Consider living off the land as our ancestors did at the very first Thanksgiving

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, and food prices only one among many of the rising costs of living under the current economic climate, I turned my attention toward our ancestors, especially those present at the very first Thanksgiving feast. The brave, pioneering Pilgrims and their skillful Native American neighbors came together for a feast to give thanks for each other, for their health and wellbeing, for God, and for the land from which they scraped their existence. These inhabitants of the New World did not have access to our modern technology, especially not fossil fuels or the internet, yet they still had a great deal to be thankful for; many of which are unfortunately lost to modern New Englanders and Americans at large.

While we all gather around the dining table for our Thursday feasts, we are certainly thankful for the family and friends who we share our meal and time with. We, especially with our experiences of the past years, are also deeply thankful for our health. Many of us (though I pray it would be all) will also express our thanks to God who provided these bountiful lifely pleasures and guided us through our tribulations up to this point. Yet there is a lack in our thankfulness, a gap which our ancestors were most certainly thankful for, and that is the land, and its own myriad blessings.

The first Thanksgiving was a feast largely acquired from the forests, fields, and gardens of New England. Squash and corn gathered from the tended ground was consumed alongside venison and fish harvested from the wild woods and streams of the region. The 17th century revelers were giving thanks for all the aforementioned reasons of course, but also for the land itself which provided their bountiful harvest through the work of their own hands.

I believe it is time for us to return to this view of the natural world. Since many claim to want to protect the environment but never do anything which would lend to its true appreciation, and many others ignorantly rape the countryside for all its resources without paying it a second thought, it is evident to me that too few of us are thankful for the land on which we live, or for the plants and animals with which we share it.

This past weekend I spent my morning in the woods, as I do whenever I get the opportunity, hunting for the magnificent white tailed deer. This most recent excursion was noteworthy enough to mention here because I was successful in my harvest, and was able to bring home a 122 pound buck, certainly enough to fill a freezer for the winter and provide an exquisite Thanksgiving feast. When I harvested this animal, I immediately knelt down beside it, and prayed alongside Saint Hubert, the patron Saint of hunters. I thanked God for providing me with the deer, and I thanked the deer himself for the many meals he would provide for myself and my family.

When I begin to cook the venison I was fortunate enough to harvest, I will be equally as thankful for the squash, potatoes, corn, beans, and berries I will inevitably have on my plate as well. While I could have taken the easy route and gone to the store to purchase beef or chicken or the famed Butterball turkey, I find myself taking these foods for granted, and not properly thanking those responsible for providing me with these meals. They certainly offer just as much nutritional value as anything harvested from the woods, but they lack a spiritual sustenance which I believe is vital to the human soul.

Rising food costs also provide a significant incentive to return to the land for our nutritional sustenance. With the extensive amount of small and big game hunting and fishing that one is allowed to do with a relatively inexpensive state issued license, the cost per pound of high quality, completely organic and free range meat is dramatically reduced. Similarly, growing your own vegetables or harvesting them from the wild (if you have the knowledge to only pick edible plants, and if it is legal in your area) can significantly reduce your food budget while maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.

I hope one day to be able to sustain my family and I only on what I can harvest by my own hands. I often dream of a large garden behind my house, and spend my evenings planning the next sunrise hunting trip. At the same time, I understand the limitations of our modern world. The woods seem to get farther and farther away with every passing hunting season as the cities and suburbs encroach lot by lot into the wilderness, busy daily schedules of classes and work and meetings interfere with the ability to faithfully tend a garden; but to lose all connection to the natural world would truly be a sad thing. I, for one, will continue to foster my physical and spiritual connection to the environment, ever searching for the purest and most meaningful life I can possibly live, and I would encourage you all to do the same.

For the Pilgrims and Native Americans, they had no choice but to harvest what they could from the land to fill their Thanksgiving table. As modern Americans, we have the option to go to stores instead, but inflation paired with dwindling supply has made this option incredibly expensive for many families. Looking back to our ancestors may be the best way in these financially and faithfully unstable times to obtain both nutritional and spiritual sustenance, while gaining a deeper appreciation for the environment and giving thanks for the very land that sustained the first inhabitants of this great nation. I pray that this Thursday you will all be blessed with a good meal and family and friends to share it with, and that you will bear in mind the land from which every generation, from the first Thanksgiving to this, has filled their table.