Reflections on Collectively Expressing Our Gratitude for All of Creation
by Lynette Jackson

After a prolonged spring season of mostly wet and chilly weather, July 21 bestowed a gorgeously warm and sunny afternoon on Gabriola. It was the perfect opportunity for 32 of us to gather in community amid the splendid beauty and bounty of the Net Loft gardens.  Ably coordinated by Catherine Woodward, the GES Board had prepared a warm welcome, a variety of fun outdoor games, and a bountiful meal for all. We were delighted and blessed to have four of the original GES founders from 18 years ago in attendance: Anne Sims, Del McCarthy, David Soy, and Shelagh Huston. Little did they know then how their sincere efforts would continue to thrive and blossom over the years!

We opened our circle with Brenda Gaertner invoking heartfelt appreciation both for and from the Snuneymuxw ancestors whose spirits still enliven and bless this sacred land.  Reverend Karen Hollis then introduced a moving group practice of collective gratitude. This invocation of sacred First Nations teachings has been translated as “Words that Come Before All Else”.  It was recorded by Robin Kimmerer in her cherished classic Braiding Sweetgrass, with the expressed permission of the Elders to share it widely.  Every paragraph of this sacred traditional First Nations teaching concludes with the affirmation “Now our minds are one”.  As each of us read one of the paragraphs in turn, expressing gratitude for a particular aspect of our universal blessings — from the tiniest insects to the stars gracing the night sky — our collective spirit of unity and reverence deepened.  Brenda’s two stalwart black labs and a sweet little canine visiting from California were included in our circle; it became obvious that all beings great and small were absorbing the clarity and peace of our collective devotions.  It is my hope that this sacred, communal, and truly ecumenical way of expressing gratitude might become a tradition at future GES picnics.

Together we laughed and feasted, strengthened precious community ties, and saluted 18 successful years of GES programs. We enjoyed the enlivening gift of music performed by talented local musicians, led by John Bryson and including Bob Mckecknie, Frazer Gabbott, and Gary Holmes, as well as a lovely impromptu performance by a guest guitarist and vocalist. A particular highlight of the afternoon for me was listening to Shelagh Huston’s lyrical performance of “Teach Your Children” in her soaring, clear soprano.

Sincere thanks to Catherine for spearheading this event, and to Del for her skilled mentoring; in Catherine’s words, “I wouldn’t have been able to do any “coordinating” if it hadn’t been for Del and her expert guidance. She presented me with the detailed “planning” document that had been created over the years and helped every step of the way.” The GES board also wishes to express our loving appreciation to Brenda for her stewardship of the gorgeous surroundings and for preparing the immaculate outdoor kitchen facilities for us, to our talented and generous musicians, and to all who contributed their volunteer efforts and presence to this grace-filled afternoon.