Everything is either pandemic or pre-pandemic. I’m not sure I can even see many changes in a post pandemic world. My first attempt at echoing Mary Oliver’s poem, Gratitude was focused on the pandemic.
For this second attempt, I thought I’d think about the past year or so of writing. Most of that time has been a solo experience with sporadic online meetings and eventually group meetings in the park. This fall, after an eighteen month absence we will finally return to the library for a six week workshop series.
I fully intended to write a reflection today on Mary Magdalene. In the past she’s gotten a bad rap, mostly from historical inaccuracies, misogyny, and bad faith takes, and in more recent years is re-emerging as an inspirational saint for girls and women alike.
As I searched for previous links to share at the end today, I discovered something I wrote in 2019 that really contained all that I wanted to say and I decided to share that link instead.
So, technically, President Obama isn’t a guest blogger here, but he has provided (through social media) the first two graphics of both his summer reading list and his playlist. It reminded me of some of the things I’ve been occupying my time with, and wanted to share with readers.
My current reading list includes:
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb
A Stranger and You WElcomed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle B by Jim Knipper, Richard Rohr, James Martin, Greg Boyle, and others
Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott
My Top 5 of Recently Read Books:
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
wow, no thank you. Essays by Samantha Irby
Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times by Joel Richard Paul
Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and teh Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson
His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham
Next in line to Read:
Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times by Michael R. Beschloss
Spotify Curation So Far:
<——————— Newest Link can be found by scrolling down on the sidebar.
Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.
By the second third of the pandemic timeline, community became more important and more visible, sometimes as basic as are my neighbors wearing masks/having parties but beyond that as well.
There was more waving at each other as more people were home during the day. There were phone calls from my parish checking on our needs. The same from the kids’ schools about school meals and available wifi. Our area, and many others put rainbows up in their windows or on their lawns to be instagrammed or facebooked with area code rainbow hashtags, like a mini-scavenger hunt (hello GISH). One family in the neighborhood bought prisms and left them out, socially distanced for neighbors walking by to help themselves to. I sat outside in the front of my house reading, meditating, praying, watching the local world go by. I heard kids in strollers, on bikes, and nearby church bells ringing.
After the murder of George Floyd, I saw one or two Black Lives Matter signs in my very white, seemingly unaffected area, although it made me realize that no one is, nor should be, unaffected by the murder of a Black man by the police. The quarantine and lockdown enabled many to protest, and despite right wing complaints about social distancing, there was not much of an uptick in covid cases due to protesting as compared to political rallies held indiscriminately on the other side of the aisle.
I continued adding to my covid resource center, and my family cooked some of the recipes I was sharing. I attended church online and began to attend remote retreats, which I found both a distraction and a new way of prayer and contemplation. I wish I could say I wrote more; Maybe I did write more, at least here, and I’m proud of my work here. I tried to let the world flow around me and not put too many expectations on myself. I was home for my kids in a greater way than usual even though I’ve been home for my kids since they were born. This was the first year family didn’t ask when I was getting one or encourage me in that way of theirs to get a job. I already have several, thank you very much. We rediscovered our teamness. Looking forward to next school year in a few short months, I’m going to miss them when they return to school which we expect them to.
We were also able to go on vacation at the end of the summer. We remained in New York State since we were comfortable with the rules put in place by the state for covid precautions. I’m not sure how much longer my adult son will be willing to go along with us, and we’re enjoying time as an entire family.
Prism from neighbor
We belong to a neighborhood Facebook group, and at the beginning of the pandemic there were many posts offering suggestions for how to entertain the kids, especially the younger ones who weren’t in remote school. One of the fun, community activities we included ourselves in was the #Rainbow project. Houses and businesses began to put rainbows in their windows, on their garages, painted on pallets, flown on flags and banners, and included a hashtag of the area code with the word rainbow so those of us walking throughout the neighborhood could take pictures of all the rainbows we found, and post it online – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, that sort of thing on social media.
My artifact came from one of our neighbors in the Facebook group. The family bought several prisms online and put them at the end of their driveway in a bucket with a rainbow flag. They posted on the Facebook that they were to be taken whenever folks walked by on their neighborhood romps, but of course, to please take only one per family. They went quick! We were lucky to be able to get one on her second round. When it’s held in the sunlight, it makes rainbow reflections on the walls, windows, and other surfaces. Just looking at the clear glass teardrop shape makes me smile and think of how lucky we are to be in the place that we live. Also, rainbows are hope and promises of better times.
We all discovered our kitchens again. I was reminded very much of the nesting that went on after 9/11: we stayed home, kept our families together, simplified our lives, and more than ever before, we cooked. At least that’s what happened in our house, both after 9/11 and during lockdown. I’ve mentioned before about Chef Jose Andres’ Recipes for the People on Twitter. While we were on vacation, we had clementine oranges in our breakfast bags provided by the hotel and I became obsessed with having a delicious, juicy orange almost daily.
