For 19 November's Friday 5, Jan hosts unexpected thanks 5. She explains, "With the American holiday of Thanksgiving being less than a week away, I tried to think of some questions for Friday Five that could be connected to this, but in a new way. So here is my one try: Name five things that were unexpected in your life that you are now grateful for."
It's now 9 days past the Friday of this unexpected thankfulness 5, yet what better idea than to make this my Thanksgiving Day blog? When I decided to write about winter, darkness and death, I knew Kelli Titus' amazing photographs of winter in Chicago would be perfect—Kelli has been a guest artist on my Facebook design page. By the way, the background image on my thanksgiving banner is one of my own photographs. Last Wednesday at Vespers we chanted Psalm 65 and suddenly I remembered that Psalm 65:8 was my blog header for a while, so that verse seemed inspired for a seasonal banner! On the wayback machine I even serendipitously found an archive from July 2008 that reminded me when.
1. I'd almost expected cracked roads, jagged curbs, unmarked alleys, potholes and the occasional friendly stranger who might become a strange friend, but I never anticipated the sometimes dehumanizing loneliness and lack of community. They say people do their best when and where they find the most support, but amazingly it is over these bleak, lonely years without the friends I'd fully expected to grow older with that I've achieved more than I ever could have imagined as theologian, artist and performing musician. So true an excellent education and broad, varied experience gave me a solid foundation, but who'd of thunk it? Am I thankful for all of it? Of course, at the same time realizing I don't know what otherwise would have happened.
2. Winter! I've lived in the northeastern United States and in northeastern Utah. Both areas have snowy though very different winter seasons; both feature very hot yet very different summers. Walter Brueggemann insists much of life is sabbatarian, spent in the interstitial, liminal time between Good Friday afternoon and Easter Sunday dawn. In my blog and review of Henry Beston's The Outermost House, I essentially said that during winter in four-season places like the Midwest or New England there is a simply being who we've become thus far that has a sense of Sabbath about it. We almost hang suspended in time waiting for gifts of birth, of spring of new life to ready themselves. In that blog I also mentioned living alongside the agricultural cycle helped me learn to trust death.
3. Like many County Fairs and State Fairs, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival. Isn't Easter, the festival of Resurrection the ultimate celebration of the ultimate harvest? Easter's in-breaking of grace and in-gathering of new life happens only after death, darkness, winter, inactivity and somnolence. For the apostle Paul the Gospel is death and resurrection! I've learned how essential death is as finally I've started looking forward to shorter, cooler days and longer nights, no longer trying to rush winter (because winter arrives, stays and leaves in its own time), no longer counting months, weeks and days until spring and summer will be here.
4. Sunsets and sunrises—but why are these surprising? After all, everyone recognizes the phenomenological reality and appreciates the symbolism. I've long loved very early morning and long have preferred to get out of bed before first light, delighting in watching the sky for an hour or more for daybreak, but I've been astonished to discover I now welcome sunsets for their beauty (this isn't quite desert southwestern Utah and New Mexico, but still we get some gorgeous skies as daylight wanes), and also for the way they encourage me to slow down my activity, and for their "rightness" in the scheme of everything.
5. I've listed four only, though may think of more in the unexpected thanks category as soon as I publish this. Thanks, Jan!