Thanksgiving 2020

My childhood home address was “Street.” My college address was “Drive.” In Seminary and in our North Dakota home we lived on an “Avenues.” In Idaho, we lived on a “Road.” Our South Dakota home was on a “Lane.” Now we’re back to an “Avenue” one again. We’ve so far not yet had an address with “Way” or “Loop” or “Boulevard.” Like our South Dakota home, our current home is on a hill. “Hillcrest Avenue” really does go over the crest of a hill. For us this means that like our South Dakota home any walk from our house involves an uphill return. You have to learn to save some energy for the end of the walk. Nonetheless, the hill involved at this house is a lot less steep than the one at our Rapid City Home. Some days we feel like hopping in the car and driving a bit before taking our walk, exploring some of the various nearby trails. Some days we just walk around the neighborhood. Since we are new, there are lots of things to explore by food within an easy walk. A short walk from our home we can turn onto the Kulshan Trail, a 2.5 mile section of a converted rail bed. The trail is paved and passes by salmon rearing beds and other natural areas. There are several beautiful and interesting metal sculptures along the path. Near one end of the trail is the Habitat for Humanity Restore. At the other end of the trail is Bakerview Park. We pass bicycle commuters and runners as well as other walkers when we walk there.

Yesterday, we walked east on the trail, which led us alongside LaVenture Middle School, home of the Falcons. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mount Vernon Schools have paused on-campus learning, so there weren’t any students out on the large field next to the school which doubles as a soccer field and a football field. The football goalposts are fixed, but the soccer goals can be moved depending on which game is being played. No human players, yesterday, however. The bleachers were empty of fans. We didn’t see any birds of prey, either. Instead, the field was occupied by large groups of Canadian geese. The Skagit Valley is winter home to a lot of wintering ducks, geese and swans. By numbers, there are a lot less Canadian geese in the area than snow geese. You might think that being so close to the border there would be more, but then again the border is closed at present due to the pandemic. Perhaps geese are considered essential business and exempt from the closure. Yesterday, however, the school field was a place for Canadian geese. We were trying to figure out their game, but could see no ball in play, though there was quite a bit of “cheering” coming from the fans alongside the field. Filling the trees near the field and occupying a few strategic locations around the field was a murder of crows. The Crows were raising their voices above the din of the geese. For that short section of our hike, the usual quiet of the natural places was filled with lots of raucous noise. It appeared that the crows were arguing with one another, not with the geese. We decided that the competition on the field wasn’t between the crows and the geese.

We have seen plenty of crows in the Black Hills, but never in the large groups that we have seen here. As birds go, crows are fairly intelligent. When I was a kid one of the neighbors “adopted” an injured crow and helped nurse it back to health. The bird “learned” several words and would hang around the neighborhood and it sounded like it was talking as it imitated the sounds its human friends had taught it.

There are plenty of birds to watch in our new home. Yesterday was garbage day for our neighborhood. Our day is usually Thursday, but the Thanksgiving holiday is a long weekend for the workers who drive the garbage and recycling trucks, so we had an early pickup. Those whose usual day is Friday will have to wait until Monday for their pickup. Around the corner from our house I saw a garbage can that had been filled to overflowing with a large garbage bag peeking out of the partially opened cover. It had attracted a group of seagulls who were finding food in the bag and spreading the rest of its contents on the street. I’ve heard of other animals spreading garbage and we worried about the wind in South Dakota, but this was my first experience with birds getting into the garbage. They were making a mess that rivaled any made by raccoons.

So far we haven’t seen any deer or turkeys in our neighborhood, but we seem to have plenty of non-human neighbors to keep us entertained for the present. We have always been grateful for all of our neighbors and enjoy the antics of all kinds of creatures.

As we develop new traditions in a new place, we will be thinking of our South Dakota family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner today. The numbers will be smaller, as everyone is being careful to avoid large groups during the pandemic, but there will be a gathering of our friends in a place where we have often celebrated the feast. Due to the difference in time zones, we’ll probably be sitting down to dinner a bit later than the folks in South Dakota, but they will be on our minds as we say our thanksgiving prayers.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth colony must also have been thinking of family back in England and Holland after a year when nearly half of their number succumbed to disease and hunger. Perhaps their Wampanoag neighbors were also feeling a bit nostalgic for the former days before their numbers had been reduced by epidemics. Thinking of those who are not with us in this time and place is a long honored tradition of the day.

Who knows, maybe the geese are also thinking of their cousins who are spending this winter north of the border.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!