November Challenge: Gratitude

Thanksgiving dinner! I refuse to use canned pumpkin; in fact I refuse to use pumpkin at all because there are so many more interesting and tastier squashes. Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day is spent cutting up winter squash, scooping out the seeds and roasting them with rosemary, garlic, olive oil and salt. The first smell of a wonderful feast to come. And then comes cooking the squash, either boiling or roasting it and mixing it with eggs, butter, spices and of course, our uniquely north American sweetener, real maple syrup. The abundant apples this time of the year are sitting on the basket waiting for me to sit down with a paring knife to turn them into pie, and for my daughters to steal the slices while I am not looking. Two of my favorite pies, Apple and “pumpkin,” about to be baked with ingredients sourced from our local foodshed. I am grateful for every smell, texture and pleasure derived from our food.

There is much more than food to be grateful for at our table. Our northeast Ohio climate gifts us with beautiful sugar maple trees turning bright red, and red cardinals on snowy days. It also provides the earthworm, the pollinator insects, and the very complex web of soil life providing ecological services that make life possible. These are less visible and taken for granted. Feeling grateful for the very existence of the natural world, and by the connections to nature is environmental gratitude. Environmental gratitude is defined as “[A] finely tuned propensity to notice and feel grateful for one’s surroundings on a regular basis, which generates pervasive attitudes of concern for planetary welfare and commitment to contribute ecological benefits to the extent of one’s ability.” *(Loder, 2011)

This type of gratefulness is different than that involving human interactions, as there is no one to give or to accept a specific gift or service. This did not seem to inhibit a friend of mine. On a walk with him, he saw a beautiful flower. Before he cut it, he asked permission and then thanked the plant out loud. He does sound a little crazy. Plants don’t understand English, but expressing the knowledge that this was a gift was an important lesson to me. Environmental gratitude becomes a way of appreciating, respecting nature and taking action to make it better. “Environmental gratitude is a rich and complex moral response. It can evolve from fleeting feelings into a sustaining personal and public virtue…At its most varied and familiar best, environmental gratitude permeates overall attitudes and dispositions and commits environmentally grateful people to creative thinking about environmental problems. In its most diffuse forms, environmental gratitude percolates into character and becomes a way of seeing and responding.” *(Loder, 2011)

(Loder Elizabeth, Gratitude and the Environment, 2011 The Journal of Jurisprudence)

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