November News Brief

Greetings from the tent!

Happy late fall, a time in our northern hemisphere for growing darkness, late harvests, and quieting in preparation for winter. There are many celebrations that call us to remember the ancestors. These include Halloween (Samhain), All Saints Day, All Soul’s Day, and Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).Thanksgiving, is a holiday traditionally about communing and feasting with family and friends. Last year, COVID-19 upended many family gatherings, so this year people are really looking forward to gathering despite news reports predicting that this Thanksgiving will be “the most expensive one yet” due to supply chain issues, inflation, ships stuck outside the California seaports, dock workers unwilling or unavailable to work, the pandemic’s continuing presence (more prevalent in some areas than others), etc. Despite all that, I’m guessing that many will gather in joy to share good company, food, and laughter. In keeping with our mission to provide resources and education for living well and dying with dignity, this News Brief includes some tips for enjoying Thanksgiving the “Further Shore” way.

  • Tip Number One:  Remember to be grateful! As I mentioned recently, Wayne reminded me to be grateful for everything. His favorite holiday was Thanksgiving (for the food and the gratitude). For many years Robert and I hosted a huge vegan Thanksgiving feast for family and friends. Some readers here will remember being part of the tradition. Long tables were arranged, taking up all the space in our very small great room. The celebration included heirloom tablecloths and stemware (my mom’s and grandma’s), tofurkey and all trimmings; vegan pecan pie, festive decorations, and fall flowers with sparkles. Each place setting had a candle in front of it. Before the feast, each guest shared a gratitude statement and lit their candle. Glasses were raised toasting that expression of gratitude, “CHEERS”!! Suffice to say that with 16 guests, we were in quite a celebratory mood by the time the main course hit the tables! In contrast, 2020 presented a table for two at our house. Robert and I enjoyed a meal and talked about gratitude and privilege, a humbling conversation on the heels of a tumultuous year. We zoomed with family and friends, toasted our good fortune to have survived 2020, and walked in the forest with our pups. It was a good day. It was extremely different than the other Thanksgiving celebrations, but it was a good day. In this excellent article, Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, addresses gratitude and mindfulness including how to be grateful for humanity’s 10,000 sorrows as well as its 10,000 joys. Gratitude is a good practice every day; it is a great practice on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Tip Number Two:  Stay healthy and be mindful of others at your gathering who may be vulnerable to the dreaded coronavirus that is still circulating. Sorry to bring up that pesky virus again, but on behalf of vulnerable people, I need to do it. If you plan to travel for a holiday celebration, you may want to consider the tools to avoid COVID-19.
  • It is flu season and if you catch a cold or the flu, your immune system may not be in tip top shape, so consider immune boosting foods before, during and after travel.
  • You may want to have (or be required to have) a rapid or other covid test before you travel and/or attend your gathering. Check CDC Tips for domestic travel.
  • Masks are required on airplanes and at some gas stations across the USA (on the Navajo nation for example).
  • Social distancing (keep 6 feet apart) in the airport, grocery stores, hotel lobbies, or other public places might make sense especially if you are in areas with high community spread.
  • Hand hygiene is important (bring your own sanitizer or wipes).
  • There is abundant available research on the efficacy of vaccines and risks associated with taking the shot or not. Talk to your doctor. Do your research. Your host may request that guests are vaccinated or have a negative test before joining the party. Check in with them before you travel! In turn, you may want to ask about the vaccine status of other guests. It might be uncomfortable to ask but it is useful if you are immune compromised or caregiving for someone who is. Breakthrough cases are rare but possible and can be dangerous for the most vulnerable (over age 65 or immunocompromised).
  • A risk assessment will assist caregivers and those who are vulnerable to make informed decisions about holiday travel. Look to your intended destination’s state and local health agencies for information about community vaccination status, test positivity rates, local safety protocols, hospital capacity and/or other resources for critical care in case of exposure to the virus or any type of emergency. Hospitals in several areas are struggling to provide patients with critical care beds, ventilators, oxygen, and medical staff. Be safe out there!
  • Tip number 3: Enjoy good food! Whatever you serve for the main dish, your guests will love Wayne’s Pecan Pie for dessert. The recipe in our cookbook, Recipes from the Food Doctor and Friends includes a whole wheat crust. Here’s my gluten free version:
Yummy Pecan Pie!
1 box GF graham crackers (8 oz.) I use Pamela’s or S’moreables
6 TBS Earth Balance (melted)
¼ cup turbinado sugar (optional)
Pulse all ingredients in food processor then press into pie dish. Bake crust for about 5 minutes to set. Let cool.
2 cups pecans toast in oven at 375 degrees for 7 minutes (DON’T BURN THEM)
¾ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 TBS amaretto
¼ tsp. salt
3 TBS flaxseed (use seed grinder to grind to fine powder)
1/3 cup plain or vanilla soymilk
1 ½ tsp. arrowroot
Place toasted pecans in crust. In a saucepan, combine maple syrup, rice syrup, amaretto, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground flaxseeds and cook 2 more minutes. Let cool. In food processor, blend cooled mixture, soymilk, and arrowroot. Pour mixture over pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm or cold with vegan ice cream or coconut whipped cream. YUMMY!

Tip number 4: Let there be grace. I am not referring to prayers or invocations spoken before the meal. Rather I’m drawing from the Latin root meaning of grace (gratitude) and the benevolent, compassionate, open state of being that arises when we are mindfully present for joyful and sorrowful things. As holidays can certainly evoke bittersweet memories of celebrations past or loved ones lost, I am offering a virtual practice to share the gift of grace on November 20, 2021. This program is fully booked but let me know if you would like to participate in a similar future event.

I’m wishing everyone a happy season of quieting and a joyful, graceful Thanksgiving. Thank you for your interest in our mission May you be safe, well, and content.


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