Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Mud and the Blue Iris: Thanksgiving Ponderings


This image on a friend's Facebook page was one of the first things I saw when I unplugged my phone from the charger Monday morning. Irises are a favorite, so even though it's a flower more associated with May than November, it caught my eye. 

And then there was the poem:

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris,
it could be weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones;
just pay attention
then patch a few words together
and don't try to make them elaborate,
this isn't a contest but the doorway into thanks,
and a silence in which another voice may speak.
From Mary Oliver's book of poems, Thirst

It was a dreary, overcast, chilly morning to begin this week of Thanksgiving. And for many of us, Thanksgiving will look much different this year. 

November 2018
From two years ago

Instead of gathering with family, I'll be making turkey and dressing for two. We canceled a trip to Topeka and Kansas City. The last few years, we've celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday at Jill's and then have done a little Black Friday shopping in the afternoon - long after the die-hard early bird fans were back home for an afternoon nap after being up at dark o'thirty.

The extended family Christmas Eve get-together at my parents has already been canceled for this year. And while it was definitely the thing to do, I am already dreading its absence. In my 63 years on earth, this will be my first time to miss this traditional family gathering that also celebrates my mom's birthday. 

I've been furiously looking for silver linings.

"Well, I guess I'll get to go to my church's Christmas Eve service," I originally told myself in a pep talk. (For 40 years, it's been a challenge to gracefully decline participation in this special event - especially when Randy and I say "yes" to pretty much any church task.)

But then came the letter from the Great Plains UMC Bishop, recommending a move back to online worship services. Reading between the lines, it seemed the Bishop was recommending we celebrate Advent and Christmas at home - just like we did Lent and Easter eight months ago. 

Last weekend, as worship chair, I canceled our annual Hanging of the Greens to decorate the church for the holidays.

I texted another faithful family to make sure they saw the email cancellation notice. And the "little girl" I used to direct in the Joyful Noise Choir who is now a mom with children of her own texted, "I understand, but it makes me sad."

I texted back an emphatic, "Me too!!" complete with too many exclamation points.

So for Thanksgiving Sunday, I wrapped Christmas presents and listened to the fabulous organist at Wichita's First UMC play "Now Thank We All Our God" and "We Gather Together" instead of playing them on piano myself. Now that I'm the regular pianist at our church, I'd ordered a seasonal book and was practicing solo arrangements for our Stafford UMC service. 

Oh well, I sighed.

The Mary Oliver poem was just another "nudge" in my quest for silver linings. The night before, I'd finished the book Everything Beautiful in Its Time: Seasons of Love and Loss by Jenna Bush Hager. I told both Jill and my sister that it was the right read for this week of Thanksgiving. 

I must admit I'm a little jealous of celebrities who seem to have a Willy-Wonka-like "golden ticket" to publishing books. I'm sure her celebrity got her foot in the door of William Morrow Publishing, but if I'm honest, she writes well, and I enjoyed the book. In fact, I'd recommend it.

The impetus for the book was losing three grandparents in just a year's span. That grief is different from what most of us are feeling right now. But the loss of these hallmarks of our family life - like Thanksgivings around a family table or Christmas in a farm shed - are grief, too. 

In the book, Jenna Bush Hager detailed some of her grandparents' "rules for living." These are just a few from her grandpa, former President George H.W. Bush:

  • Don't get down when your life takes a bad turn.
  • Don't blame others for your setbacks.
  • When things go well, always give credit to others.
  • Don't be afraid to shed a tear when your heart is broken or because a friend is hurting.

And from her non-famous grandparents - her mom's parents Jenna and Harold Welch - this one stood out to me:

  • Get out of bed to go look at the stars - and always, always wish upon the first star you see.

So the poem about the blue iris - and most especially the weeds and the small stones - seemed to just continue to reiterate the message. It was a "God wink," as another friend calls it.


Even though I'd consciously thought about the words I was reading, it sometimes seems my perspective is as hazy as the view on an overcast day, with the drab days of fall reflected through a dirty feed truck window and fractured by a broken rearview mirror.

The way out of the pessimistic point of view can be as helter-skelter as a country road after a rainy weekend.
But it's all about perspective. That rainy, overcast sky dropped nearly 3/4-inch of rain over the weekend. 

It gave the young wheat crop a small shot in the arm even if it made for a few mud puddles while feeding. 

It's a lot easier to find the silver lining in migrating whooping cranes  ...

... who "breakfasted" for a couple of weeks in a field not far from our house ...
... or in sunset skies 
But in this week of Thanksgiving, I hope to notice them all - blue irises, mud and all. 

 Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 
Handiwork by my late mother-in-law, Marie
For another look at how cloudy skies produce the best silver linings and sunrise skies, check out this Thanksgiving post from 2013.


  1. Take a note from one of those grocery commercials that uses an Advent Calendar to do things for folks in the neighborhood. Write a short story for each day of Dec and share with family. ie what it was like when the great freeze of 19??? happened. How the Christmas of 19??? you couldn't find this item, etc..

    1. These are great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation. I'd had the book recommended to me earlier this year, but was somewhat skeptical as celebrity reads are not really my thing. I'm going to go ahead and "borrow" it on my Kindle.

    Thanks again and hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving in a different way.


    1. We chased cattle for awhile, which delayed dinner a bit. But, with no one extra here, I didn't worry about it. All in all, it was a good day. I hope you had a great one, too!

  3. Dare I say, 'this too will pass', but it is a very long road ahead. I find it quite overwhelming that just about everyone, anywhere in the world, are going through the same feelings. Thankfully for me, Australia is the exception, and just about all our borders will be open for Christmas without fear of any transmission. I am very thankful.