Things to be grateful for

It’s the eve of American Thanksgiving Day, and rain has been falling steadily since last night — the first item on my thank-you list.

It isn’t simply the amount of rain but when it falls that I am grateful for. This is the appropriate season for rain in the Mediterranean. Locals tell me that the rains are late, that they should have started two months ago. Owners of citrus groves who needed rain in August reportedly have had to pay dearly for irrigation. One plumber complained that the first rainfall of the season, a few weeks ago, was much too much. Ideally, he said, the rain should fall gently and with restraint, so that the soil has time to absorb it, rather than the way it has done — in torrents, most of it running off and carrying a lot of topsoil with it. As a newbie farmer though, I am simply grateful for any rain to fall at this time — for the established trees — the olives, cherry, loquat, citrus, arbutus, and pines — as well as the new plantings of feijoa, cypresses, arborvitae, and understorey plants.

There are daily prayers in Judaism, a faith that arose in just such a Mediterranean climate as this, that praise God for causing the wind to blow and rain to fall, and request rain and dew as blessings on the earth (see also Leviticus 26).

“You are our God

Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.

For blessing and not for curse. Amen.

For life and not for death. Amen.

For plenty and not for lack. Amen.”

Today I give thanks for the blessings and grace of rain on my little farm.

I also give thanks for the blessings of health for me and all my family and friends; of physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance; of companionship, actual and virtual, of friends and family, including especially our newly adopted pets Lady Brown and Hunter, whose affectionate natures are a constant joy.

It is said that the first six months in a new place, especially in a new country, are the most trying. This month marks our first half year here in this house, and I am grateful for the kindness and graciousness of new friends and acquaintances whose generous advice and warm welcome into the community have eased our settling in to our new home.

Thanks are due as well to the tradespeople in and around Villalonga who have readily assisted us in so many diverse ways — carpenters, plumbers, solar/wind energy technicians, builders, gardeners, shopkeepers. And invariably they do so with professionalism and good cheer, some whistling and singing softly as they go about their work. This is in sharp contrast to the surliness and incivility of workmen in other countries.

In particular I am impressed with Valencians’ punctiliousness regarding time. Without fail, whenever a tradesman has set a time to be here, he is here at that time, or even before. This hardly happened in my decades of living in countries that supposedly value punctuality highly. (In Bonn, incredible as it may seem, the repairmen rarely gave a specific time to come – it was always between 9 am and 5 pm.)

Last but not least, in England the equivalent of Thanksgiving is the Harvest Festival, usually celebrated in church in my experience, when offerings of food are collected and later distributed to the needy in the parish. [No doubt the custom of Thanksgiving arose from the English (immigrant) pilgrims’ first harvest that ensured their survival over their first winter, made possible through the kindness and generosity of their native American neighbours. Sadly this historical fact has been seemingly forgotten or ignored in contemporary practice and politics.]

I am particularly pleased with our unexpected first harvest from our newly planted feijoa trees. Several had had flowers and incipient fruits when we bought them, still in pots. I had not expected that the fruits would survive transplanting. But they did, and we gathered over twenty from just four trees. Their flavour is superb. We have also harvested some olives from a few trees — these are now curing in several pickling jars. As well, we’ve been blessed with fruits from our chilli and tomato plants. For the wonderful wildflowers — the orchids, lilies, daisies, and other unknown plants whose leaves are now greening what used to be parched brown earth  — and fungi that have sprung up all around since the beginning of autumn and given such joy, I am also thankful.

feijoa-harvest-crop

chillis-crop

So yes indeed, on this day — which marks the beginning of the final 66 days to complete a year of writing my grace journal, there are uncountable blessings in living here, in a simple manner, at this time and enjoying this bountiful season in a peaceful and congenial mountain hamlet. For all these, I am deeply grateful.

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