When I compiled the anthology Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean, I put an excerpt from the Puerto Rican-American writer Aurora Levins Morales right up front, because what she had to say about the invisibility of working women was so powerful.
“Let’s get one thing straight. Puerto Rico was a woman’s country….Whatever there was to be cooked, we cooked it. Whoever was born, we birthed and raised them. Whatever was to be washed, we washed it….Whatever was grown, we grew it…We were never still, our hands were always busy….Ours is the work they decided to call unwork. The tasks as necessary as air. Not a single thing they did could have been done without us. Not a treasure taken. Not a crop brought in. Not a town built up around its plaza, not a fortress manned without our cooking, cleaning, sewing, laundering, childbearing. We have always been here, doing what had to be done. As reliable as furniture, as supportive as their favorite sillón. Who thanks his bed? But we are not furniture. We are full of fire, dreams, pain, subversive laughter. How could they not honor us?
I have to admit that never, in all my years of studying the history of the Americas, had I even noticed the absence of accounts of these women from its annals.
But it’s so true. What famous explorer could have sailed the ocean blue without his mother and/or nurse giving him the loving care he needed to survive infancy and childhood? What town could have been built without the crucial work of women supporting its foundations?
Just as we are often blind to the crucial life-giving value of women’s work, we also have a tendency to arrogantly overlook the essential work done by the foundation of the planetary biosphere. I’m talking about PLANTS.
Without the plants—from algae and seaweeds in the ocean to trees and grasses on land—our planet would quickly become a barren desert.
Without the microbes in the water and soil digesting decayed matter and nourishing those plants, the entire food chain would collapse, with humans falling along with all other “higher” species.
This Thanksgiving, I want to honor and thank the marvelous plants of our planet, who silently, efficiently and ceaselessly convert sunlight and water to living tissue, and give themselves without protest to nourishing the lives of so many other species on Earth.
As we enjoy our Thanksgiving feasts, let’s remember that none of this abundance would be possible without our unsung plant kingdom heroes, and let us perhaps take a moment to sing their praises, as in this simple blessing I learned from my son’s Waldorf teacher many years ago:
Blessings on the blossom, blessings on the fruit.
Blessings on the leaf and stem, blessings on the seed and root.
For a more extended version of this blessing, see the Mohawk Thanksgiving prayer.
PHOTOS COPYRIGHT JENNIFER BROWDY DE HERNANDEZ.