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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Thankful on Amelia Island

Downtown waterfront, Fernandina Beach

This will be a Thanksgiving like no other. Hand sanitizer on the buffet table seems like a terrible intrusion, but these are strange times. I am not foregoing dinner plans with my Fernandina Beach neighbors, because we all need this celebration.

Morning on the Atlantic, Fernandina Beach

Here on Amelia, we are fortunate that our weather bodes well for an outdoor feast, with tables spaced apart, allowing everyone to feel less exposed. We’ll check in a few days before (or see one another when walking our dogs; it is a very doggy neighborhood) and make sure everyone is well. No one will take undue risks, but neither will we deny ourselves the opportunity to give thanks together.

This year a new neighbor, recently transplanted from Georgia, will join us. It is a time to feel the closeness of friends, new and old, and for us to verify our gratitude.

I’ll be ordering vegetables from Traders Hill Farm in Hilliard, my new favorite vegetable source. Guests will bring side dishes from their own family recipes to add to my non-traditional beef tenderloin, locally caught shrimp, salad, and green beans. My two lime trees have been prolific in this perfect climate and their juice will be the basis of my salad dressing.

Leah, as Barbara Bush for the Halloween pet parade

Our conversation will be more on a local level this year. I won’t have a month-long trip to Italy to talk about, or any overseas travel plans to announce. But I have stories about domestic travel: a 2,000 mile car trip with my new dog, Leah (see Coronadoption), adopted from Nassau Humane Society in February, and the trip to Pennsylvania where I had “Christmas in October” with my granddaughters. I’ll report on my kayak and boat trips with guides Thomas and Katherine Oliver, owners of Amelia Adventures, who are incredible hosts and run a great hometown business.

There will likely be a funny story about my first game of pickleball, played on the Central Park courts in Fernandina Beach. I won’t mention the yard-long snake that settled in the sun on my screened porch (where we will be dining), but I will brag about the hundreds of Zebra Longwing, Gulf Fritillary, and Monarch butterflies I have raised and released. And I will applaud Amelia Baptist Church for outdoor singing after Sunday services – a joyful praise most welcome after months of singing alone at the television.

Of course, everyone will want to know about my first seasonal sighting of a white pelican, and the roseate spoonbills, herons of all kinds, wood storks, and anhingas. Oceanside, I found a live perfect saw-tooth pen shell (quickly returned to deep water), saw many dolphin, avoided a Portugese man o' war, and added a few unusual shells to my growing collection.

My guests will have their own local adventure stories and we’ll share remembrances of Thanksgivings past, of favorite foods, and family members. We’ll all talk about our dogs, including those who passed this year. I’ll ask everyone to list what they are most grateful for and we'll talk about how grateful we are to be alive and well. Because, on Thanksgiving, we focus on what we are grateful for, not what we may have missed out on.

We’ll feast a while, have dessert and coffee to end the gathering, and hopefully depart with a deeper understanding of what Thanksgiving is all about, having enjoyed the company of others and sharing our bounty.

This year I am most thankful for my good health, my family (and recent visits with them), and that I live on Amelia Island, where people are friendly and thoughtful and we can enjoy the many advantages of its natural beauty.

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Nov 20, 2020

I loved reading this, made me happy! Sounds like you’ve made the best of it and will continue to do so. I look forward to seeing you next week!!


Nov 20, 2020

Lovely article! Happy Thanksgiving!

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