Thanksgiving – Gratitude

Saying thank you is easy and free.

Thanksgiving Still Life with Thank-You Note Card

This Thanksgiving I am sending someone I love a handwritten thank-you note and doing something that you may find silly (or maybe not).

In years past, I used to write Thanksgiving posts about topics more easily tied to the environment like consumerism and green actions that you and I can do. Then there was the year my family saved me from writing about food waste.

Nowadays at Thanksgiving, I find myself pondering the interconnectedness of humans and the rest of nature or how I can put forth my kindest self every day. That is the person that I, you, and everyone else needs to bring to the table if we are to heal ourselves and Earth, the place we all call home.

This year gratitude is on my mind.

I believe everyone appreciates being appreciated. I know I do. Showing gratitude by saying “Thank you.” is easy and free. Yet, sometimes in our society, it seems like we are all so busy, rushed, and frazzled that we forget who and what we have to be grateful for or to thank the people in our lives.

Maybe all we need to get back on track is a friendly reminder and a little practice.

This year for my Thanksgiving post I knew I wanted to write about gratitude and to encourage readers to take a specific gratitude-related action. But what?

Then a few weeks ago, I was reading Elizabeth Kubey’s “Kids’ Corner” column in the fall issue of Flora, a quarterly magazine published by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) of which I am a member. Even though my kids are grown, I always enjoy reading Elizabeth’s column. It is filled with educational and fun activities and she has a delightful kid-friendly writing style.

Flora-V3N1-Kids-Corner_Letter_Elizabeth-Kubey-LR-300x388

The “Kids’ Corner” fall column had several activities for kids to learn about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. The item that caught my eye was entitled Thank-you plants! It involved asking kids to write several thank-you notes. One thanking a native plant, one as if they were a native plant thanking a part of the ecosystem, and perhaps one to a family member. Photo —Elizabeth Kubey/CNPS.

I instantly thought, “That’s it. I want to share this idea in my Thanksgiving post.”

Since it was Elizabeth’s idea, I contacted her to thank her and ask her permission to share her idea and to use the thank-you note. She agreed.

I Used to Write Thank-You Notes

One of the many things that my mother taught me as a kid was how to write a handwritten thank-you note. My brother and sister learned, too. We were expected to write thank-you notes when someone had given us a gift even if we had thanked the gift giver in person. I do not remember if there was any wheedling involved, but she probably had to remind us to write them, at least sometimes.

I carried the thank-you note habit into adulthood writing thank-you notes for birthday, wedding, baby, and holiday gifts and occasionally for another reason like thanking an interviewer after a job interview.

There was always a box or two of thank-you note cards in a desk drawer at home.

Once, when I was preparing to leave a company that I had worked with for a long time, I wrote a thank-you note to every employee. That was over 300 thank-you notes.

Now, I have mostly fallen out of the habit of writing thank-you notes. The demise of my thank-you note writing may have coincided with the decision my spouse and I made in 2013 to stop the practice of obligatory gift-giving and receiving as part of our effort to live more lightly on the planet.

And yet, there are many, many people and things to be thankful for that do not involve exchanging gifts. Can my lapsed thank-you note habit be resuscitated and reimagined? I think it can.

Thank-You Note for a Person

To me, Thanksgiving seems like an ideal time to write a handwritten thank-you note.

My Thanksgiving Thank-You Note Card and Vase with Artificial Fall Flowers
I wrote my Thanksgiving thank-you note inside this card.

I hope you will join me in writing a thank-you note sometime during this week to a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, or anyone for that matter thanking them for, well, anything.

You and everyone else may have a lot going on this week such as preparing to host a Thanksgiving feast at your home, getting ready to travel, or cramming five days of work into three days. Some of you may be steeling yourself for working on Black Friday.

So, let’s keep it simple and agree that we will not agonize over writing a thank-you note. We will write from our hearts without worrying about spelling, grammar, and punctuation (at least not too much).

