Our bodhran player, Takeshi Horiuchi, flew in from Japan to join Nick Hirka and us with dances in Lisbon and Decorah, Iowa just last week. Most of these concerts were the result of our volunteers (STeam) working to make it a WayGood World. I want to thank Alexandra Lyons in the UK; Neil and Kathy Driscoll, Michelle Shubitowski, Joan and Mary Ellen Mitchanis in Illinois; Lora and Mark Cole, Tracie Williams, Tammy Maneely, Gary and Linda Witcombe in Iowa; and Joyce and Jim Close and Cathy Osmundson in Colorado for the work they did to create, organize and promote these events just in the last month alone. Brian and I are so grateful for our wonderful volunteer corps.
The year is quickly drawing to a close which makes me think about Thanksgiving. For those of us in the United States and Canada Thanksgiving is celebrated in the autumn. Usually it has some connection to gratitude for a successful harvest. For Canadians though it may have something to do with Martin Frobisher, who held a “thanksgiving celebration” in 1578 on Baffin Island for dodging all the icebergs on his journey from England. Or for French Canadians it may be for their harvest celebrations, but then again, perhaps not.. Not all provinces even recognize Thanksgiving. The ones that do celebrate it in October, which seems far too early for most Americans. But now with global warming and polar vortices swinging all the way to Florida, it seems our northern cousins have the right idea, especially when “over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” means owning a snowcat and braving polar bears these days.
For Americans of course it goes back to our honored traditions, that of the Puritans celebrating with the Native Americans a successful harvest of peace and unity. Of course, any student of American history knows how long that party lasted.
No, it had to do with George Washington, who declared a 13 state-wide Thanksgiving in 1789 for pulling off the revolution.
Wait, it really has to do with Abraham Lincoln, declaring the last Thursday of November a day of Thanksgiving in 1863 in an attempt to lure the warring southern states back to the family table with a bribe of turkey.
No, no, no. Really it was Franklin Roosevelt, that practical president, who declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving to help boost the economy.
And all the corporate retailers looked upon that date and declared it good. And that is why we now celebrate Thanksgiving as the day the Pilgrims brought Santa to the Native Americans to watch football before they all broke down the doors of Walmart so they could celebrate the real holiday: Black Friday.
Somewhere in it all, a little beacon still shines, that beacon being the attitude of gratitude. A long time ago I heard that the shortest prayer in the world is “Thank You.” And perhaps that is what makes Thanksgiving such a cool holiday. That we take a moment to acknowledge that we are only as good as those who love us and support us. That we are only as lucky as Providence deems us to be, whether it is dodging icebergs or just making it over another 35,000 miles of road without any mishap.
Always at this time of year, Brian and I take to the phones and start calling performing arts centers, theaters, festivals, and the like to book the next couple of years. And always that empty calendar looks so daunting. As the late Joan Rivers remarked, an empty calendar is the scariest thing to a performer as it means that you are not working, not wanted, and not relevant. But somehow through the year, with the help of volunteers, friends, patrons, the Almighty, and some perseverance, we make it through. Shows come together, tours take shape, the calendar fills, and instead of throwing in the towel, we look forward to the next year. And so it has been for 28 years now.
To say I am blessed is an understatement. That I can do what I love and have people who support that and literally pass that love along to others is pretty much a miracle. That I now have a little daughter who will grow up with an amazing extended family is another miracle. And a wife who believes in what I am doing enough to encourage me to continue is truly a miracle. That there are fans who listen to our music, know our lyrics by heart, and travel many miles to come to our concerts is a miracle. And perhaps what all those Thanksgivings have in common is that a significant milestone is reached in community. Thanksgiving is about a collective celebration of achieving something. Certainly in Switchback, we celebrate that we continue to make music and create community. And for that, we utter the shortest prayer in the world: “Thank You.”