creating new traditions

The true story behind the holiday most people call “Thanksgiving” involves a very rare moment of peace between (eventually to be called white) Europeans and Indigenous people. In our family over the last few years, it has felt really strange to celebrate what was an exception to the rule of the day; the rule of the day was my ancestors betraying and murdering Native people.

Last year, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but talked a lot about how complicated it was. Our 11 year old announced a few months ago that she was going to boycott Thanksgiving because of the harms white Europeans perpetrated against Indigenous people. Our family had some conversations about it and we have decided that we will no longer celebrate Thanksgiving.

We will, however, create our own new celebration. We are not simply re-naming the day. We will celebrate, and we will probably enjoy foods that we have shared over our lifetimes around this time of year. Our days of celebration will also include moments of solemnity and honor for all of the lives lost, the cultures crushed, and the overtaking of the land by greedy capitalists. We will live in the truth as best we can.

White supremacy culture is all we’ve known in our family, so far. What that means is we don’t have a “culture” that doesn’t relate to oppression of others. But, we white people can tease out of our family traditions, shared experiences, and other aspects of community those elements that may form a new culture or new cultures.

For us, we are trying out “Anticipating the Solstice” as our celebration. It will last two days (the last Wednesday and Thursday of November), so the kiddos can celebrate in both of their homes. The foods may vary from year to year, but there are sure to be many of the old standards we’ve grown up with. How we honor the true story of the first “Thanksgiving” will surely develop over time, too. We will start by using this as a reference. I know we will involved candles somehow, and silence. The rest we will work out as a family.

This is not going to be a “cheat.” This is not a way to celebrate Thanksgiving and still feeling good about it. We will not celebrate Thanksgiving as we have done before. We will join with our wider community in mourning the horrors our country was built on. And, on the same days, we will celebrate the bounty of our lives in joyful gratitude. Add to all of this the complexity that we know we are very lucky in our bounty, that too many people will be going without shelter, food, or family. We will recognize that, too.

As I was writing the last sentences to this post, a friend from our Quaker Meeting, Beth Bussiere, sent me an email about this very topic. I will leave you with her words: “What I found myself finally with was how interconnected lamentations and gratitude are. That without lamentations, without acknowledging the grief and the grievous, our gratitude can be misplaced or superficial. On the other hand, without gratitude, our lamentations can just pull us under.”

sharing everyday joys

Like everyone I know, the reality that Tr*mp may continue to encourage violence, that COVID-19 will continue to rage, that people will have to risk their lives if they want to vote, that Biden/Harris might not change things all that much and… and… and…

…the list is too, too long and massive to do it justice.

I am scared. Some of that fear has to do with my children, some has to do with feelings of helplessness, but most of it has to do with all of the people whose lives are directly at risk. I say “directly at risk” because I believe the system of racial capitalism and white supremacy is killing all of us in different ways. But Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and all people of color, plus LGBTQ people, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, disabled people… this list also goes on… have already faced violence in this country. All poor people, even those who are white and even those who are Tr*mp supporters, are being killed directly by the current systems and can expect to have harder lives in the coming years. No healthcare, poverty, underfunded schools, the criminalization of everyday life… All of it.

On twitter, I’ve seen many Black and Indigenous people (white people, too) talking about having plans for surviving these times. Plans include staying away from the Internet, or sticking to joyful content.

As a white woman from a background of socioeconomic privilege, sharing photos of joyful moments risks seeming oblivious to what’s going on. As I sit here, I’ve decided that letting the pain and despair I’m feeling on behalf of all of us overwhelm me doesn’t help anyone. For this moment, I’m thinking that being of service might sometimes mean sharing small joys. What I want is for everyone to have joys like this (I mean the kinds of joys you want). Everyone deserves to be so lucky. And those of us who already are so lucky need to keep working to make sure the luck is shared.

