Finding nature's bounty, and more, at Thanksgiving
Nov. 16, 2001
Thanksgiving Day happens at just the right time in the sequence of nature's seasons. Traditionally a day of prayer and celebration, it highlights harvests. For the outdoor enthusiast, it is indeed harvest time.
Squirrels, growing fat on the acorn crop, stir the tops of oak and hickory trees, dislodging acorns by the hundreds that fall to earth where deer and turkeys wait to feed. Wood ducks whistle through the creek bottoms, also storing nutrition from the abundant acorns while mallard hens call the others of her kind to dine in the swamps. They heed her call and flutter down through the treetops in flocks. Wild hogs shuffle in the leaves and root out their share of the fallen kernels.
Largemouth bass cruise the shallows where the water is warmest looking for the morsels of fall that will see them through their winter slow-down. Crappie, heavy from the growing season, lie in the deeper waters and await the angler who seeks to harvest one of the world's tastiest fish.
How appropriate that hunters and fishers are principle participants in the harvest. For the first American Thanksgiving Day feast, July 30, 1623, saw the meat furnished by Native Americans in the form of wild turkeys and deer while the men of that Massachusetts colony brought in wild ducks, geese and fish. The women prepared the meat dishes and served nuts gathered from the woods along with corn meal bread, journey cake and succotash. Everyone ate outdoors at big tables.
The colonists had held a 3-day feast 2 years earlier, less than a year after they settled there, to give thanks for the corn harvest that followed a winter which killed nearly half their number Without game and fish, the Plymouth colony might not have survived.
So the modern day sportsman and sportswoman are fitting principles in our celebration and feasting on Thanksgiving Day. Those who gather and serve wild game, fish, fruits and nuts are a step closer to an accurate reenactment of the original feast.
And beyond the bounty of the woods and fields and streams is their stunning November beauty. The trees inspire us with magnificent colors. Bright reds are provided by sumac leaves and the shining berries of dogwood trees. Deeper reds glow forth from sweet gum, persimmon, sassafras and black gum leaves. Orange and yellow leaves call attention to hickories, maples and elms. Beige beech leaves and green pine needles provide fitting contrast.
The bounties and the beauty move us to bow in thanksgiving. And the act of stopping to give thanks itself brings us yet another blessing. In our compulsion to express gratitude we experience humility, the attribute that helps us to more clearly see our place in the divine order of things.
As we acknowledge our indebtedness, we grow in the understanding of what and who we really are. Few blessings exceed in value that of self-realization and finding where we fit. Looking outdoors in November is a good place to start the search for identity and purpose, and a good place to return to for reaffirmation.