HOLY WEEK AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Dear Reader, this blog is a tongue-in-cheek look at Holy Week.

PALM SUNDAY

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Jesus won’t be riding into Jerusalem on a donkey this year, triumphantly or otherwise. Palms will still have their leaves as trees won’t be chopped apart for his fans to lay branches across his path. We might see palm trees as far north as England if the trees mature and seed at will. As a matter of fact, Jesus should be sheltering at home like the rest of us.

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He’s still living with Mary and Joseph. They were at their wits end about how to get their thirty-something-year-old son out of the house even before this quarantine. Jesus and a few of his friends sit around the family’s courtyard and talk for hours every day and expect Mary to feed them. She wants him and his friends to get their own hovel, but no one will rent to a bunch of single guys.

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To please his mother, he gathers twelve friends he calls apostles, encouraging the few still working at fisheries, to quit and walk along. The men wander the desert searching for a free place to live, hope for a snug, dry abandoned cave near the sea. Who doesn’t?

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Jesus was exposed to COVID-19 on one of his many journeys. He hasn’t been sick, but he’s likely a virus carrier the way he mingles with poor people and then lets them touch him. He’s would only be able to meet with nine apostles at a time and they’ll have to sit six feet apart to honor the social distancing constraint decreed by the King.

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Let’s say Jesus is trying to be fair to all the guys and meets with six apostles first and then the remaining six. You know how those guys can gossip. By the time the first six leave the meeting with their leader, they start spreading their notion of what was said to the others. When Jesus calls the second group in for their briefing, they think they already know what he’s going to say. Judas makes a side deal a few days later with an online banker posing as a peacemaker to sell out Jesus for a few pieces of gold.

GOOD FRIDAY

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Jesus decides to go off and meditate in the mountains for a few days as he needs to distance himself, so he doesn’t spread COVID-19. He also wants quiet time occasionally away from his rowdy buddies. His friends take this opportunity to have a few drinks at the new canteen and listen to music from a group of minstrels that wandered into the village square.

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The young guys are notorious gossips and wonder which of them is going to get sick first after hanging out with Jesus, who had tested positive for the virus. From their street-side table, the apostles see a squad of official-looking Roman soldiers march into town. They whisper to each other, “what are they doing here?”

Jesus let his friends know he was back and wanted to meet them for supper. They always showed up for a free meal. Jesus set about washing their feet. The guys were taken aback by this effort. Peter even refused to participate. Jesus chewed him out about being prideful and encouraged the men to wash each other’s feet. Clean feet are good and well, but some effort should have been made to wash their hand, too. Hand sanitizer was in short supply and not available to replace a little effort with soap and water. Eventually, dinner was served, and they posed for pictures around the table.

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After supper, the soldiers showed up on a tip from Judas and arrested Jesus for spreading disease and misinformation. They hauled him away. Crowds of people who turned out to see him earlier in the week suddenly turned on him, afraid they would catch whatever he was carrying. it went from a misinformation campaign to a death sentence in hours.

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Mary has had time to leisurely check her social media accounts since her son and his friends weren’t always pressing her for more food all the time. She sees that someone is posting about a crazy guy sentenced to death for his uncompromising view of life and religion. With a mother’s intuition, Mary just knows this is about her son. She jumps in the old blue pickup and frantically races into town to bail him out of jail. She’s too late and joins other mourners at his feet. God only knows why Joseph isn’t here.

 

 

 

 

IN THE AGE OF FIRSTS

Listening to the news this month started me  thinking about the idea of “firsts.”  It’s the first time so many nations around the world have faced a deadly virus like COVID-19 in such a short time period. It appears to spread like the seeds of a dandelion in the wind. Most countries are not prepared to treat so many sick people at the same time. This notion of firsts sent me down the rabbit hole of events in the past sixty-plus years I experienced for the first time.  The following list included those personal and political events that were and are significant to me.

Dear Reader,  your list, oftentimes depending on your year of birth or your belief-system, will likely be different than mine. If you are averse to looking at political opinions that may be different from yours, please stop or read this blog at your own risk. Commercial photos borrowed from online sources and one personal picture are included. I often escape into the world of Star Trek to imagine another way for the world to be.

My timeline of ‘firsts” recalled.

