Giving Thanks

Here’s something to aspire to: “For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes” (Dag Hammarskjöld, second United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize recipient). I’m not there yet, but this holiday is good practice.

This year’s selection from the cornucopia of things that make me grateful I’m alive:

Cake batter—and cookie batter and icing of course and the way all of the above cling to the insides of bowls and the edges of beaters demanding that we lick them off.

Cats—because when looked at rationally they are an odd choice for a companion but when looked at non-rationally they are cute and funny and cuddly, at least when they’re not attacking you. Plus they purr. You really can’t beat purring; that was evolutionary genius.

People who make things by hand—weavers, woodworkers, drywall hangers, bread bakers, especially those amazing folk who can take scraps of this and that and presto, there’s a table or a fancy dress.

Home—a sense of belonging, a feeling of safety and peace, an awareness of being loved.

Monastics—monks and nuns of all religions, lay people who are exceptionally contemplative, everyone who holds that sacred space in the midst of daily life. They are doing it for the rest of us.

Camping—all types, car, backpacking, anything that involves sleeping on the ground, frying your toast in a pan, waking up to the smell of pine trees and going to bed having just been reminded of how vast the Milky Way is.

Moments—the ones that take my breath away, the ones filled with laughter, the peaceful ones, the silent ones, the shared ones.

Friends and family—without whom, none of the above would be as fun or loving or wonderful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I just asked my cat if he would like to curl up in my lap and act inspirational while I write. He replied by knocking my pen off the table.

cat in Santa costume looking sour

That’s the great thing about being a cat: you somehow manage to be charming by failing to fulfill any social obligations. Humans do not have this luxury, especially during the current extreme sports season of gathering and gifting. Everyone is competing in at least a heptathlon—sending cards, buying presents, attending parties, caroling, baking.

I’ve found that the key to an enjoyable holiday season is focusing on the aspects that you’re really good at. For me, one shining skill stands out above all the others: eating.

In these health conscious days, where would all the cookie bakers be without people like me to consume their wares? Who would support the red and green sprinkle industry and ensure the Red No. 5 factories stayed open?

And imagine a holiday party at which no one touched the spinach dip. Don’t linger on that thought lest you lose your good cheer.

In fact, an expert eater may be the person most likely to go the distance. Consider: the season starts with the biggest feast day of the year, Thanksgiving, the one day of the American calendar devoted solely to cooking and eating. Then as soon as you’ve finished the leftovers, the first party arrives. Hanukkah gelt fills in any momentary gaps, and even the decorations are edible—gingerbread houses, candy canes.

So though my Christmas cards remain scanty and my shopping last minute, I think I’m sitting right at the heart of the season.

Starting the Season Right

I almost subjected you to deep thoughts this week. Nothing cures unnecessary deep thoughts like a good party, and no one throws a better party than Central Coast Soccer. I highly recommend parties over deep thoughts. First of all, there’s more food. Second of all, people are enjoying themselves.

soccer ball with Santa hatHere is what I love about CCSoccer: it is coed; we don’t keep score; the league asks anyone who is too aggressive to leave; newcomers to the game are welcomed, encouraged, and passed to; everyone on the team having fun trumps playing the best possible game. This truly recreational atmosphere is as rare as a cheerful Woody Allen movie, one out of every few thousand.

Here is what I love about the CCSoccer party: it takes a moment to recognize people because they’ve blow-dried their hair and no one is sweaty. Greetings resemble those between long-lost friends whether people haven’t seen each other for a year or they just played together Wednesday night. Everyone brings their kids, who get to run around and play and be kids. Stealing during the white elephant gift exchange is merciless. The food is really good.

The attitude of the league creates the ambience of the party. The members of this community have practiced not taking one another too seriously, and all the time they’ve spent together, they’ve spent doing something they love—a rare combination.

I don’t know the details of these people’s lives the way I know those of my closest friends or family members, but whether I only exchange hellos with someone or the conversation continues through year-in-review updates, seeing each person cheers me. The smiles and hugs throughout the room make it clear others feel the same way.

If the spirit of the holiday season includes welcoming, supporting, and enjoying those around us, this group is ready to celebrate.