Monday, 5 October 2020

View From the Crow's Nest: I remember the most important thing

October? Already? Nooooo! It’s going to be a long winter. How will we survive?

My mom and dad were post-war immigrants who survived and thrived even though they were isolated from family and friends. In my previous blog I wrote about how they survived tough times, hoping they could give me some pointers on surviving and thriving in this Pandemic. 

For them, communication – in mom and dad’s case, letters – was key. It reminded them of the people they loved, who supported and encouraged them. I also noted that mom didn’t complain much – instead, she focused on what she did have. She turned trash into treasure. I read a tone of triumph in these letters – hardships would not defeat them. People who have survived tough times have lessons to teach us. 

As I wrote that blog, I felt very close to my parents, especially to mom, as though she were looking over my shoulder. Usually, after I’ve written a blog, I let it sit for a day or two before I posted it, but this time, I felt so good about it that I posted it right away. The RS read it and said it even brought a few tears to his eyes. I was pleased...but I should have known better. 

I was getting ready for bed when I “heard” Mom’s voice. I guess she wasn’t done with me yet. “Jessica!” (It’s not even my real name, but that’s what she called me when she wanted to draw something to my attention.) “You forgot to write about the most important thing.” I could almost see her finger waving in my face. Oh boy, I was in trouble. 

She was right. Mom and dad would have agreed that communication and creativity were keys to their thriving in a new land, but first and foremost, it was always about God. “God has directed our paths,” a frequent phrase in her letters, was a variation of the text they’d chosen for their wedding sermon: “God will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8.) 

This wedding text, done in calligraphy, came with mom and dad to Canada.  

The wedding text hung in the living room of their first home in Smithville, Ontario, and in every home after that. It is in the top right corner of this photo, which must have been taken at Christmas, judging from the sprigs of spruce decorating the room.

Okay, mom, I’m sorry, I’ll change that...later. I was getting ready for bed, and since it was late, I figured I could add God’s role to my blog in the morning. After all, who reads a blog at midnight? The fix would wait till I was ready. 

So I went to bed. Only to wake up several hours later knowing I’d better do it mom’s way if I wanted to get a good night of rest. So 1:30 a.m. found me sitting at my computer, inserting another paragraph – the most important key to their survival. 

I have tried very hard in my 7 years of blogging to not “preach a sermon.” I know my readers range all over the map in terms of spirituality. I respect that. In my own spiritual journey, I also have ranged all over the map. The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know much for sure anymore. It’s such a relief, to tell you the truth, not to have to defend my version of God. I write about God occasionally, because the Creator is real to me, but I know that I also have readers that don’t believe in a Higher Power. You voice and your beliefs are important to me, too; they help me to stretch and grow. For sure, I hope that my musings will stimulate spiritual growth, whatever that means to you. 

And what does spirituality mean, anyway? I did a little research, and found this: “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life." (

There's also this quote: “...the spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, and strives for answers about the infinite, and comes into focus when the person faces emotional stress, physical illness, or death.” 

Ahhhh! That’s US, isn’t it? All of us in this together, facing emotional stress, possible illness and death. This isn’t just about surviving day to day to day to day to day...we can figure that out – where to get the toilet paper, how to get tested when we feel ill, how to keep ourselves busy. But we need more than that to thrive and find joy. 

To catch a vision of the big picture, to place ourselves inside that picture, and to recognize that we are connected to everything ever created (and, for me, the One who created it), that is what is going to sustain us in the long run. It’s about mystery -- how we human beings originated in stardust, how the flutter of a butterfly’s wings in Mexico can impact the weather in Canada, how a network of microscopic roots in soil communicate with each other for the benefit of the plants. 



It’s about million-year old rocks breaking down into the sand on our favourite beach, about galaxies ever expanding, about people willingly laying down their lives for a belief that's sacred to them.


These are unfathomable mysteries, and these mysteries are what propels us in our spiritual search. Looking at the big picture changes our perspective. We are, after all, not the centre of the universe. We belong to each other.

Spirituality, says the aforementioned website, is one of 6 components that contribute to our wellbeing. But for mom and dad, it was the most important thing. (That’s why mom shook her finger in my face: how could I have forgotten that?) It is what got them through tough times. For me, too, it is the foundation from which I view the world. 

I certainly don’t have all the answers, so I take comfort from these words of contemplative priest Thomas Merton: 


And so we move into October, one step at a time. 

There are many interesting and helpful resources about spirituality and emotional wellbeing (which are closely connected) on this website: