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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Happy Thanksgiving!

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

I just got back from a few days retreat at Bishop's House on Iona, hitching a lift there with my friend who was going on holiday. On the way, somewhere between Berriedale and Inverness, the air system in the car began to run without me turning it on or off. It blew faster when the car slowed down and slower when the speed was increased. The fan didn’t stop when the ignition was turned off. This was a problem.

Fortunately when it happened we were coming up to Inverness and the car garage was able to disconnect the system for the rest of our trip so we did not run the risk of the battery dying while away.

We had given some leeway for any occurrence on our way to the Oban ferry. That half hour cost us with only a half hour's grace left. We continued on our way, leaving Inverness, keeping the windows open. Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day.

While driving on the winding road along Loch Ness, there was a sudden grating noise which we dismissed as being the rough road. Very quickly, however, I realised it could not be that and knew it was the tyre. We pulled over just before it blew, the strong smell of burnt rubber filling our nostrils. Sure enough… it was a flat tyre. We’d had some experience with that earlier this year! (See January blog post: No sooner had we moved the car to the shoulder, then a pickup truck with 3 road maintenance guys stopped to help. In the previous tire puncture incident in the winter, my friend said rather wistfully, 'I knew I should have bought that jack at Halfords!' A few weeks later, he did just that - a huge contraption that was hard to miss and seemed to take up a good bit of space in the trunk of the car! I could not help commenting on it now and then.

As it happened, our rescue crew of three did not have one in their boot, so the car jack from Halford’s was just the thing to help make the tyre change an easy process. No longer could I comment on the absurdity of the large jack in the back of the car! My friend felt rather smug about his purchase.

While they changed the tyre I had the chance to stand on the shore of Loch Ness and breathe in the warm autumn air, and watch the water flow by in the sunshine. It was an opportunity to pause.

Then the tyre was on, we said our thanks and good-byes, and managed to keep a steady pace for the rest of the journey. We made it to the ferry just in time, with 3 minutes remaining! Phew! It felt very good to be on that boat.

To mark Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday, I bought a pumpkin, a pineapple and a plant. Yesterday evening, I made a thanksgiving dinner for my friend… but I did not have any of it.

I’ve been struggling with some health issues lately that affect my energy levels. It all hit a rather low point recently, so I’ve been on a limited diet - for now. Regardless, I was grateful that someone could enjoy the meal I made.

Along with a humble thanksgiving dinner, I made some banana bread. Whenever I pull out my mom’s recipe to make it, it reminds me of her and the practical and delicious ways she helped make a home for us in Canada, far away from her native Netherlands. Eventually we started to merge and adopt the ways of Canadian culture, celebrating events like Thanksgiving and the North American Christmas.

Perhaps since the pandemic, we have all come to see what things are important to us and things we can be grateful for. I have come to realise more profoundly how important health is. Lately I’m grateful for the times I feel fully myself and energised. When you don’t have the fullness of something, it makes you all the more thankful for when you do. You feel the difference.

The same goes with people and relationships in our lives. This recent time has changed the way we connect with people. We have found new ways to ‘meet up’ digitally, as well as ways of helping others. Perhaps we have also discovered different possibilities in solitude. Most of us have become used to a greater degree of isolation than ever before. The pandemic certainly highlights the things we have taken for granted. It brings up new approaches to reaching out, enabling connection and love to flourish. It has called us to be generous in creative and perhaps unfamiliar ways.

Writer Parker J Palmer reflects on where generosity comes from….’Perhaps (it comes) from another life-giving virtue, the one called gratitude. When I take the time to breathe in my life and breathe out my gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given, only one question arises: “How can I keep these gifts alive?”

I know only one answer: “Become a giver yourself, pass your gifts along, and do it extravagantly!” As Wendell Berry says, “Every day you have less reason/not to give yourself away.”’


I’m grateful for a functioning car to get to places, and people willingly stepping in to help. I’m grateful for the destination and time spent on retreat in a peaceful environment like Iona, and then to come back to shelter when the autumn rain is beating down and the wind is blowing. I’m grateful to have internet to Skype with my parents on Thanksgiving day….

And I’m thankful for the rhythms and life of nature around me.

I'm also grateful for you, the readers of my blog posts. It's fun to share with you, and to walk alongside you in some way on this strange, but wonderful journey. Thanks for being there!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Iona Abbey


My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be


The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

- by Mary Oliver -

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