Reflections on Thanksgiving: What I am Thankful For

Bruce & I were on the fence about whether we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving (“celebrate a harvest festival in the middle of spring?” Bruce says. Doesn’t feel right), but American ex-pat friends Anne & Scott wanted to introduce this feast of indulgence to their Slovakian friends. And so, any excuse for a gathering, we decided we’d honor the tradition of Thanksgiving and have a little party. Turns out the Slovakians couldn’t come and we very nearly bailed on our feast due to very busy schedules, but in the end we decided it would be good to honor the tradition. It seemed appropriate to do now for many reasons, a key one being that Anne & Scott, our primary buddies since we moved to NZ, had recently decided to move back to the States. Anne got a job offer she couldn’t refuse; they’ll be heading back in February. While we’ve only known them for less than a year, we’ve bonded over the ups and downs of being migrants — they’ve been a source of camaraderie for us and I will be very sad to see them go – I am thankful for their friendship.Anne & Bruce

We invited two additional friends over, Briar and Gen. These women are also both ex-pats (Canadian and American, respectively) who’ve been in NZ for 18 years and who have not celebrated Thanksgiving in over a decade. They were very excited at the prospect of having a turkey.

And, so, the six of us gathered at our house on Sunday. It felt like Fall with the day being dark, overcast, and a bit breezy – long-sleeves and sweaters the norm; I think Bruce was even donning his long-underwear!

Fruit saladWe had wonderful spread of simple, yet tasteful food. The majority of it was organic and grown locally – our free-range turkey came from a Canterbury farm; the potatoes, kumera, and chard were NZ grown, as was the kale and smoked-brie filled home-made pastries; the salad, replete with edible flowers and purple dragon carrots, came straight from Gen’s bountiful garden. Delightful and filling.

And as we sat jabbering throughout the evening, I really felt thankful for the gift of their presence. We have surrounded ourselves with a very fascinating group of people in Christchurch. Scott & Anne, Gen, Briar, Maggie, Ali & Jake – are all folks who share, like us, deeply held convictions about sustainability and the planet; each unique in the ways in which they express their convictions. Scott – experienced, knowledgeable and a fountain of information on organic horticulture growing and on working with local community growers, and Anne – passionate about the environment and has a background in aquatic environmental research. We spend a LOT of time talking with them about food, organics, growing, permaculture, factory farming, climate change, nature, and the like. Gen and Briar, two friends and long-standing artists, GenGen – singer, sculptor, musician, and avid veggie gardener, and Briar – textile artist, community connector, activist. These women are becoming quite good friends and we have many interesting conversations with them – they’ve turned us on to so many community resources up and down the country. Maggie, our realtor and who is slowly becoming our friend – extremely passionate about green building and in educating her clients on sustainable building practices. She’s connected with all sorts of ‘green-minded’ professionals in the community. Ali & Jake, our gaming friends with five young children, very different life from us but we share a passion for organic food and healthy living. Ali has a line on buying bulk produce from various organic vendors and then distributes among friends – kind of like a little informal co-op of which we are now a part. I’m amazed that we’ve managed to find these folks in such a short time and look forward to deepening the friendships.

Thanksgiving_Skype.jpgThanksgiving is about celebrating family and friends and I had the opportunity to email, Skype, and webcam with a whole host of folks throughout the week and share greetings and wishes for the holiday and catch up on life. I was touched by the effort of a group of friends who gathered on Thursday and made a point of calling and webcamming us and including us in their day. Even though we had trouble with the webcam and they could see us but we couldn’t see them and we experienced some voice delays, nonetheless there were lots of giggles and shouts of merriment as we shared some stories. You all rock!

I am thankful for Bruce, for I would not likely be on this crazy New Zealand adventure if it were not for that fact that we are a ‘we’; I doubt I would have had the courage to make such a drastic change at this stage of my life as a single person – we are stronger as a team, forces to be reckoned with, compliments to each other, and much more interesting as a duo. We’ve got a long road to go and it’s going to be fun.

Lastly, I am grateful to all the people in the world who dedicate themselves to the betterment of the planet. With all that is wrong, there are many trying to make it right. We do what we can, one small step at a time.