A Wish for the Holidays
“Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.”
This quote comes from a poem called “Garden Meditations” by the Reverend Max Coots. I came across it in the book, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul. It speaks to all the people in our lives, friends and family, from past to present, and their significance. The poem also relates them to items in the garden, such as radishes, cabbages, and sunflowers.
The poem struck a chord with me, so much so, that I recited it at my college graduation from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. It made me reflect not only on my years at college, but on the years up to that point and even beyond. It takes on new meaning now, as one would expect.
As Thanksgiving approaches, along with the end of another growing season, it’s a perfect time to look back and give thanks. Thanks to all the good things that brought a bit of joy. Thanks to the bad things where we learned a lesson or two (or three). Thanks to the ordinary and mundane things that ground us and keep us sane. Thanks to the extraordinary things that inspire us and make us wonder what comes next.
In times like today, I try to remember details from years past that put a smile on my face. I recall the aroma of crushed leaves underfoot giving the impression of warm sugar; the crispness in the air beckoning a familiar hoodie or sweater; the home filled with scents of apple pie, roasted turkey, and candied sweet potatoes.
I have fond Christmas memories, like smelling the freshly-cut tree as dad anchored it to the baseboards with a multitude of wires. Or burning the flesh off my fingers when I touched one of the blue lights on the tree (they seemed to be the hottest). I recall watching one of the cats climb said tree (was it Fred, Posha, or Pierre?); enjoying the fire in the family room where all the stockings were hung with care; and after the holiday was over, spreading peanut butter on pinecones, dipping them in birdseed, and hanging them on the now-aging tree placed out on the deck.
Reliving these memories gives me a warm sensation of joy and happiness. Recreating them can be frustrating, but the simple act of trying helps instill memories for new friends and family who have entered our lives. Isn’t that the point, really? Passing down traditions and feel-good memories so the next generation can remember them too?
I have a penchant for keeping things for sentimental value, which spark those memories. Take Elf on the Shelf, having now resurged in popularity. I don’t know if it’s because we are trying to relive our past joys as a society, but the elves, as well as those ceramic, lit trees, are really trending now. My partner and I have original versions of these items in our holiday décor, a little worse for wear, but we would never part with them.
As I unpack the Christmas decorations from their taped, often misshapen boxes, I take out a Santa hat with my name written in glitter across its brim. My extended family was a hoot, holding Santa Hat Awards every year, where a family member received the honor for a specific reason. I’ve since forgotten the reason why I received mine, but I’m sure—wink-wink—I deserved it.
Those awards no longer happen, as many of us have moved away, drifted apart, and some have passed on…but the memories are still vibrant. Who knows, maybe one of us will start them again in a slightly new fashion. Or maybe after reading this, someone may start a similar tradition. After all, that’s what my articles are always about…sharing our bounty with each other.
The last few lines of the poem which started this conversation speak the loudest to me:
“For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;
And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their time that we might have life thereafter.
For all these we give thanks.”
Eric W. Wahl, RLA is a landscape architect at Element Design Group and president of the Delaware Native Plant Society.