the faith that turned your life around, and how you really did turn it around, even starting from a terrible place. Congratulations on being sober for 7 years! That is awesome. We have the power to change if only we can trust it. So glad to read how happy you are now! Every story like this is a beautiful light for those who are on their way.

Maria

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14 Lynne Nelson November 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

This my be my favorite post yet! Thank you for sharing your victories and reminding us to be thankful for our journeys, even though they may be long.

Lynne

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15 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Thank you, Lynne,for your lovely comment about appreciating the scale and duration of the journey. It reminds me that another of my dear friends used to say, “Life is long!” This means we have time to learn, grow, and evolve, both in ourselves and in our perspective about what has happened in our lives. I’m so glad this is your favorite so far!!

Maria

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16 Diana November 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

Lovely post. So many of your descriptions, in addition to the photo, seemed familiar to me so I looked at your bio and realized that you live a couple of hours “up the hill” from me. This fire season was rough here in Grangeville, too. So glad it’s over!

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17 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Hi Diana, and welcome! Thank you for your kind words about my post. Very nice to have another gal from Idaho reading along. I bet the smoke was awful down in Grangeville, too. I, too, am really glad it’s over!!

Maria

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18 RedorGray November 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

i am here from Fat Free Vegan FB post and I really enjoyed reading this , thanks so much for sharing the way your life has changed. We will be celebrating our first plant based Thanksgiving meal .. my husband has been diagnosed with cancer and of course we are changing our way of eating .. I know it will help AND it is so delish !!

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19 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hi RedorGray,

Thank you so much for reading my post and for your kind words. I am honored. It made my smile boradly to think of you and your husband embracing and celebrating your first plant-based Thanksgiving. I wish you both the best. I do believe eating this way is a profound healing tool.

Thanksgiving blessings,

Maria

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20 Ginny Braun November 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I just found your blog on the fat free vegan Facebook page. I enjoyed reading it so much. I am not sure how to connect with it on a regular basis but I’ll try to figure it out. I’m pretty lame with this stuff. My husband & I are currently flexitarians, me more than him but I’m working on him. He’s a cancer patient and is coming away from his food “roots” slowly. I still like meat too so we have it in small quantities now & then. I see this as a process. I have lost over 100# on Wt. Watchers and my health is greatly improved (I’m 68) but I want to get more natural and lose a little more. I was inspired by what you wrote. My sister-in-law has MS and continues in a very unhealthy lifestyle. It’s hard to be around her much because she sees herself as a victim who deserves to do anything she wants because life has cheated her. I wish she could hear where you’re coming from but she wouldn’t. I pray for her & we reach out to her as much as we can. Happy Thanksgiving!

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21 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Welcome, Ginny! Thank you for this lovely comment. I’m so glad you enjoy reading my blog.(Believe it or not, I’m a bit of a Mrs. Magoo when it comes to internet technology, too, I think you did great! And here is the direct link to my blog, if that helps: http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/) Thanks for sharing some about you and your husband and thejourney you are both making toward being more plant-based. It’s a unique process for each of us. Congratulations on your weight loss, too! It’s great you are pushing your health envelope the way you are. I am sorry to hear about your sister-in-law and her difficulties with MS. It’s lovely that you pray for her and reach out to her as much as you can. A very Happy Thanksgiving to you too!!

Maria

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22 SusanV (admin) November 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Ginny, you can also receive an email whenever Maria writes a new post. Look in the right sidebar near the top for the place to subscribe by email. Maria posts so often that I think the email subscription is essential!

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23 Rebecca November 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Thank you for you inspirational posts, Moonwatcher. I have shared them with several friends already, and will share this one in particular with my family. In the past year, my husband and I have changed our lives by eating well, and now are teaching our children, my brothers, and their families how to live life differently with the food that we eat.
We are now all praying that my mom will see the changes that are being worked and make the choice herself to eat well. I can see her struggling with not being able to look up from her life in much the same way you describe, simply because her health is taking so much focus.
You turned your life around, and your perspective is incredibly encouraging…for those on any part of the health spectrum.

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24 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Welcome, Rebecca, and thank you for this thoughtful comment. It is an honor and a pleasure to be able to write these posts and share them here, and I really appreciate knowing you are sharing them with others and your family, too. It is so great to hear of how you and your husband have changed your lives by eating well, and that you are now teaching other members of your family how to do the same. It’s a gift to me to be even a small part of that process.

And thank you for your understanding of where your Mom is at with such clarity and compassion, and for understanding so deeply what I was saying about my self in that position. I am glad to know what I say is relevant for those on any part of the health spectrum.

Maria

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25 Tamara November 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

What a moving post!!

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26 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Thank you, Tamara!

Maria

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27 Lois Blumenthal November 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Beautifully written and inspiring. Thank You!

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28 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 10:23 pm

You’re welcome, Lois. My pleasure. Thank you for joining me here.

Maria

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29 Leila Shafiq November 17, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Maria, thank you for sharing this. I especially liked the part of your new self going back five years and the probablility of your old self not noticing you as she struggled along. I could see my new self looking at my old self also not noticing as I struggled along.
a new reader here, Leila

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30 moonwatcher November 17, 2012 at 10:39 pm

You’re welcome, Leila. Thank you for sharing how vividly you saw the relationship between the new self ad the old self because of your own experience. Glad to have you along.

Maria

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