I bought this great little tool while we were in Buffalo from a five and dime store. I couldn’t figure out how it worked at first, but it was labeled as an orange peeler for sixty-nine cents. If I knew how much I would love this little gadget, I would have bought fifty of them! Well, maybe not fifty, but a dozen. I’ve already put this five and dime on my list to pick up some more the next time we go through Buffalo (hopefully this summer on the way to Canada). It was one of those things that I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I will never peel another orange without this perfectly constructed tool. So simple. So easy.
About the time in the summer that political signs went up, I saw this same sign on my neighbor’s lawn. I didn’t know this neighbor, but I stopped by anyway to ask about it, thinking she had gotten it locally. At first, I think she thought I was complaining about the inclusivity of the sign. She was happier that I liked it and wanted one of my own. She got hers from Amazon, and mine arrived about twenty-four hours later. I added the American flag, and we’ve added more flags for Memorial Day weekend and then buntings for 4th of July. We’ll leave this sign and one or two of the Stars & Stripes until fall clean-up.
The entire sign reads:
In this house, we believe: Black Lives Matter Women’s Rights are Human Rights No Human is Illegal Science is Real Love is Love Kindness is Everything.
This one sign really says it all. Really, what more is there to say?
St. Kateri Tekakwitha was the first Native American woman to be canonized. This was in 2012, the same year I joined the church with my ongoing attendance. It would be another two years before I came into full communion and participation.
There were many reasons that I was attracted to St. Kateri as I considered her among others while I discerned a confirmation name (ultimately choosing St. Elen of Caernarfon as many of you know).
I have always felt a connection to the Native American people and interested in their culture and spiritual practices. As kids our parents took us to the pow-wow out on Long Island with the Shinnecock Indians. It’s hard to live anywhere in New York State and not find nearby towns with Native names.
A gift from my friend in South Dakota. It is a dream catcher and it has helped me at times when I’ve had trouble sleeping. It is Native made near the sacred Black Hills. (c)2021
Kateri was from nearby; just west of the Capital District. She was born in the village of Ossernenon, now known as Auriesville. The village is mapped out at the Martyrs Shrine. After a small pox epidemic killed her family and left her scarred, the remaining Mohawk burned the village and moved (as was done when a disease ran rampant through their homes).
They moved further west and to the other side of the river to what is now Fonda, above where the current Kateri Shrine is located in the village called Caughnawaga. The footprint of the village can be seen and can be reached either by car or by walking the trails to the village and the spring.
I was eating a Dole fruit cup – cherry mixed fruit or something – and I was transported back to my childhood. We didn’t have the individual plastic cups like the one I was eating from. My mother would buy the cans of fruit cocktail, and we would most definitely fight over the cherries because there were never enough, and they really were the best part.
When we would have a special dinner – a holiday dinner – whether it was Thanksgiving or Rosh Hashanah or Passover, it didn’t matter which, there was always a multi-course meal with special dishes. Some meals like Rosh Hashanah would begin on the top plate with a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a scoop of chopped liver. There might also be a soup course – matzo ball – always a good choice, even on Thanksgiving. There also might be half a grapefruit with sprinkled sugar or a small dessert dish with fruit cocktail in it.
I loved those dessert dishes. They were small and squat and sat on little pedestals. They were perfect for fruit cocktail, jello, chocolate pudding (with whipped cream), and all sorts of interesting foods. The one problem I found as a kid was the texture of the dish. It wasn’t smooth so you could never scrape all the little bits of food left from the nooks and crannies, and they were annoying to wash, but I loved opening the cabinet just over the sink and seeing them, wondering what wondrous sweet treat they would next hold for us.
I still have them although they’re packed away in our basement. I wanted to find them last month for chocolate pudding, and then again to include a photo in this post, but our basement is a mess and in need of pruning. Finding them will be a goal for the next twelve months, but in the meantime I’ve included a photo I found of them from Ebay. We’ll see in the future if this photo that matches my memory will match the real ones when I find them.
“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”
During the pandemic and continuing through the last few weeks, our family has broken up our weeks of isolation pouring [th] into the car and taking road trips. North, east, and west; south is still on the list, and while they don’t have the stress or monetary expense of a full blown vacation, they do tend to get you out of your own comfortable neighborhood and out into the world, taking time to de-stress and see new sights (and sites). Even a day trip can be a fun adventure.
In the photo below are some of the places we’ve gone in the last few weeks. I’ve included links so you’re able to check out new and interesting places in the northeast, but some things – like that Mater Truck and the dragon outside a comic store – are just things we passed by and got a kick out of.
