Letter From New York: December 2, 2009

Or: as it seems to me…

As I was preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast, starting my day by peeling yams, I had NPR on the radio to keep my company.  It seemed a docile companion, National Public Radio.  My thought was that there wouldn’t be any real news on Thanksgiving Day – everyone, like me, was in his or her kitchen, peeling yams, or prepping potatoes, making cranberry sauce.  The world didn’t have time to get into trouble on Thanksgiving… Ah, I had fallen into the grand American parochialism– if we were busy nothing could happen anywhere. Ah, I was wrong.

Utilizing the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States, along with a long Muslim holiday, to buffer fallout, Dubai World, Inc. announced it wanted to delay payments on its sixty billion dollars in debt by six months, a gesture that was tantamount to default, a move that shook the global markets that were operating. The London Exchange took a dive as did the German as did…   it had the potential of being a big mess, another nail in the world financial order’s coffin.  So far, it hasn’t turned out that way but it could have been…

But it was Thanksgiving and I had guests coming and there wasn’t much I could do about what was happening in Dubai or about the aftereffects in the rest of the world.  I had yams to peel.  And squash to make and bread to bake… And things to be grateful for… It was a staggeringly beautiful day, bright and  cheery and warm. Friends were coming to join me.  I was, at that moment, cozily safe in the cottage, surrounded by food that needed fixing for feasting.  I was not living in Baghdad or Kabul or Darfur.  I was living in the calm of Claverack and the creek was flowing peacefully by and I was undisturbed by bombs or IED’s, suicide bombers or the ravages of Mother Nature.  I was living an almost perfect moment.  There could be many regrets but at that moment regret seemed pointless compared with the gifts of the hour. Twice I ruined the soup I was making and each time I started fresh I had enough to start over.

Friends arrived, feasting was done, clean up was accomplished, leftovers sent home. Houseguests appreciated and were appreciated.  Black Friday was not celebrated by an orgy of commercialism.  It was, all in all, a pretty perfect Thanksgiving.  Everywhere I turned, there were things to be happy for… Kevin Malone had returned safe from Zambia, I was healthy, and the turkey was moist. Getting on the train on Sunday to return to the city, one of the conductors presented me with a birthday card she had put together with another conductor, carrying it until she ran into me. My cup overflowed.

We are living in parlous times and, against that backdrop, it is wise, I think, to take each moment and smell it deeply, savor it as much as possible.  Who knows what radio report heard while peeling yams will signal some great distress?  There is so little we can control and so much we can give ourselves permission to enjoy.

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