Why they'll give thanks
Well-known authors tell The Globe and Mail what they'll be thankful for this year
Saturday, October 6, 2001
I have a knack for living in the United States at moments of national convulsion. I watched the Challenger disaster on the crappy television in my New York apartment, the Persian Gulf war from a house on Cape Cod.
The events of Sept. 11 found me in an old bungalow in Gainesville, Fla., a football-crazy university town where the the single tall building is 10 storeys high - mall land, land of flags, up the interstate from Walt Disney World, not all that far from the Kennedy Space Center (and a number of Florida flying schools), but far from Washington or New York, and even farther from Toronto, my home.
At the best of times, being Canadian in the United States can make you feel like the practitioner of a quaint religion. Mention that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and people ask, "Why?" Meaning, you have no pilgrims. Or, what do Canadians have to be thankful for anyway?
This year, a celebrant in absentia, I'm thankful, as always, for food. In the face of disaster, the possibility of eating and being able to treat the act as ordinary appears to be a kind of grace. I'm grateful for the overhead sound of airplanes, wishing only that this sound be returned to us as benign, the breath of journeys.
And I'm thankful for words, having spent the better part of the last weeks devouring accounts of the terrorist attacks, gripped by the terrible narrative of disaster and by gossip, the way we're suddenly exposed to the insides of others' lives. I've avidly sought out the words of other writers, all of us trying to make sense of these times. I'm thankful, above all, for words that render experience with complexity and depth, words that acknowledge complication, that don't simplify or polarize. We always need such words. We need them now more than ever.
Catherine Bush, the author of The Rules of Engagement, is currently teaching at the University of Florida in Gainesville.