JFK’s assignation, blood spatter on Jackie Kennedy’s pink suit

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Rural District 60 that I attended closes for three days to give us a chance to watch his funeral parade

Johnson’s rise to power, Lady Bird’s roadside flowers bloom on today

Vietnam war – veterans still battle PTSD

Black Power – urban riots

Women’s Movement for equality – fifty years later women still make a fraction of men’s income

Peace marches – draft numbers, veterans and college men burn draft cards

1968 National Democratic Convention violence

National Guard kill students at Kent State in 1970, sobers the country

Star Trek provides another vision of peaceful exploration in space

I begin freshmen year at UNL – Johnson’s Great Society programs pay for my undergraduate degree

Move to Syracuse NY for grad school

Watch Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech, stoned in a hotel room

Watergate break-in – Nixon’s resignation

Ford, a place holder pardons the crooks

Began first post-graduate school job same year Carter is elected President

Carter’s one-term marked by Americans captives in the Middle East

Reagan’s election begins nation’s slide to conservatism

My son was born and my daughter three years later, both during Reagan’s presidency

Liz & Zeke 1987

HW Bush serves one term, starts a war with Hussain and calls it Desert Storm

Clinton’s legacy forever tainted by the affair with Monica Lewinsky, ruins Hillary’s political aspirations in the process

911 attacks change the national psyche

Islamic terrorists rise to power

George W, nicknamed “Shrub” by Molly Ivans, elected President, blames Hussain for 911 and escalates Middle east hostility fighting his Daddy’s war

2008 recession Stock Market plunge – greedy inside traders, risky banking practices

My marriage breaks up after eight years of George W, divorced as Obama takes office

Obama rescues economy, pushes progressive agenda, the healthcare overhaul gives my daughter health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions like her Type I Diabetes

“The history of the Affordable Care Act – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. It is more commonly known as the Affordable Care Act (or ACA) — and it’s most commonly referred to by its nickname, Obamacare.”

I retired in 2018, start living on a pension

The Donald elected because he is White and obnoxious from my perspective. His election is the US retaliating against Black President Obama

Lost and ill-prepared, Trump dismantles everything he doesn’t understand, including pandemic planning office

COVID-19 spreads around the world – National response shows our country unprepared, Trump wants to be center of attention, NYC becomes the epicenter of US 

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A deserted Times Square is pictured following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo AllegriREUTERS

Stocks in free fall as economy shuts down, pensions drop

States are on their own, some better than others respond to the crisis – death toll rises

Need international cooperation to beat a virus that doesn’t recognize borders

Senators learn about the virus before they tell the public and sell off stocks making millions in dirty insider trading – politicians both sides of the isle bought and paid for by lobbyists

Get past this national illness, file charges against crooked Senators

Head of UN calls for halt to all hostilities worldwide, establish health corridors between warring parties, countries, factions – unite to fight the virus

2020 Summer Olympics postponed a year

Star Trek Picard finishes a second season moving war off-planet

Some people may be naturally immune to COVID-19, scientists investigate

Time and Quiet

Sometimes I need quiet to free my brain of daily distractions to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard. There’s certainly a lot to distract us as we search for good news amongst the mostly bad news about COVID-19 that is on TV, social media, and in newspapers. The reader will see a few random “quiet time” photos from my collection in this blog to break up the text.

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In retirement, I work two days a week and live alone. Before the recommendation to shelter at home, I’d spend my workday breaks running errands and/or meeting friends for lunch. On other days, I attended volunteer organization meetings, planned dinner parties, and went out to local bars and restaurants to hear live music and eat out.  Nearly everything is now canceled or closed. The State Department just announced that US citizens should not travel abroad during this pandemic and everyone abroad should come home. I canceled a trip to Ireland planned for the end of this month.

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This blog entry is a celebration of the enforced quiet many of us are experiencing due to our time at home. There’s a real benefit to social distancing. I wrote copious journal entries in my adolescence. After I started college, studying took all my time and I let it go. During graduate school, I read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.  I credit that book to a personal awakening and renewed interest in writing. A new job, then children, again put the idea on the back burner. A painful divorce eleven years ago freed me to consider writing again.

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I read an article recently that likened writing to a form of worship. I’m more inclined to think of it as a daily meditation or therapy. Writing with a writing group helped me recover from divorce. I established a daily writing routine that I continue to maintain.

The writing group’s monthly meetings keep us all working to bring new work to a shared critique. I’ve made longlasting friends in the process. As a decidedly nice side-benefit of my writing time, I’ve published poems in journals, magazines, and anthologies. I’ve published two chapbooks and a full-length poetry collection has been accepted for publication.

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My take-away from enforced solitude, listen to the quiet and allow your inner voice to guide you forward.

Lessons learned in the past few years

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’d like to begin 2020 with a recap of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years and ideas for the future.

Stuff that didn’t make sense in 2014

It didn’t make sense to me how the media members believed they were covering a story, but they were actually publicizing a fringe opinion. When the media exposed the actions of an extremist group/organization, they appeared to actually give them credence, especially when repeated ad nausium.

