Turkey Stew for the Soul: A gathering of inspirational bones to chew on this Thanksgiving season

Lately my head has been filling up with the gratitude and wonder that floods in this time of year as the days get shorter, the temperature stays lower, and the smell of roasting turkey is on the air. This Thanksgiving season, though, my head has been stuffed with extra inspiration I have drawn from a multitude of diverse places. Some are moments of calm and reflection to savor in the midst of the turmoil happening near and far. Others provide information, perspective and stories of action that stirred up a longing to work towards fixing the injustices in the world. The source and subject vary greatly between these experiences in their format, context and message, but there is a unifying theme of the balancing act between meeting the needs of the people here now and the needs of the Earth as a whole. It’s an odd collection, but the variety of ingredients in my stew of reflection is one of the things that makes it so interesting.

The chalice is the symbol of the Unitarian Universalists.

Sunday November 22, I went to two services which is two more than I normally average these days. The first one was Harvest Communion at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta. This is the church that I grew up with and still attend when I’m home from school every now and then. At the Harvest Communion this year we focused on recognizing, thanking and promising to protect all that the Earth and Mother Nature has provided.

Pulpit and drum from the Harvest Communion Service. From https://www.instagram.com/etru_allen13/

One part of the service was a very sweet story about Mother Nature’s creations that was told to the heartbeat-like rhythm of the drum pictured above. The children of the congregation also provided some home-spun musical accompaniment with other hands-on instruments. As all this was going on, it was fun to watch as an impromptu collage of magazine pictures was put together by two other volunteers. A caring community is a wonderful thing and can feel like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

The hymns we sang that day. From https://www.instagram.com/etru_allen13/

As a very music-oriented congregation it was only logical to have the choir sing some songs for this special service. Everyone else got to sing, too, with the hymns above. I love the way that Unitarian Universalists use lyrics that blend science and faith when singing these traditional melodies.

However, the most memorable music experience of the service had to be when our minister introduced us to the singer-song writer Ta’Kaiya Blaney. Less than 15 years old, she has reached amazing levels of recognition for her work in advocating for better water quality control policies. The responsibilities and recognition she has achieved at such a young age is just as inspiring as her actual work. Both filled me with a desire to go out and do something to help the world somehow.

Here is a music video Ta’Kaiya made a few years ago.

All rights to the creators of this video and to those whose content it is.

Later that afternoon I went to an interfaith service held at the Temple Beth El in Augusta. It was called Turning Toward Truth: Forging a New Understanding of Thanksgiving and it too was amazing.

The candles lit by the leaders of the Turning Towards Truth Service. From https://www.instagram.com/etru_allen13/

The candles above were each lit by a different religious leader or representative and represent the theme that they talked about. The ‘Lights’ were healing, safety, truth, knowledge, silence, humanity, hope, action, and the light within. Hymns, of the more traditional yet neutral sort, were sung and there was a silent meditation with an instrumental interlude. The big highlight was when Panthea Burns, a renowned Wabanaki poet and speaker, shared some of her poetry and her first-hand perspective on Thanksgiving as a tribeswoman. She came as an individual, but also as a representative of the Maine-Wabanaki REACH group that helps to continue the healing of injustices and prejudices towards Maine’s indigenous people.

These are the religious leaders and representatives that lead the interfaith Thanksgiving service. https://www.instagram.com/p/-meZt-JHT2/?taken-by=etru_allen13

The faiths and groups represented on stage were Baptits, Congrgational UCC, Quaker, Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish, Peaceful Heart Sangha, Unitarian Universalist, Volunteers of America, and Maine-Wabanaki. The atmosphere was just so unifying and positive and healing that I almost forgot to take a few documentation photos.

A completely different source of reflection for me was a recent cleaning spree on a sunny day. It reawakened my fascination with dust, or more specifically the way that dust behaves and moves. It has its own mysterious brand of beauty, and I find that there is the potential for some good analogies between dust and people. To map a few similarities; we are both small yet both can amount to much when assembled together in mass. We both move and settle due to outside forces that pull us to follow currents and create patterns. We both can move fast or slow and tend to settle in groups. Fortunately people have the power that comes with free will. Also, most of the time we have the gift of self-driven mobility.

I am by no means a professional cinematographer, but here is a little video of some dust for your enjoyment. The plant is a cyclamen that lives on our coffee table.

As we’ve seen, Ta’Kaiya has plenty of heart and knows how to share it, and dust can be a metaphor. Here is another video that moves me, but this one applies social sciences in a graceful simplicity. It looks at the basic human needs that must be meet and balanced with the needs of the environment and those of the future generations from both sides.

All rights to the creators and owners of this video.

Another perspective on civilization entirely would be the video below. It is set to the beautifully orchestrated music “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin. My grandmother showed it to me and I really like it even though I will probably never play the game. It seems that music is another underlying theme of this rumination collection.

Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu” in the accompanying music video trailer for the video game it is a part of. All rights to the creators and owners of the video.

To finish up, here is another little home movie. This one is of the wind chimes in my back yard. A different music onto itself, it is a collaboration of man and nature. This model’s name is “Melody of the Heart,” and I purchased it from an Amish store in Indiana as a birthday gift to myself. I find its tones and little wind-written songs good for reflection and hopefully you enjoy it, too.

Melody of the Heart

Below are some additional links to organizations and people that I mentioned earlier.