Creating An Alternative Holiday
My grandkids are very fond of a book series called Redwall, in which heroic mice protect their land from various threats while eating an enormous amount of delicious food. As the characters are all mostly rather small critters, their food is entirely ovo-lacto vegetarian (and very heavy on the whipped cream). While they’re still steeped in the lore of the series, we decided to turn thanksgiving into a Redwall Feast. The kids have a Redwall cookbook and spent a long time going over the various recipes and voting for their favorites. After much debate, they settled on a bean and vegetable soup, a potato casserole, spiced cider and mint tea, and 16 desserts.
They also made simple costumes, including mouse ears for everyone, and face paint. A cardboard tube became a shining silver sword (thanks to plenty of duct tape) for Martin and finger knitting provided the special Gull Whacker used by Mariel, both heroic warrior mice featured in many stories. We even found some special Redwall music and songs, jaunty English neo-folksongs that made an appropriate soundtrack for the feast. We managed to hone the mighty dessert list down to a fabulous few, including Cherry Pudding and Banana Oatmeal Cake with (of course) whipped cream. My grandson carefully made a batch of his special not-too-sweet whipped cream with mascarpone which made the feast special indeed. (Recipe below if you want to give it a try.)
Thankfulness and Gratitude
Though we haven’t celebrated thanksgiving traditionally for quite a while, we do make it a day of gratitude as well as atonement. Over the years, so many voices have raised prickly points about the appropriateness of creating a national holiday around the displacement and genocide of indigenous people by white colonizers that it’s impossible to carry on in the same way. One way we can atone is by starting our gatherings with a land acknowledgement, stating (in our case) that the land we are living on is the ancestral home of the Suquamish people. This helps both adults and children realize that Island history, like national history (and ok, really ALL history) is complicated and often uncomfortable. That said, something I’m very grateful for are the lessons in deep hospitality and loving kindness demonstrated by the Suquamish Tribe, Bainbridge Island’s nearest neighbors.
Sadly, Bainbridge Islanders have not always been particularly respectful or interested in building a positive relationship with the Tribe. In recent years, as a nearby town has made very serious missteps, gravely damaging their own Tribal relationship, many Islanders are realizing that it’s past time to work for better understanding ourselves. One thing that eases the process is the fact that generosity and hospitality are deep traditional values in the Suquamish culture. Given all that’s happened, long ago and into the present days, the Tribe is an amazingly generous neighbor, sharing knowledge and skills with students and visitors as well as donating significantly to many local nonprofits that feed the hungry and house the homeless.
Meeting Trouble With Integrity
Instead of reacting to thoughtless acts and insensitive comments with well deserved anger, Tribal elders demonstrate the kind of moral strength Dr. Martin Luther King lived into. They certainly feel the anger, but rather than responding in kind, strong Tribal traditions help shape thoughtful, reasoned responses that are both impressive and far more effective. Having just experienced a very difficult event that felt like a personal attack on a group of us who have been working very hard for years on a complex and difficult project, my own first response was shock, outrage and pure anger. It’s taken me a week to realize that the act wasn’t really personal for most participants, anyway, many of whom were as shocked as I was at the way things played out.
It’s very easy to take difficult situations personally and quite challenging to step back and use the time and space to do some breathing and some pondering. Both those tools create a change of perspective, letting me think more deeply about who and how I want to be, in myself, in the community and the world. As I cooled down over the next few days, I realized that if I truly believe all voices should be welcome at the discussion table, then I should work on responding thoughtfully rather than reacting in anger (as I admit I initially wanted to). So that’s what I’m doing, and it’s very clear that being thoughtful feels both emotionally and physically so much healthier than being furious. Onward, right?
Mighty Mice Make Great Whipped Cream
When any situation needs to be sweetened, a little cream and maple syrup can be soothing indeed. Here’s my grandson’s special recipe, give it a try and let me know what you think!
Whipped Cream With Mascarpone & Maple
2 cups heavy cream
4 ounces Mascarpone cheese
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
With an immersion blender or electric mixer, whip cream to soft peaks, then add mascarpone and whip to stiffer peaks. Add maple syrup and vanilla to taste and spoon liberally over any dessert you may have on hand. Serves at least one.