Thanksgiving on the South Common

It was quiet on the Common at 7 a.m. when I made the circuit with our Boston Terrier, Ringo. How cold was it? Not very. Enough for a seasonal edge. The leaf-trees are empty. On the ground all the color has drained from the leaves, which from a distance resemble light brown scatter rugs under the grayish trees. The firs and pines appear to be an even darker green for being the remaining filled out tree tops. The grass is still green but not as lush as in high summer. In the shade, frost whitened the papery brown leaves. Across on the north rim, under the Eliot Church spire the volunteers had gathered to prepare the vast community meal that is a tradition on Summer Street, at the spot where the 17th-century Christian preacher from Boston approached the local peoples who had been coming to the fishing grounds between the two rivers for hundreds of years or more.

There’s a big brass sign from 1930 that was installed in front of the church on the 300th anniversary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Among other points of interest, Rev. John Eliot translated the Bible into the local language of pre-Lowell, Wamesit, being the Algonquian language, and later wrote a book calling for an elected theocracy to be the ideal form of government. Considered a religious extremist in England, he had shipped out to Massachusetts in 1631, which means he was a peer of the pilgrims who got involved with the natives down Plymouth way and cooked up the first Thanksgiving feed, which some contrary historians locate in 1565 St. Augustine, Fla., or 1619 at the Virginia Colony, both of which celebrated good harvests with feasts according to the sources at Wikipedia.

So there’s a little bit of Puritan dust in the dirt along the edge of the South Common. The spirit of charity prevails in the good deeds at today’s church that gathers its congregation from contemporary pilgrims of a different kind, people from far lands who found their way to America to start over, people who fill in the wooden benches alongside parishioners with long roots in this place. They’re all there today making a meal for their neighbors who will be thankful to have one this mid-day.