Pie crusts, check. Pecans, check. Pumpkin, check. It was a good afternoon yesterday, shopping for what I’d need to make my pies. Two of them this year: a Dutch apple pie and a pumpkin and pecan pie. And some cheddar-dill scones, for good measure; not that we need them, but they will be good for our souls.
The baking of them will be sweet, too; baking is one of my favorite things to do. Even on the years when my mother has assigned me to cook the vegetables, I always manage to sneak in a dessert too; it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.
What I’m writing about, I guess, is tradition: the well-worn paths that we make for ourselves, because to be in them feels like being home. Recently, my attention was snagged by a different definition of tradition, one I found in an obituary for the composer John Tavener. He wrote, “It has taken me years to really understand what tradition is, and to explain it to anyone else is difficult. People call it different things. In Islam, the Sufis call it “the eye of the heart.” …It’s a different way of thinking about writing music. I used to fret over manuscripts and think, ‘What am I going to do?’ Now it’s a question of going very quiet, emptying my mind of preconceived ideas and seeing what happens. It’s not so much a matter of finding my voice as finding the voice.”
It’s not so much a matter of finding my voice as finding the voice. That is, indeed, what lies at the heart of each of the great spiritual traditions: the act of stilling the soul to listen for the One we really need to hear. It is a kind of hospitality: welcoming into our hearts and lives the One who waits for us in the cold.
Thanksgiving is great for that. It’s not only about family; it’s about gathering all the strays to the table — friends, immigrants, people who have nowhere else to go. We open our doors and take them in. And we have God’s own promise that when we take them in, we take in God as well. Watch for him, out of the corner of your eye. And be thankful.
And have another slice of pie.
Tavener’s words cited from Allan Kozinn, “John Tavener Dies at 69; Composer with Eye on God,” New York Times, November 13, 2013.