Here in Gentle World, the only reminder of the upcoming holiday is the occasional sound of free-living turkeys, chatting among themselves as they wander by during their meanderings around the neighborhood.
The extraordinary sounds issuing forth from throats belonging to birds beyond my scope of vision translate inside my heart into feelings of delight in response, for which I am filled with gratitude. I’ve said in previous Novembers that to be blessed with a sighting of a turkey free in nature is all the Thanksgiving I need, but I’ve learned this year that I’m almost as content to settle for hearing one of their voices.
I am officially thankful.
But as we approach the seasonal massacre of which these magnificent birds have become perversely and paradoxically symbolic, the momentary burst of happiness granted to me by those calls from my nomadic neighbors is all too quickly interrupted by the painful reminder of who these individuals are considered to be by almost everyone else of my kind: bodies without souls entitled to not even the most basic of birthrights — life itself.
At any time of year, it’s hard to be overly thankful for the comparative freedom these non-captive birds enjoy, knowing that they live their lives in the constant threat of becoming targets for those who kill for the sheer thrill they somehow find in taking the life of another. Yes, even here in the relative tranquility of Hawaii Island, the selfsame winged wanderers whose sudden appearance makes my heart leap for joy could tomorrow become the next victims of human hunters closing in for the kill.
At this particular time of year in the United States, we are also preparing for families across the country to turn the bodies of 46 million of these remarkable miracles of nature — bodies once filled to overflowing with young life and the desire to continue living — into the centerpieces of Thanksgiving “feasts” for diners in this most affluent of countries to gorge themselves on until literally sick with the pains of indulged gluttony. And in another month, turkeys in numbers so large as to be incomprehensible will be killed (as adolescents, just like all those we regard as production units for “meat”) to be turned into Christmas celebration meals all over the world.
It’s almost soul-crippling to contemplate such realities candidly, and so it’s not at all surprising that most people simply never do. But contemplate such realities we must, if we want to ever find ourselves deserving of living in the better world we all claim to hope for.
As I reflect further upon my recent experiences of overhearing the warbling of wandering turkeys, I realize I’m not only thankful for the knowledge that a being with such a voice inhabits this world (a world I still find myself bewildered and confused by, despite nearly forty years of calling it home) but also for the gift of simply knowing that there is joy to be found in the hearing of such a voice; in knowing that the mutterings of a passing turkey flock can be a precursor for a feeling of wonder — one of the primary feelings that make life in this confusing and bewildering world truly worth living.