Wednesdays are my favorite days, and this is my favorite Wednesday of the year.
I absolutely love the anticipation that this day means. Since early this morning I’ve been chopping herbs and pecans, grating orange rind (that lovely little burst of spray that escapes every time the zester perforates the orange is like a tiny sacrament of the season to me), measuring out brown sugar and vanilla and poring over endearingly splattered recipes. I’ve tended the fire on the kitchen hearth and I’ve leaned over a stock pot simmering with the well-beloved cranberry conserve I’ve made every year since I was seventeen. Snow flurries (Snow! In November!) whirl in keen gusts outside the window, making that fire all the more friendly, and, like an epiphany, sudden sunlight ebbs and flows over my world in a wave of pale gold at a break in the clouds. I hear the wild and far off exultation of the sandhill cranes voyaging south, but this day I’ve no inclination to dream of the sunny lands they sing of. Sweeter to my soul is the bleating of my own sheep in the barnyard and the light snoring of this cat who takes my fireside chair every time I pop up to stir a pot or respond to a timer. My heart is homing with such a quiet joy today, a gathering-up of myself and all I believe about beauty and truth and goodness: namely, that all of this work and preparation and expectation is a banner of hope and a statement of faith. As I said elsewhere, things matter, everything matters, because Love has come and Redemption tarries not.
It will be a different Thanksgiving this year. We will gather with our family to celebrate on Sunday, and tomorrow we’ll enjoy a quiet day at home, just us. I am preparing a formal dinner for Philip and it has been the delight of my heart to dream over it and shop for it and make what preparations I can in advance. I keep teasing him that it’s my version of Babette’s Feast (one of the best, most sacrificially beautiful films I have ever seen), but I have had fun. Don’t tell Philip, but I’m making, among other things, an honest-to-goodness Beef Wellington, a butternut squash “crumble” that has been driving me mad with gorgeous aromas, and for dessert, a lovely (and heretofore untested) sabayon made with roasted chestnuts and Muscat.
I’m embracing “different” this year. My heart has heard God’s whisper to open my hands and to accept my limitations, which are two sides of the same coin, and I am earnestly endeavoring to heed that pluck at my sleeve. For the truth is, while I would not change places with anyone on the face of this earth, there are a few things in my life I would change right now, if I could. God, in such greater tenderness and wisdom, sees otherwise, and I bow before that unfathomable Love. But the heart that is alive bears its wounds, as I am sure every single one of you could attest in personal and poignant ways. And if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that sorrow and joy don’t usually visit us separately, but hand in hand. “I’ll take the heights and the depths,” I told a dear friend and mentor on the phone this morning, “because that is where the joy is.” I don’t have to understand how the mystical transaction takes place–I can only swear that it does.
And when Sorrow has stayed its piece, Joy remains. That, in my opinion, is something to celebrate.
I want you to know that as I sit by my fire on this Thanksgiving Eve and cusp of the Bright Season, I’m raising a teacup to all of you kind souls out there who connect with my words and give them a place in your hearts. I am truly and deeply grateful for you.