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

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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.

I was lost in June.

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My dear friend died at the end of May after a long bout with cancer.  During her life, she organized trips around the world from Antarctica to Nova Scotia to Russia to China and many places between. This lady loved to research and plan trips.  She held a master’s degree in History and as a long time teacher of high school and college students, she also taught her fellow travelers about the history of every place she visited.

I was privileged to travel with her to seven countries, seven states, and two Caribbean islands over a fifteen year period.  She also shared many trips with her sister and her nieces.

June was lost time vacillating between tears of loss and celebrating our many adventures. Other friends ask me, “where’s your next trip?”   It feels odd to think about traveling without her, but her sister wants to plant a “memorial” trip in her honor.  There will be more about that trip as it unfolds.

Today, I’m celebrating the flowers of early summer, like the pink rose above and the yellow rose below.   Yellow roses grew in my parents’ yard.  I snagged a clipping before they moved to town in 1982.  This tough rose keeps coming back every June, regardless of how cold the winter.

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The California poppies bloomed with gusto this year as well.

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The peonies in the featured image above bloomed just in time for my friend’s memorial service.  I took peonies to decorate my parents’ graves on Memorial Day, as well.

July begins hot with temperatures in the mid-nineties but promises to be a good month.

 

Shete Boka National Park

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Located on the north end of the Caribbean island of Curacao, the Sheta Boka National Park is, according to their website, an “Area with more than 10 beautiful Boka’s (inlets) where three species of turtles nest. A boka is, in fact, an inlet. Shete Boka stands for ‘seven inlets’. Years ago, the environmental group Amigu di Tera arranged excursions in this area along seven bays. Hence, the name is taken, although in reality there are more than seven coves in this national park. The park begins at the beautiful Boka Tabla where large, unpredictable waves crush against an underground cave. An impressive experience!”  Learn more at https://www.curacao.com/en/directory/do/sights-and-sounds/shete-boka-national-park/

Prevailing northeast winds buffet the island.  Trees on the north end of the island are often bent like the featured image or dwarfed from the wind’s impact.

I visited the park on a tour of the island during February.  It was a restful vacation away from this frigid Nebraska Winter and did wonders for my mental health.  The crashing waves in the first photo were the highlight of the park.  The tour bus also visited a lovely park beach.  Our group had an hour to swim or sit in the sun.  I opted for sunshine, but many dived into the turquoise water.

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The tour bus also stopped at the salt ponds to see flamingos. We were able to walk near a series of protected pools where many flamingos dipped their elegant heads in search of food.  The flamingos have a peaceful existence eating in the still water.

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I noticed unusual water creatures at the edge of the pond.  I’m not sure of their biological identity, but they are quite beautiful.

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Curacao is a destination to consider to get away from northern winters.

Visit to an island

February is as cold this year as a home freezer that has gone too long without defrosting. Frost and ice cycles cover the northern plains.  Snow is stacked in piles around homes and buildings, roads ditches are full, and roadways blow shut again with every wind.  Fields, sky, trees are all shades of grey and white.  Roads are treacherous to drive. We stay at home if we can.  Everyone I talk with is ready for spring.

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In comparison, the colors of the Caribbean are brilliant blues, pinks, yellows, and lavender. I decided to vacation on an island this year for a change from this Nebraska winter.  A friend and I traveled to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, that I learned about from former students.  It’s a beautiful island with wonderful eighty-five degree sunny days, balmy evenings and fabulous beaches. 20190208_122502

Although the Spanish explored this area early in the 1600s, Dutch warships pushed them out. The religiously tolerant Dutch welcomed Jewish refugees from Europe. Together these diverse groups developed the island’s natural deep-water port into a pivotal shipping mecca.

In the 1800s, the USA donated a floating bridge across the bay that opens to admit huge container ships, oil tankers, and other commercial ships.  The bridge connects two sections of the capital city, Willemstad.

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The photo above shows the floating bridge lit up at night to allow commercial boat traffic to enter the bay.  People could stay on the bridge when it opened and ride along.  We rode along several times.

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This photo shows one of the tug boats that came through the bridge. The tug is heading out to sea to escort a larger ship back to port.   The buildings were designed after those in Holland.  All the house are brightly colored and picturesque.  For example, the Postal Museum was located in a house constructed in 1690.

Cruise ships (as shown in the featured image), visit the island regularly.  There were two cruise ships docked nearly every day during the week we spent on the island.  These tourist visits are vital to the country’s economy.

More about island tours in future blogs.

Retirement Anxiety

I’ve worked part-time selling irrigation parts, in a kitchen dish room, and winding used film.  My full-time jobs include working for a grant-funded group home, a developmental disabilities office, and a state college. I’ve been employed in some capacity for nearly fifty years.  Each job provided a regular paycheck.  My anxiety is on high alert without a paycheck for the first time in my adult life.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I thought about retiring for nearly a year. When I was confident that I should retire, I considered when to retire.  I selected a date close to my birthday and turned in a letter of resignation giving three month’s notice. I sought a peaceful exit from employment.   Many events unfolded during those three months that made me question my timing. This lovely chocolate dessert was a happy departure from a series of unhappy events.

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The college hired a new vice president who was my supervisor for a few weeks before I retired.  He holds many similar views to my own regarding student services.  It will be interesting to see if he is able to change the negative culture that shaped my decision to leave employment at this time.

It was also short-sighted of me to retire before the Christmas holiday.  Another paycheck would be helpful now until retirement funds become available.

On the home front, my rural well failed.  The well company was unable to remove a dysfunctional pump from the old well.  The first attempt at a new well was a failure, beginning with clay collapsing into the new pit, installing 80 feet of steel piping to stabilize the clay, and running into rocks below 80 feet. It took two waterless weeks for the crew to drill a new 220 foot well that reliably produces potable water.  The expense nearly drained my savings.

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A colleague and I are setting up a mental health private practice in the county seat.  This process also involves start-up costs to pay for office rent, insurance, legal fees, accounting fees, etc.  It’s unclear how long it will take to generate income.

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As winter weather settles around me, I’d like to take a vacation to a warm place.  It’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit today and dropping as the day goes on.  However, I’d like to feel more financially secure before I make definite plans.

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