It didn’t make sense to me how polarized my country was, how relatives and neighbors could hold such opposite opinions. Even though we disagreed with many, we don’t want to shoot them like they do in other countries where people fight over politics or religion.

It didn’t make sense to me how people looked at land or location as a place to be exploited and not see the beauty of the place. It didn’t make sense to me how destroying a landscape, improves it;  e.g. why do neighbors bulldoze 100-year-old trees that protect fragile land to farm another acre more or build another grain bin.

What did make sense?

It made sense for a society to take responsibility to care for people unable to care for themselves (disabled, elderly, children and disenfranchised). It made sense to me that wealthy people should be taxed more to pay for roads, police, schools, health care, and even bombs. I often felt that I could do more than I do to help others.

It made sense to celebrate life’s events, like holding a Halloween party for friends and family whenever we are able. We may not pass by a person, group, of part of life again in just the same way – it made sense not to miss opportunities. This sentiment has grown stronger as I age.

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What made sense in my life?

It made sense to always support my children as they figure out life.

It made sense to bury the hatchet of conflict with others and let go of past hurts. This one was and is very difficult for me. I take injuries and hurts to heart, expect apologies that won’t be coming, and find it easier to live without hurtful people in my life.

It made sense to learn to forgive so I don’t feel the agony of resentment all the time. It made sense to bury those feelings in the soil, to plant new life internally as I plant flowers and tomatoes in the spring. I’ve been given another year, another spring to work on this and I was grateful to be alive, or as a friend used to say, “every day above ground is a good one”.

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It made sense to me to focus my daily life on things I could manage and control (like mowing the lawn when it is tall, cleaning the house when it is dirty, taking care of pets and livestock, giving my colleagues a place to vent about the very strange politics of the work-place, participating in groups that improve the little space of the world that I live in) and let alone the neighborhood’s, state’s, nation’s bigger problems.

It made sense to celebrate every sunrise, appreciate every sunset, savor the taste of coffee, the luxury of time to sip a couple cups in the morning, dinner with family or friends, finding time to stop, listen to birds sing and share the bounty of my life. I felt very fortunate to be in that place at that time.

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What makes sense in 2020?

This is the first time I’ve considered these issues in the past six years. It seems appropriate to revisit them again as 2020 begins. I noted in 2014 that Americans may disagree but at least we don’t shoot people. I’m revising that statement based on the history of the past few years. People in this country are more polarized now than six years ago.

In recent years people have started to shoot people they don’t like; target racial groups they don’t like, and pursue whole groups of people whose politics they don’t like. People shoot other people in churches, synagogues, and mosques. People shoot children in elementary and high schools, and at colleges and universities. People shoot people in nightclubs and at concerts. People shoot people in restaurants and corner stores. I understand this exhibition of hated even less than I understand the hate that fuels it.

Perhaps I’m looking through the wrong end of a viewfinder, but I don’t understand the continued exploitation of land and water in this country as if there’s always more land out there to move to, dig up, pump water from the ground via irrigation, build wind farms on, or clutter landscapes with mechanical equipment. It makes no sense to me to encase towers in fifty-feet deep cement platforms for the next generation to worry about removing.

It also makes no sense to mine oil from Canadian tar sands and transport it via pipelines to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to be sold on the world market. Pipelines that cross the United States and pollute our land with every pipeline break seem nonsensical to me as well as being another source of ill-gotten revenue for the one present of ultra-rich that spend fortunes lobbying politicians to make it happen.

Stuff that does make sense.

Generosity to others and kindness continue to be important qualities. It makes sense to help others when possible. It makes sense to adopt shelter pets, like my dog Pickles rather than buy from pet factories.

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I wish sensible actions and attitudes combined into a longer list and perhaps I need to remove my rose-colored glasses and view the world with a different lens. However, I love my country and its multiplicity of residents regardless of our political divisions. We are all more than our political opinions. Please, let’s stop shooting each other!

It also makes sense to me to record events and attitudes as I experience them. This time and place will not come again. I’m still grateful to be alive at this time. It continues to make sense to celebrate life’s gifts.  I hope the world will be a better place for future generations. If each of us demonstrates one kind gesture toward another and befriends folks rejected by others, we will have a beginning.

 

Growing Up on a Farm

My poem, Farm Sale, tells about the day my parents held a farm sale, prior to their move from farm to a house in town in 1982. The poem was published in The Sea Letter Journal 

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The photo is blurry because it’s from 1982, taken on a tiny point-and-shoot camera and because my hands shook watching my parents’ lives auctioned away. Many people from the community came to the sale. Cars and pickup trucks lined the road that March day.

