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GENERATIONS: We can make Thanksgiving into Thanks-living

This Thanksgiving, still in the midst of COVID, may or may not have been closer to normal than last year’s. But recognizing how much we have to be grateful for, whether we came together with friends and family or not, shouldn’t be limited to one day a year.

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If we put our fears, disagreements and anxiety on pause long enough to count the blessings in just one day, we can make Thanksgiving into Thanks-living. (Courtesy / Sue Bruns)

This Thanksgiving, still in the midst of COVID, may or may not have been closer to normal than last year’s. But recognizing how much we have to be grateful for, whether we came together with friends and family or not, shouldn’t be limited to one day a year.

The past two years have challenged us in ways many of us had never anticipated, and just a half-hour of the evening news might cause us to wonder if there’s really anything to be thankful for, but in the midst of divisiveness, crime and a pandemic, we can still find daily reasons for which to give thanks. If we put our fears, disagreements and anxiety on pause long enough to count the blessings in just one day, we can make Thanksgiving into Thanks-living.

In a recent solo drive from Minot, N.D., to Bemidji, I had five and a half hours to reflect on things. Winter was edging in, what trees I saw along Highway 2 were bare and colorless, and, after a weekend of visiting my daughter and grandson, I was already missing them. Not a lot of concentration is required for driving this stretch of Highway 2. The road is flat, mostly straight and in pretty good condition. But the monotony of the prairie stretched in all directions as the sun set in my rear-view mirror.

I dreaded impending winter’s cold bite, the shortening daylight, the stiff wind at my back, the inevitable ice and snow-covered roads, and the dreary, overcast days. A person can easily fall into a funk if we focus on negative things. I resented the early sunset, the cold wind, the upcoming winter, the long and tedious drive.

Then I stepped outside my gloom long enough to give myself a short talking-to. (Yes, I talk to myself. Sometimes I even listen). “You’d better find something positive to focus on for the next five hours,” I said. There was a pause as I contemplated this self-directive.

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Well, I thought, I just had a lovely weekend with my daughter and grandson. The weather had warmed up into the 60s -- probably for the last time until spring -- and we’d taken 9-month-old Chet on long walks, enjoying the sun. I’d witnessed Chet’s first assisted steps as he held onto the sofa and moved himself along. I’d listened to a good audiobook on the drive to Minot and had another to listen to on the way home -- something I rarely did but enjoyed on a long, lonely road trip.

The rows of bare trees between the fields stood like lines of black skeletons, but there was a beauty to both the symmetry and the asymmetry of the naked branches. And the sunset -- early though it was -- lingered in the big sky.

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The rows of bare trees between the fields stood like lines of black skeletons, but there was a beauty to both the symmetry and the asymmetry of the naked branches. And the sunset -- early though it was -- lingered in the big sky. (Pioneer file photo)

It had been a long time since I’d watched a prairie sunset. My favorite place to watch sunsets at home is on Lake Plantagenet from the vantage point of my kayak. From there, the sun sinks quickly behind the trees, often leaving a momentary glowing salmon and coral hue and a kaleidoscope of reflected colors in the lake and then slips into dusk. I always take pictures. Sometimes they turn out, but I know that if I look away for just a minute and look back again, I’ll miss the best hues.

On Highway 2, the sun lingered on the prairie. It took its time sliding to the line dividing sky and land. The entire western heavens took on its glow. I watched, in my rear-view mirror, and it seemed to take a very long time before the glowing sun disappeared below the horizon and several minutes for its afterglow to fade.

There is beauty to be found in the most common settings, in the most ordinary days, the simplest times, the everyday tasks, and I’d seen it all on the prairie -- in my rear-view mirror. It would be dark by the time I arrived home to the scent of Norway pines and the soft lapping of the still-open lake. My mind was in a better place. I would skip the 10 o'clock evening news and try to practice this daily thanks-living.

Related Topics: GENERATIONS
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