From the mountains of Maine: this morning there were lovely tiny snowflakes over the garden I tried to capture (I can’t see them in the photo). A cast iron stove warming the room. (Not seen: butternut squash roasting, piles of papers finally sorted, a cup of Earl Grey tea with a splash of heavy cream, a full bird feeder with frequent Goldfinch and Pine Siskin visitors.)

cast iron stove with fire inside next to stacks of cut woodview of mountains, leafless trees, garden of soil, blue sky with grey clouds

Alleluia!

In the Quaker Meeting where I’m a member, we practice what is sometimes called “waiting worship,” or unprogrammed meeting. That means we mostly sit in silence together. Sometimes, people are led by Spirit (or God or however you want to describe it) to share something out loud with the rest of us. Today, a hymn came to me during worship. It didn’t “rise to the level of vocal ministry,” so I remained on mute (while I hum-sang!). This hymn from my childhood church came to me so strongly this morning that I would have (maybe?) sung it in Meeting if I could’ve remembered more than the Alleluias! I *almost* sang with the idea that I would hum the non-Alleluia parts.

If you are curious, with my Dad’s help (he’s retired minister of the ELCA), I found it — there are so many versions out there! — in the way I was hearing it in my head: https://youtu.be/FrDXw-8QtK0 was one from a Missouri Synod church (with the words), and another of just one person singing: https://youtu.be/tP9DfcMHVnk.

It will take some time for me to understand why this particular message came to me, though thoughts of hope and love (hope in action) following despair and acceptance come immediately to mind…

Might be a flurry… (of posts on this blog)

This week I am up in the mountains of Maine all by myself. No children, no parents, no pets. Just me. For many reasons, and the worldwide crises (googling “crisis plural”) is definitely among them, I may post a lot of small posts on this here web log. Just a head’s up, especially for those of you who get my posts by email!

Here’s where I am (heart emoji x a thousand):

Post-election Spirit-led Response Preparation

This message was shared on the e-group for the Portland Friends Meeting (Quakers), where I am a member. I am posting it here so I can share the whole message with others using just a link (instead of the full body of the message). I have added some links for those of you who aren’t already familiar with Quakers:

Hello Maine Friends,

New England Quakers have been meeting for the past few weeks to talk about the upcoming election. One part of that work is to prepare for a Spirit-led response in case the President does not respect the results. A handful of us at Portland Friends Meeting (“PFM”) have formed an informal group to help lead a local response, and this is a good time to share our thinking with the wider Maine Quaker community, and beyond.

Each of us has signed up with a nationwide initiative called Protect the Results. You can read all about it, and sign up yourself to get local updates, at www.protecttheresults.com. If you click on Resources you’ll find an extensive toolkit with lots of useful information.

The idea behind this initiative is that if the apparent loser of the election does not concede in a timely manner, then people across the nation will join grassroots nonviolent mass events. The first of these events is tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4, the day after the election, if a rapid response is required that day. The Portland location is Deering Oaks Park, and there are several others throughout Maine.

Hopefully, none of this will be necessary and we’ll have a very ho-hum post-election transition. But rather than be caught unawares, we think it best to be prepared in advance.

We also encourage all Friends to take some steps now to be spiritually prepared and to brush up on our nonviolent direct action skills and understanding—even if you are not able to participate in in-person actions. If there is a long period of post-election uncertainty, there will no doubt be other training opportunities. We will also be looking for Friends who cannot attend in-person events to serve as elders, to hold us in the Light, and to otherwise support us spiritually.

For now, you can watch this two-hour training on De-Escalation and Safety, specifically tailored to the Protect The Results initiative.

Over the next few nights, there are also very useful online Choose Democracy trainings led by Quaker George Lakey.

Please let any of us know if you have any questions. We will be in touch around the election with any important updates.

And if anyone wants to join us tonight for the final NEYM Quaker Election prep, it’s not too late to register here.

Feel free to share this message with f/Friends throughout Maine and beyond.

Yours in the Light,

Anna Barnett
Brooke Burkett
Andy Burt (Midcoast Friends)
Sarah Cushman
Mary DeSilva
Jessica Eller
Christine Fletcher
Rob Levin
Wendy Schlotterbeck (Durham Friends)