Take some time in your car and see what’s around you. It can be even cheaper if you pack a picnic lunch to bring along.
I’ve been thinking a lot about July 4th lately, as in several years lately. I grew up with patriotic parents. I don’t remember displayed flags, but the way they lived their lives and taught their children was certainly patriotic. I remember two incidences specifically. One, we were at a professional sports game (could have been baseball or football) and the National Anthem played. I eas expected to stand, and stand still. The second was at a school assembly. I was young, elementary age probably, and we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. Kids are lazy, and they hop on one foot, and lean on the seat in front of them, and they kind of sit on the top of those seats that close when you stand up, and that was me. Not disrespectful in my mind, but bored. My father leaned down and very quietly, all the important stuff was spoken quietly, expressed to me, in no uncertain terms that I would be standing up, and stand up I did.
My father was a veteran. He didn’t choose to join the Army, but he went when called and through that we saw the power of duty and real allegiance.
I’ve always been interested in history and genealogy, My grandfather was from Canada. I loved that we were from Canada. I once said that we were part Canadian. Goodness, you’d’ve thought that I had spilled tomato sauce on a white couch. We. Are. American. Period. End of Discussion.
When I got my own house I decorated for July 4th. We even marched in a parade with our son’s day care center (although that might have been the Uncle Sam Parade), but still. Nothing extravagant, but a couple of flags, flag shirts for the kids.
When the former guy became President, we didn’t decorate. It wasn’t a conscious decision. With my depression in full force in the mid-2000s, I didn’t do much of any decorating even though I tried for some minimal effort. Even after I got into a recovery groove, I didn’t put up anything patriotic. I didn’t want to go for the fifty cent ice cream cones at the local shop for wearing red, white, and blue. I saw that 90% of the American flags I saw were accompanied by T**mp flags or co-opted into Q flags. It was dispiriting. After the November election I noticed that many of the houses that had T**mp flags had changed them to the Good Ole Stars and Stripes. They are not the same.
This year, though, as Memorial Day was approaching, I was reminded of sacrifice, of bravery. I listened to marginalized voices and remembered what many of us believe – that the potential for this country is vast, and it is still accessible.
I bought a set of bunting. It looked unbalanced, so I bought a second set. That made it better. I fastened them in place with American flags and I left my Black Lives Matter sign and added a Choose Love in June. In a couple of weeks, I will take it all down, perhaps leave one flag in place because I am a proud American. I want my kids to feel that pride, to listen to all the voices, to accept the past, much of which is only now coming to light. Being proud doesn’t mean being blind to our faults. We all have them.
It may seem as though I’ve only decorated because Joe Biden became President. I’d agree, partially. We bought our house in 2006, and for the following July 4th we put up some flags and two buntings. It looked spiffy – very patriotic. I mention this because in 2007, President Bush was president, so this isn’t about only decorating for a Democratic President. I will say that President Biden’s concern and care for this country and especially for its people was an unconscious impetus to want to show off my colors. I have a place to store these buntings and flags safely, and I’ll know where they are so they can go up again next summer, just in time for the next 4th of July. Maybe they’ll go up for Flag Day and Juneteenth next year.
Sometimes, often, we need to look back at, as well as from the outside of circumstances to realize that there are themes that emerge, and the pandemic was no exception. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown gave us a unique opportunity (albeit at great cost) to look back at a year of new things and old ones, and to look inward.
We were inspired to do things but we were also inspired to slow down and do no things.
Recently, as lockdown, and at the same time, the school year came to a close, my daughter’s teacher gave the class a multi-dimensional project to look back on their pandemic and recognize some of the things that got them through the last year plus. The project and subsequent presentation included themes from memoir, historic timelines, artifacts, creative non-fiction, presentation, and art. Each component was unique and I was excited watching her accomplish each one and it gave me a perfect prompt for my next writing group. It went over very well with my friends, and as I wrote and read my submission, I began to notice themes.
Initially, I had chosen nine photos from across the year, and in laying them out to write about them, I saw that they unintentionally and neatly fell into three distinct sections:
Keeping Safe: Hand-washing, lockdown, information, and isolation.
Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.
Looking Outward: spirituality, new things, and road trips.
The following three part series explores those themes and the significance of some of those pandemic artifacts for me, and hopefully you’ll think of the small or not-so-small things that got you through this unprecedented, uncharted pandemic year.
I created my own timeline (in retrospect) and divided it into three sections, beginning and ending with the first and third photo of each line of my original nine photos. The first third of the timeline and the original photo appear below. I would note that the sections are not evenly split; the first third has significantly more milestones than the other two in what seems like a much shorter time. In those beginning times, I think we were all so surprised by how quickly everything just stopped, even time it seemed.