Tuesday, 29 December 2020

View from the Crow's Nest: Looking at Normal

The week that follows Christmas and Boxing Day may just be my favourite week of the year. The busy-ness of Christmas preparations, which often flows over into Boxing Day, is finished. On the calendar, there is nothing marked as “to do” – just enjoy each day with the gifts that it brings.

At our home, Al, Danielle and I are doing just that. A giant crossword puzzle with over 300 clues hangs on the wall in the hallway. We pause as we pass it and try to fill in a few more clues. The 1000 piece Christmas jigsaw is laid out on a table; it may get finished by the end of January! I indulged my enjoyment of baking by making cinnamon rolls one day, and Apple Coffee Cake another. We ordered a platter of Greek food for Danielle’s birthday dinner (my baby is 39! Can you believe it?) and there’s leftovers enough for another day. A grab-bag of books from the library keep me reading past midnight in the delicious quiet of a sleeping home. Phone calls and emails remind us that we are blessed with friends and family, and with the wonder of Zoom we are able to connect and see them too, playing games together as we would if they were all here.

Which they aren’t. That’s the hard part of this year, isn’t it? I miss the hugs, the spontaneous laughter, the visits with friends, the family walks through our wonderful forest next door. I miss the freedom of making a spur-of-the-moment decision to eat out, or go to a movie, or go bowling. I miss snuggling up with a little one to share a story book or two or three. But to be honest, not all is sweetness and light at any Christmas, with its attendant busy-ness, or when a big family gathers in an enclosed space for several days...there may be tension, noise, messiness, the disappointment of unrealistic unmet expectations, frustration and utter weariness that leaves one longing to retreat to a place far away, and stay there forever. Those are the trade-offs. I know whereof I speak. I’ll take the trade-offs in a heartbeat, but that’s not possible.

So here we are, at the end of another year, a year like no other in our recent memory. We have had to learn to act together, to take care of each other by masking, distancing, staying put, if we are going to survive. We must be calm, be safe, be kind, as our Dr. Bonnie keeps reminding us.

These rocks were piled together as a tribute to our health care workers.


We would like to have everything get back to normal, but, then again.. “Normal led to this,” as Ed Yong wrote in Atlantic in August. Our current model of economic growth, with deforestation, monocultures, rampant materialism and more, has led to lethal viruses moving around the world, jumping from animal hosts to human with ease. In our panic to control the virus, we haven’t thought very carefully about what led to it. We can’t return to business as usual. (https://www.isglobal.org/en/healthisglobal/-/custom-blog-portlet/a-pandemic-year-in-10-quotes/3098670/0)

It’s not over yet. In my optimistic moments, I get excited about the vaccines that will soon help us be safer, that will eradicate the virus once and for all. In my pessimistic moments, I mutter that we’re in it for the long haul, that when this virus is beaten into submission, another will pop up, and like a game of whack-a-mole, we’ll be in a constant state of war against insidious enemies. In a news story posted today, Michael Ryan, a senior W.H.O. official, warned that although the coronavirus pandemic has been “very severe,” it is “not necessarily the big one.” There may be more to come, unless we, as a world, change. Normal led to this.

What it means is that I have to rethink normal. We all do. What will this new normal look like? What do we have to give up, and what can we keep from that old pre-pandemic life? As a society, this will not be easy terrain to navigate. We love our creature comforts, our travel plans, our varied diets, our conveniences (order today, have it tomorrow), and everything else that goes with affluence and a global economy.

But perhaps we are looking at our post-Covid life from the wrong end of the telescope, magnifying what we will have to give up. Perhaps we have to minimize that view, and focus on something else. Maybe we need to put first things first. Instead of asking, “What do we have to give up?” perhaps we need to ask, “What can we keep? What are the givens that we don’t want to part with?” 

I googled “what are the most important things in life?” and found a plethora of results: Health. Purpose. Passion. Wellness. Education. Peace. Goals. Work. Family. Friendship. Love. Compassion. Community. Faith. Hope.... the list goes on. I wonder what’s on your list? I wonder if we could all take a step back instead of rushing ahead to “normal the way it used to be”, and figure out what’s the most important thing as we move on. I wonder what the world would look like if everyone did that.

And I know that “everyone” in the world begins with me.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

View from the Crow’s Nest: We mark the days.


The Advent candle wall hangings are up on the wall again. It's that time of year.

The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming, arrival.” It’s a part of the church year that marks the time until we can celebrate Christmas, Jesus’ birthday. It’s a period of waiting.

And for those of us who are in the midst of the pandemic – which is the whole world, really – the word has a double meaning.

We are also waiting for the arrival of normalcy, when this pandemic is over. We are waiting for the arrival of the vaccine and holding our breath, hoping that Covid will not touch our family and our friends before then. We are waiting to feel the arms of those we love around us once again, when we can hug and kiss freely, when we can rock that newborn grandchild, or hold the hands of our beloved elders. We are waiting.

But until then, how do we pass the time? In the centuries before Jesus was born, the people of Israel were also waiting for the Messiah who had been promised by the prophets. How did they pass the time, marking off the days, weeks, months, years, centuries, and millenia?

From what I can tell, they kept on keeping on. Right foot, left foot, march. Breathe. Repeat. They sowed their crops, harvested the grapes, tended the sheep and goats, pressed the olives. They got married, had children, celebrated feasts, studied and learned at the feet of the teachers. They shared stories and encouraged each other – “just a little longer,” they said. “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice ... just for today... and be glad in it.” They had a life.

And so do we. It may not be the life we would like, but it is the life we have. And so we keep on keeping on  – mask on, mask off, 6 feet of distance, washing hands over and over, staying put and waiting.

There are times that we are tired of it all. We experience the darkest hour of the night, when we cannot see any glimmer of light and promise. We are at the bottom of the covid coaster, and there doesn’t seem to be any way up. 

Ah, but there are other days when we put one foot in front of the other, and all goes well. We finish a project, have a great conversation over Skype with a grandchild, pick up a good book at the library, listen to "The Messiah" curled up on our sofa all afternoon, see a dear friend coming up the sidewalk to have a distanced conversation outside. Now we are riding high on the covid coaster. We experience brightness, a lightness that keeps us going for a while again.

And that, dear ones, is how we will get through this. “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And we will encourage each other, make the phone calls that give someone joy, tend our houseplants and scrub our floors (not too often, though!), decorate for Christmas even if nobody is coming. We will remember that in less than two weeks, the longest dark day will be past and we’ll be heading to the light. We will finish half-forgotten projects, share books, send each other funny cartoons on FB, give generously to those who are less fortunate...well, the list goes on. If you are so inclined, please share in the Comments section how you are marking off the days and I will pass on your stories in future blogs.

There are two things I want to share with you, that have helped me mark the days this fall. For years, the Resident Sweetie and I have been involved with a committee that organizes a display of Nativity sets at our church, usually held at the beginning of December. 


We tried to make it work again this year, but rising cases of Covid put the kibosh on that. Instead, the church encouraged us to create a YouTube recording of a virtual visit to the display. You can view it here by accessing our church website at www.cvpc.ca You’ll find a link there. Enjoy the photos, music, stories and more. Covid, it turns out, has a silver lining: now we can share this event with an audience that stretches around the world. If you enjoy this virtual visit, please share the link with others who might enjoy it too.

The second project I’ve been working on is a fun one. Our granddaughter Grace turned six in November, and we gave her a Playmobil nativity set as a gift. 


(Of course, we would!) But we kept the wise men and the camel back. Now the wise men are making their way to Bethlehem (aka Nanaimo, where Grace lives), and we are photographing their journey every day, and telling a story to go with it. If you wish to follow Gaspar, Melchior, Balthazar and Miranda (the camel), check out the FB page Wise Men’s Quest for the Star. (https://www.facebook.com/Wise-Mens-Quest-for-the-Star-105763731375753/?view_public_for=105763731375753)
You’ll have to scroll down all the way to Nov. 29, when I posted for the first time, and then work your way up. If you have grandchildren who might enjoy this story, pass on the link. Grace’s parents share this ongoing story with her and her 2 year old brother Mitchell every second or third day, and Grace often wants to hear the whole story from the very beginning. That makes me smile, and it keeps the covid coaster traveling on the upside.

Blessings to you as you mark the days traveling through advent to the light.