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I also took some pictures that day of the pasture where I spent a lot of time day dreaming during my adolescent years.  Those photos are clearer.  I took more time and steadied my hand to photograph the waterways I loved.

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Mom liked living in the town they chose.  Dad missed the farm.  He missed the cows and working in the fields.  He passed away two years after moving to town.

Transitions

September Sunset

September is glorious sunrises and sunsets, warm days, open-window cool nights, and a sense of time stretching forever. It’s a time of transition from summer to fall, air conditioning to heating, garden harvest to preserving food for winter.

I had a large apple harvest this year. I made a lot of applesauce.

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Weather changes affect mood

In Autumn, September’s warm, balmy days switch to October’s variability. October can be a glorious display of tree colors, visits to pumpkin patches, and bountiful fall harvests. October can also turn into soggy, overcast dreary days stretching into an early winter. October is a time of Halloween parties, fun decorations, and playing dress-up for kids of all ages. October is usually a combination of all those transitions moving us gradually or suddenly toward winter in the northern hemisphere.

We move from fourteen hours of daylight in August to ten by the end of the October. I move my houseplants back in the house after a summer in the bright light. Most of them have adjustment issues in the dimmer indoor light. When plants have difficulty adjusting to less light, drop their leaves, and become semi-dormant, it’s an alert that people face the same challenge.

Depression is a difficult mental health condition for many. With the lowering of light levels during the winter months, depression can heighten for those already challenged. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, winter depression affects people who feel fine in the summer months but lapse into depression in the winter. These folks often dread winter for many reasons. Getting up in the dark, shoveling snow, traveling on icy roads, and coping with everyday challenges is heightened during the dark months ahead.

Help is available

Counselors can help their clients make these transitions and prepare for low light conditions. Knowing that last’s years depression can return with the change in light level, helps people know that it’s time to check in with their mental health professional, begin to care for themselves, and consider adding extra light to one’s routine; e.g. setting a timer to your bed side light so it lights your room before the alarm begins your day.  Each person’s situation often has multiple challenges. It’s always a good idea to talk over your issues with a professional.

City Travel

Welcome, new visitors to my blog. I typically write about country life, and as the readers who follow my posts are aware, I live on a ranch in a rural area, remote from most urban settings. 

Last weekend I ventured into Minneapolis with a friend.  We saw the musical, Guys and Dolls, at the Guthrie Theatre, spent a day at the Minneapolis Art Institute’s special exhibit of Native Women’s Art, and attended the air show, Wings of the North, among other urban adventures.

It’s tough to get used to so much traffic, Minneapolis’ complex interstate system, and limited or expensive parking when my daily drive is usually over gravel roads and parking is never an issue. The only obstacles in my area are slow-moving tractors conveying large equipment from one place to another.

Guthrie Theatre: https://www.guthrietheater.org/

Guthrie Theatre Sign under a full moon above & stage set for Guys and Dolls below

A windowless hotel room, conspired with my touch of vertigo, to disrupt my sense of direction in the city.  Thanks to GPS, we got to our destinations, even though I believed west was east the entire time.  My internal direction-finder began to function again, as we drove toward home, in bright sunshine.

Minneapolis Art Institute: Hearts of our People Native Women Artists exhibit https://new.artsmia.org/

Blanket Totem Pole above and Egyptian Horse below

  Wings of the North: https://www.wotn.org/airexpo/  

 Biplane pictured first. One of the two B-52’s still flying, from WWII, flew over the airshow, pictured second.

The special events were wonderful and I’m glad I was there, but my favorite stops were to the Next Chapter Booksellers https://www.nextchapterbooksellers.com/ and Dunn Bros coffee shop http://www.dunnbrosgrand.com/.  I prefer to spend my book dollars in an indie bookstore, rather than online at a commercial giant, like Amazon.  There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee and a treat, like this delicious tiramisu, after book shopping.

Both establishments are located across the street from Macalester College https://www.macalester.edu/. The campus is tree-covered, and no doubt storied, for the undergraduates of this liberal arts college.  I love walking around college and university campuses when visiting college towns or neighborhoods.  It’s fun to imaging having attended there.  It’s probably not a surprise that I feel “warm and fuzzy” about higher education.  After all, I graduated from two universities and worked for a college in a third town, for nearly forty years.

We stopped at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Shop in La Mars for a final treat of chocolate cones before heading home.  Terrific ice cream and fun little blue bunnies are all over the shop. https://www.bluebunny.com/