Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Thousand Thanks (at least) - I

8:43 AM Thursday, November 22, 2012

It is Thanksgiving morning. It’s unseasonably cool here in Central Florida with temperatures in the low 50s. The sunlight is brilliant against a deep blue sky, not a cloud in sight. Tonight the weather folks are predicting it will finally drop to the upper 40s here in town. We may light our first fire in the fireplace tonight. One of life’s little joys.

The turkey I will serve at my friend’s home this afternoon is in the oven still defrosting but before the day is over will be crowned with a tiara of onions and mushrooms held on by toothpicks which will allow the marinade of sauvignon blanc, butter, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and spices to flavor and tenderize the old bird until ready to serve. I usually give the turkey a name each year. Perhaps I’ll call him Mitt this year. What a turkey he was!

The ingredients for my stuffing sit by the oven ready to be mixed together: cornbread stuffing mix with wild rice, walnuts, celery, onions and water chestnuts.  And my famous yellow squash casserole is ready for preparation as well with the squash, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, garlic, several different cheeses, Dijon mustard, Greek yogurt and basil on standby. It will be a glorious feast.

I head out for mass shortly. I will pick up my priest friend visiting from New York and my  legally blind friend, Charles, who will go to church with me. The gathering at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church will be small and sweet this morning. While I no longer have to go sing in the cathedral choir anymore as in Thanksgivings of the past, I still find it important to go to church to give thanks to an incredibly gracious G-d on this day.

 I have at least a thousand things to be thankful for this day. What follows is the abridged list. It is hardly exhaustive and any lack of mindfulness in its recitation should NOT be seen as a lack of gratitude regarding the many gifts which have marked my life. Indeed, at some level one of the downsides of having so many things for which to be grateful is the possibility of losing track of all of them when it comes time to say thank you. It's a problem most of us would love to have.

I begin with the lyrics from one of my favorite films of all time, The Wiz. 

When I think of home
I think of a place
where there's love overflowing
I wish I was home
I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing…

Maybe there's a chance for me to go back there
Now that I have some direction
It would sure be nice to be back home
Where there's love and affection…

And I've learned
That we must look inside our hearts
To find a world full of love
Like yours
Like me
Like home...

(“Home,” The Wiz, 1978) 


That closing number from The Wiz sung by a homeward bound Dorothy always reminds me of my own deep need for home both as a place and as a state of existence. One of the deepest crises in my life was the loss of my home in 2004 to Hurricane Charley. And one of the greatest tributes to the many qualities of my husband, Andy, was his ability to see us through the four year process of rebuilding our home. It was a long and grueling endurance test. But we have our home again.

Home means the jungle of tropical and subtropical plants which surrounds our home, New Coverleigh, shrouding it from the view of the passerby on the street. The running joke in the neighborhood is “Rumor has it there is a house back there.” It is a green oasis in the middle of a city for owls, osprey, and a wide range of smaller birds, a home for squirrels, rats, the occasional snake, possums, raccoons and the neighborhood cats. It is a yard brimming with flowering plants and the butterflies that come to visit them reminding me of my Mother’s ongoing presence with me.

It is the final resting place for five of my fur babies who lie together in the southeast corner of my yard beneath a bamboo stand. It is a sanctuary dotted with sculpture representing various world religions in front of which I periodically burn incense thanking the divine for the holiness of the good earth itself. It is a joy to wake up in this place each morning with the sunlight filtering through leafy branches. I am very fortunate to live in such an oasis and I am thankful for it every day.

Home means sunlight pouring through my home’s picture windows aligned east/west to the rising and setting sun illuminating the assemblage of colored glass bottles and blue glass birds that fill the window sill. Home means stacks of books reflecting my life’s many faceted intellectual journeys, art from around the world reflecting my life’s actual journeys, and photos of the many human animals who have graced my life placed around my family altar in our bedroom. I go to sleep and awake with the communion of saints overlooking me. When I burn incense there, I always say a prayer of gratitude for their presence in my life conclude with a prayer to help me always remember who I am and where I come from.

Home means peering out windows with no curtains into a jungle which protects our home from public view, a home in which outside flows in and inside expands out onto a large deck in the back with its hammock from which one might swear they are anywhere but in the heart of a city of 2 million. I am thankful for this refuge from the madness and mania that often marks my life.

Home means a houseful of living beings that begins with three aquaria from 20 to 50 gallons full of fish. My two large goldfish have now been with me five years and lumber with grace around the large tank separating living room from dining room. I am thankful for their beauty and their companionship.

Home means being owned by three cats, the first a beautiful ebony boy named Romero with a mind of his own and a determination to gain attention precisely when he wants it (e.g., by standing in front of your computer monitor or TV screen) and no other time; a beautiful silver tabby named Magadalena who is the world’s biggest drama queen, flopping herself at your feet when you enter the room and then screaming bloody murder when you pick her up to love her (Call the ASPCA!  Wait, I’ve got it on speed dial!) ; and a sweet little golden tabby named Frida, a rescue from the parking lot of a campus residence hall, who organizes and lobbies for the daily snack time for all the cats and allows her daddy to pick up his little golden dewdrop just once each day. I am grateful for them all.

Home means a beagle named Daisy who loves to howl at the rats skittering along the back fence and a new black and tan dachshund puppy named Oscar who loves to chew on sticks and decorate the living room in rolls of shredded toilet paper. They are the joys of our lives. It is their kisses I experience first thing in the morning and their warm slumbering bodies next to my own that I experience last thing at night, the time I spend thanking G-d for all the blessings of my life and marveling at how I got to be the luckiest man in the world.

Home means remembering the animals I have lost the past two years, now resting in the pet cemetery in the corner of my yard: Julian, my dachshund of 17 years who along with Simeon, the black cat who owned me for only 15 years, got me through graduate school. There is also Magnificat, my mystical cat who came from the Rosicrucian neighborhood of San Jose and could, according to my friend, walk through the walls when she thought no one was looking. She departed our home last year after 17 years of companionship. It’s been a rough couple of years for New Coverleigh animals but I will always be grateful for their having graced our lives so many years.  

Home is the place where I live with all my babies including my biggest baby. Home means sharing my life with a beautiful soul named Andy whose generosity of spirit and depth of soul continues to amaze me even after 38 years of knowing and loving him. Home means understanding implicitly Aristotle’s assessment of loving friendship as “a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” Andy is my life’s greatest gift, a fact that humbles me when I think about it and often makes me wonder how I could ever have deserved such a gift. I never take that precious gift for granted and on this day of Thanksgiving it is the gift for which I am most grateful.


The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, M.Div. J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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