I walked to a park to write this. The wind and the cold require me to write in heavy strokes to keep the ink flowing; the ink casts a shadow on the page before it dries. Today is as I imagined it. Solitary, but connected. Looking forward and back to more direct connection, and celebrating the connection inherent in community celebration. A family has their dinner set up in the pavilion, and a homeless man yells for a while in a Tom Waits preacher voice. A couple walks by, and with the sun at their backs creating shadow cowls, I thought they were a pair of nuns.

Park bench with neighborhood homes in the background

Thanksgiving Day tends to center around family, and I’m glad it does. Friendsgiving isn’t new, but it’s in style this year, and in some ways it’s a better celebration; family is the idea of embracing, and there’s more to give than thanks. I decided to spend much of today alone. It feels good but weird. Is my solitude honest, or am I like the voluntarily homeless who can return to a warm home when they feel like it?

I’ve had an abundance of family celebrations; it’s why this was my favorite holiday growing up. Still, I’ve always hated sitting around a table taking turns expressing gratitude. Today, spending the day alone, separated from the weight of expression, I’ve tried to figure out why, aside from the general distaste for obligatory goodness. My concentric reasoning centered on this: People I’m grateful for ought to already know it; if not, saying it today won’t repair my failure. If there’s value in the day’s namesake, it’s as a reminder to express gratitude every day, so that today doesn’t have to feel like a big deal that way.

On a solitary Thanksgiving Day, sitting under a setting sun, almost at the horizon myself, feet buried in leaves, is there value in expressing gratitude to myself? It isn’t a matter of mere self-esteem; it would have to be gratitude for what I do for myself. Do I take care of myself? Do I give myself things to live for? Do I challenge myself, and do I answer the challenge? Do I start things that matter to me? Do I finish them? At the end of a day, do I stop to recognize what went well? Do I surround myself with people who make me feel more like me? Do I, every day, do these same kinds of things for other people? Do I give them reasons to feel gratitude?

The horizon is the houses across the street. People are sitting under those roofs giving thanks and giving gratitude. The sun’s down, and it’s time to walk back to my horizon, to be better at both.