If you do not have a box of thank-you note cards stuck in the back of a drawer, no worries. Any kind of card will do and you can easily pick one up at almost any store including a grocery market.

The thank-you note that I wrote is winging its way to my mother; however, she will probably not have received it before reading this post.

Thank-You Note for a Plant or Animal

Now for the silly part that I mentioned earlier.

I am an enthusiastic native plant novice who enjoys growing native plants from seeds and giving native plants a place in our yard.

The first native plant I ever grew from a seed was a California Buckwheat which I named Becky. I am one of those people who anthropomorphize plants and animals. It helps me appreciate and connect with other parts of nature.

Even though Elizabeth’s Thank-you plants! is not related to Thanksgiving, I do not think she will mind if you and I appropriate her format to thank a fellow member of nature.

My native plant thank-you note is for Becky. As you can see I kept it short and sweet. Protected by a plastic bag it is mounted on a bamboo stick left from our Monterey pine seedling growing project. I placed it in the yard with Becky. This will remind me to thank the plant every time I pass by.

If you would like to join me in this endeavor, I feel certain there is a plant or animal living near you that would love to receive a thank-you note.

For good measure on Thanksgiving, I think I will go hug a few trees.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Featured Image at Top: Thanksgiving still life with thank-you note card – Photo credit iStock/CatLane.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving – Gratitude”

  1. Dear Grand Crow,
    Thank you for being the first wild being I befriended as an individual. Though, as I learned more about you, I realized you were not a crow, rather a Raven, you just laughed at me and tolerated my ignorance. The first time we met, was year five of the terrible California Drought from 2011-2015, you and your family were starving and near death, the whole local ecosystem was. I was making dinner one night, and chopping up some cashews in plain sight of the kitchen window that looks out on the deck and trees beyond. You landed on the deck railing and looked right at me… I knew you were asking for me to please share some of those nuts. It was almost like you were saying to me; “Save my family from starvation, and you can just eat me for dinner instead of those nuts.” You looked like hell… I brought out a hand full of nuts, and you picked one up, flew up into the air and dropped the nuts to your waiting family and friends hanging out in the trees. Over and over you flew down, picked up a nut and shared it.

    Until the rains finally came, a month or so later, I shared nuts or bread scraps with you daily after that, and you first shared with you family, always asking me, and only you would pick the food up, and deliver it, share it with the others. They knew you had asked me, and it was your place to share. Your daughter, Rayray, and her husband Raymond, still live near me and visit and chat daily. She laid her second clutch of eggs this fall! I look forward to seeing little Ravens soon! When you left this world in 2018, Rayray gifted me with one of your primary feathers to wear in my hair. She placed it in my path… and when I missed it and walked right bye, (I don’t see very well) she made a huge ruckus until I turned around and found it. I wore it in my hair for a long time, still do sometimes. She leaves me presents often, and I share some nuts with everyone each day now, she also introduced me to a real crow, Go-Crow, and her Hubby… and Buz and Buzzy, the local Cathartes, New World Condors, commonly called Turkey Vultures. So now I can actually recognize six individuals, and they recognize me! It’s so fun to be walking in town, hear a “Tori Hey” (CawCaw, Caw) look up, see Go-Crow with her head cocked at that rakish angle, and return, “Hey Go-Crow” (Caw, CawCaw), call and return. While Rayray fiercely defends our neighborhood from predators, Raymond will patrol above while I’m walking or riding my bike around town, aerial recon. A dog or mountain lion will likely never surprise me with friends like that!

    I hope where every you are, these warm thoughts find you. Maybe someday we’ll meet again?

    Until then, fair winds and following seas my dear.
    Love tori

  2. What a lovely story; I was smiling while reading it. The sample thank you note was perfect. I will look forward to receiving mine. So glad you are part of the Native Plant Society. Living in Cambria was such a wise decision in so many ways.

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