The New Kid on the Block | November and the Art of Giving Thanks

Posted in Blogs, Community

November 26, 2014

Ahhh, November. The autumn season is deep upon us and almost gone; nature is readying to pass on her seasonal baton, once again.

I don’t know if it was the thank-yous I learned in kindergarten while asking for paste, or the Pilgrim stock that I’m from—but something stuck, and I am grateful.


“Feeling gratitude
and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present
and not giving it.”


I love everything autumnal…the fluttering leaves, the thick sweaters, pumpkins marching down front porch steps, the last of the garden spilling over its container. I love watching the fat squirrels with their question-mark tails scamper amongst the now bare branches—in full sight where once they were hidden—stashing treasures, in the form of my newly planted bulbs, in the lawn and under my (until recently) still-blooming hydrangea.

Morning Frost in the Garden at Useless Bay Coffee Company  (photo by the author)

Morning Frost in the Garden at Useless Bay Coffee Company (photo by the author)

And, as much as I love the brightness of autumn, I really love November—and not just its late-month left-overs. It’s a softer, quieter month. Gone are the splashy colors of October; the reds and ambers have been replaced with muted shades of grays and plums and browns.

I’m finding, here on the island, that November is a bit like being in the Land of Oz. I’m not in Kansas, anymore. Never was. But, I’m not in Chicago, either. Things are just so different here.

Crisp, clear mornings, complete with frost on the pumpkins on lush still-green lawns, transition into warmer-than-expected afternoons. Twilight seems to come sometime after lunch and the gathering dusk takes on a time frame all its own. Nightfall comes early to my corner of the island and with its inky blackness—on a clear night—a diamond-studded sky. It all makes me want to shout out, “THANK YOU!” but I don’t want to break the silence or scare the deer.

I like to think of November as not just the month in which we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday—the day when we customarily gather together and share the 4F’s… feasting, family, friends, and football—when we celebrate our harvests, our good fortunes, our lives, and when we give thanks for that which we are grateful—but, also, as a month when we can leisurely gather our thoughts and reflect on those things that make that end-of-month celebration all that more meaningful.

November is the time of year when we can hone our skills in the art of giving thanks.

I’ve been on the island now for almost five months. How time flies when you’re having fun! I’ve experienced the Island’s summer and am enjoying her autumnal splendor. Every day brings a newness. I am not jaded (yet) by the days and days (and so I’ve heard…days) of rain and gray. I am enjoying the soft beauty of everything around me.

 Thankful Turkey (photo by the author)

Thankful Turkey  (photo by the author)

The drive up and down the highway changes from week to week. I drive it for the sheer pleasure of seeing the melding of the shadows and the wind through the grasses and the changing hues. The prairies now wear varying shades of gold, the waters—depending on the light or time of day are deep, deep blue or steely gray, and beyond are the snow-capped peaks of our nearby mountain ranges. I find myself in awe…every day…whether I’m on the beach or in the forest, driving the highway or watching for whales on the ferry. I thank my lucky stars for that day I drove over the north bridge and found my way home—to a place where I can put down roots and spread my wings.

And as glorious as the surrounding scenery is, it also makes me feel a bit melancholy, but more in a wistful way. It reminds me to take stock and to slow down before the commercialized frenzy of the holidays.

And that has been a good thing, as I’ve taken to walking into town before sunset. It is my favorite time of day and I get to soak up the views of the Passage and watch the people of my town do what they do in their ordinary, extraordinary ways. The sheer beauty of the island is enough to make me sigh but it’s the community connectedness that I am constantly reminded of that I am so thankful for on this rock I now call home.

Island spirit and pride are sprinkled everywhere and surface as a deep caring for each other—whether it’s to safely bring joy (and candy) to costume-clad children, by the helping hand given over a curb by a moment-ago stranger, the abundance of goods given to Good Cheer, the sharing of ideas at a writer’s workshop, the gathering together to say good-bye to a long-time friend, the genuine sense of joy at the unsheathing of the statues in downtown Langley on a mizzly afternoon. All these things add depth and grace to our towns. The towns are unique and connected and charming but it’s the people who make them so.

I am reminded, once again, how thankful I am for all the artists on this island—whatever their medium—whether it’s glass or jewelry, antiques or music, poetry or hair styling, farming or stonework, and all the rest—for sharing their talents and for those that bring those talents to the public. I am thankful for the performers and the workers and the educators and the shopkeepers and my neighbors who give so freely of themselves, in so many different ways, to make where we live so very special. I am so thankful I am here.

As I walk home, heart full of gratitude, I can hear in the swish-rustle of the leaves, Mother Nature whispering, “Winter’s coming. Cozy in. Relax. Stretch. Breathe.”

November is nature’s yoga studio. It is the month for shifting gears, settling in, stacking firewood, counting blessings.

And, yes there is that one day when we toast each other, the turkey (or tofurkey), our teams and those who are with us now only in spirit. We say our thanks for health and happiness, and some of us take naps.

As the earth quiets and settles in for her nap, something within me stirs and as I go through each day I find myself giving silent thanks for the small, gentle blessings of my life. I am thankful for the soft snore of my pug, the brightness of moonlight, the sweet, sticky warmth of honey on a toasted English muffin. I am grateful for the shy smiles of babies, waves from strangers and the magic and memories of fireflies. And so it goes.

I am thankful for the generosity of spirit of my old friends and family, my parents and children—all of whom are now so far away and whom I miss so very much. And, as corny as it may sound, I am so very grateful for this beautiful island. I searched a long time for a new hometown—a place that was equally naturally beautiful and that had an energy, a caring population, a creative side, a nurturing element—and I found it that day I drove over the pass. Thank you Whidbey and thank you to all my dear new friends and all of the warm and gracious people who have embraced me with such heartfelt welcoming.

One November, years ago, I started a list of things I was grateful for…marbles, music, children’s books, laughter, art in everyday life…the list now has thousands of things on it and I know I will continue to add to it. I don’t ever want to stop being grateful or finding new things to be thankful for.

As we slide on into the holiday season, remember these words from William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

So, this Thanksgiving and in the final days of lovely November, give that gift—to yourself and to others. I ask you to join me in counting our blessings—the obvious ones, yes, but the small, gentle ones, too. Share your gratitude with those you love, start your list, and practice the art of giving thanks.

Les McCarthy is an author, tutor, life coach and an IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life…365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She is a recent transplant to the island and is busy loving every glorious moment along with tending to (what seems to be on an hourly basis) the needs of her geriatric fur factory and neighborhood deer, squirrels and deck slugs.


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  1. Another amazing installment! Congratulations. All of my senses were enlivened and once again, my heart was touched. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Les, you continue to amaze and bless me with your gifts. I almost feel like I’ve been to your new corner of the world. Thank you for sharing.

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