Ceremony as Gratitude

“When he lifts the coffee pot from the stove the morning bustle stops; we know without being told that it’s time to pay attention. He stands at the edge of camp with the coffeepot in his hands, holding the top in place with a folded pot holder. He pours coffee on the ground in a thick brown stream. The sunlight catches the flow, striping it amber and brown and black as it falls to the earth and steams in the cool morning air. With his face to the morning sun, he pours and speaks into the stillness, ‘Here’s to the gods of Tahawus.’ …

“The power of ceremony is that it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to a prayer. The material and the spiritual mingle like grounds mixed with humus, transformed like steam rising from a mug into the morning mist.

“What else can you offer the earth, which has everything? What else can you give but something of yourself? A homemade ceremony, ceremony that makes a home.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer from her book Braiding Sweetgrass.

I found these words from Kimmerer in artist Terri Wilding’s blog Myth & Moor: Wilding pulls extended excerpts from books on topics such as art, nature, and ritual, pairing them with her own words as well as beautiful art images or photos from her own life in a Dartmoor village. Wilding’s blog has offered me much solace and insight over the years.

Wilding notes that simple ceremonies, like the morning coffee Kimmerer’s father offers the earth are acts of gratitude, humbly offered to the greater whole.  I realized that although I keep a gratitude journal it is an inward, more internal action of grounding – I acknowledge what I am grateful for as a reminder to myself, but I don’t offer any thanks to the world which provides these gifts.  Since reading Wilding’s post, I have been wondering how to include a simple gratitude ceremony – one that is not all about me – into my life. How can I show respect for the earth and all its gifts in the midst of a Brampton suburb?

This suburb is mundane in the extreme, all houses and driveways and asphalt. Highway and airplane noise are constant so we have keep the windows shut all year round. Very few trees were planted when the suburb was built forty years ago and few people garden so what vegetation there is struggles to thrive. Most shrubs and plants are ornamental, with only the occasional native pine or birch tree.


Photo by George Berberich on Unsplash

At the same time, we are fortunate that our backyard has three youngish trees, just now coming into bud.  The crabapple will bloom soon.  We set up a birdfeeder and have been rewarded with visitors, from doves to red-winged blackbirds to sparrows to cardinals to finches. With the global shutdown – the Great Confinement as one artist named it – there is little traffic noise so windows can be open and I can hear bird chatter all day.  Right now the feeder needs to be refilled daily as the birds busily prepare nests and seek mates. As I spend time every day just watching the birds I realize that this may be my  offering to the earth – the daily replenishment of black sunflower seeds – a small expression of my gratitude for the joy of their songs and soaring arcs through the sky.

“What else can you offer the earth, which has everything? What else can you give but something of yourself? A homemade ceremony, ceremony that makes a home.”


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