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Volume 16, Issue 47 - November 20 - November 26, 2008
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Bay Reflections

Preparing for Thanksgiving

If I had a galaxy-sized table …

by Elizabeth Ayres

Our ancestors — and I’m talking millions of years now, not just a century or two — our ancestors sat around a fire at night and told stories. Imagine. The sputtering red, hissing orange, flickering yellow. Just like now.

November. Driving down some back-country road. The trees slipping out of summer’s green disguise to reveal themselves as what they truly are: fire. Flames of it sputtering in the woods, sparks of it hissing onto the pavement, leaping licks of it flickering along stout limbs and spindly branches. Just like then. Imagine. 

The sputtering, hissing, flickering blaze cooks your food, warms your flesh, keeps wild creatures away and is the only light you can count on to find your way in the enveloping dark. You huddle close, with others huddled close, all of you listening as one to a voice that spins the firelight into words, knits the words into images, weaves the images into a tale that reveals who you are, how you came to be here, what you can hope to accomplish before you tiptoe from the circle into the howling night. Just like now.

No painter could do justice to the color flaring forth from these trees, because all these tints and tones, these hues and tinges, they’re not being applied to some inert canvas by some distant third party, then offered up for my enjoyment, no. This moment is an intimate waltz, a sexy tango, a strut-your-stuff cha-cha-cha between me and a living essence. It is light recreating itself in leaf molecules, in eyeball molecules, light becoming a part of the tree, then becoming a part of me, then becoming conscious of itself, then rejoicing because it knows itself to be glory and praise and hallelujah.

Listen. My voice spins the leaflight into words, images, a story. Listen. In the beginning, time and space and molecules came forth from fire, a sputtering, hissing, flickering blaze of possibility and potential. Beneath this disguise of skin and bone, our living souls are still aflame. With desire: the longing, craving, needing, demanding, wanting. With hope: believing desire can be fulfilled. Listen. It’s a very long story, so I’ll skip to now, Thanksgiving 2008, and I’ll tell you what I think. No, scratch that, I’ll tell you how I feel.

If I had a galaxy-sized table. If I were to place in the center of my table a cornucopia the size of the planet Earth. I would fill my trumpet-shaped basket with smiles. The smiles I saw on the faces of men, women and children all around the world, rejoicing because an African American was elected president of the United States. I would add the sweat of all the people who came to America in chains. And the tears of the first Americans, who were driven from their land so that others could call it home. And the hidden anguish of all the trees chopped down so that concrete expressways might flourish. Then I would mix in the determination of anyone who ever arrived on these shores, having left a place where possibility seemed extinguished.

Then I would give thanks. For this amazing moment when we can gather around the living flame of our longings, cravings, needings, demandings, wantings. To tell ourselves, once again, in words and images, the story of who we are and how we came to be here.

Because the American Dream is not some paint to be applied to the inert canvas of other countries around the world, no. It’s an invitation. To every person on earth. Whatever tint or tone or hue or tinge your living light of hope may be, now is the time to do an intimate waltz or a sexy tango or a strut-your-stuff cha-cha-cha with it. Because each of us is a glory and a praise, with something important to do before we tiptoe from the circle, and together we are hallelujah, a sputtering, hissing, flickering blaze of possibility and potential. In this new beginning.

Poet and writing teacher Elizabeth Ayres ( is the author of Writing the Wave and Know the Way. Listen for her radio program, Soundings, Saturday evenings from 6 to 6:30pm. Tune into WRYR 97.5 FM or catch it on the web at

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.