25 Nov 2016 Giving Thanks, Among Other Things
By Anna Steckel, Tivnu Resident Advisor
It’s no secret that Portland is a rainy place. Around Thanksgiving, the days become shorter, colder, and more dreary and gray. The sidewalks are kaleidoscopic from shedding trees. Warm socks and fleeces are unearthed from the attic after being stashed away for summer. Your hands become perpetually glued to a warm cup of tea. Your raincoat comes to feel like another layer of skin. But you never take that umbrella out from the depths of the coat closet. Pro-Portlander tip from a local: Umbrellas are sure to divulge your secret identity of Portland Transplant. Never take it out.
I recently spoke to a friend about her sister who moved from Portland to Los Angeles a few years back. The sister loved her year-round glow and had forgotten her familiar wool sweaters that now lay in the back of her closet. She went from day to day, year to year, basking in the sun, working, walking, chatting, visiting with friends, all without a natural cycle of seasons. Subsequently, the sister realized she had lost her natural cycle of personal reflection. But here in Portland, as the skies open up and unabashedly cry for months, we are given the opportunity to reflect. This is both individual and communal. We write in journals, read books that open our eyes to someone else’s truths and thus shed light on our own. We walk through our historic neighborhoods and just think. We gather together for support at a local coffee shop, hike together, talk together, be still together. We do this as a form of transition: We collect our thoughts from the year in an attempt to understand ourselves. Success in this feat is relative.
This is my favorite time of year. Misty clouds lie softly over the city skyline and the hills. Evergreens remain true to their name. Our city unites in a mutual understanding that this weather can be taxing so we extend ourselves to support others. I remind myself to cherish the warmth of my home and the comfort of my family and friends. I find safety when I process current events with Tivnu staff and participants. I send letters to loved ones. I fill the pages of my journal and then purchase a new one. I make a list of things I am grateful for and a second of optimistic but realistic changes to make in my life. I am a work in progress.
As we enter this transformative time of the year, the Tivnuniks are already getting used to the rain. They arrive home, exhausted from work and empowered by change. We congregate around the table with good food and we reflect together. We challenge ourselves to double our efforts in being thankful. In doing so, I remind myself of my great privilege. I remind myself to make use of it. I will continue standing up to injustice, hate, and bigotry and I urge you to join me. I am lucky to be in a community that works towards this on a daily basis. This Thanksgiving, think of those protecting water, land, and life at Standing Rock. The LGBTQIA* folks who are with their homophobic, transphobic families. The 2 million+ Hillary voters who might be forced for their own safety to neglect their politics as they sit down at the table with Trump supporters. Give thanks for what you have but prepare for the work ahead.