Layers of new life emerge each day as we move into spring, and occasionally one of the layers is snow as on Monday. It is possible to almost see the green shoots of tulips and daffodils growing taller each day. The little cream-colored cup crocuses and the butter-yellow winter aconites blossom in spite of cold nights and windy days. I keep watching for signs of rhubarb or asparagus but I know it is too early. We haven’t even heard the peepers yet.
This has been an interesting two weeks, hasn’t it? Avoiding people is more difficult than one might think. On the other hand, when meetings began to be cancelled, I felt a sort of euphoria ---- temporary freedom from all those obligations. But when church was shut down that first Sunday, I was at loose ends. Changing our habits is really hard! We are so accustomed to total freedom to come and go as we please. Curtailing that freedom leaves us resentful, antsy and lost even when the reason for doing so is valid. Having church via Zoom this past Sunday helped – just to share concerns and reconnect. A recent newsletter quoted a very well-written article by the VP of Princeton Theological Seminary about social distancing; especially pertinent for those of us who pine for our churchy routines:
“The practice of social distancing is grounded in the science and math of epidemiology. The basic goal is to mitigate the threat represented by a new virus. When a new virus enters the population ---- before we have had a chance to build up immunity or develop a vaccine --- it poses the greatest threat to those who are most vulnerable…….one of the best ways to protect the most vulnerable….is to take steps to slow its spread. Viruses tend to spread exponentially in human population…………….In order to be effective, social distancing measures must be put in place before a virus begins to take root. …..It is not fear or irrational caution that leads us to put social distancing in places for our community. It is, rather, Christ’s charge to love our neighbors and care for the least of these that compels us. We choose to limit, for a season, our participation in some forms of human community….” *
I also like the poem that is going the rounds of Face Book: Prayer for a Pandemic **
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close, remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those who have no place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no market at all.
May we who settle for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors. Amen
We’ve been filling some of our time in cleaning and refurbishing. Inside as well as outside needs refreshment. The snow men are finally making their way from the porch to the storage shed and I’ve taken down the glass snowflakes from the picture window. The “winter lights” along our driveway and across our front lawn will have to come down pre-lawn-mowing, but right now they still lift our spirits. Kerm has gone through ten years of income tax stuff, cleaning out files. Then there is the kitchen!! One of my family members commented, when he walked into my kitchen, “Wow!! How have you gotten so much into one space?” It’s true; there is no undeveloped nook or corner. So, after gazing at it through his eyes, I was determined to weed out---- again! Collecting is fun, but it can escape the perimeters of good sense and good taste if not controlled.
Kitchens are often the place to congregate ---for those cooking, of course, but also for those who gather around the kitchen table or linger at the counter to chat. Of course in all of our houses, the kitchen has met needs other than food prep. We’ve been known to make candles, create messy batik hangings, clean a carburetor or two, and ----in Pennsylvania ---- it accommodated square dancing when 8 young people were learning western calls. A few years ago, we did a kitchen make-over to include many of the design ideas I’d been collecting. After functioning in it for a few years, there are things I’d still wish to change, but mostly it has been quite workable. Sadly, there is no room to put in a square dance set but maybe we could clear out the gazebo for any stray dancing feet?? I do like this thought from Dominique Browning: “We all find magic in different parts of our home.”* The kitchen seems, for many people, to be that magic place; the aromas and the ambiance sweep us back to good times.
The kitchen in the house where I grew up probably set the tone for my own kitchens. My mother had several kitchens before she was able to renovate one to her liking. I know she began cooking on one of those big, old wood stoves, progressed to one with kerosene burners (I vaguely remember the isinglass cylinders) and finally to an electric stove. I understand that during the big renovation, she drove the contractor a bit crazy by her close attention to detail (and all family members are now smiling at the thought of Grandma monitoring Lyman). But when it was finished, the room was a warm and comfortable place to prepare meals, make pies or to chat around the table. A tiny wood stove added heat on cold mornings and a large window framed by crewel-embroidered curtains, looked out on a bird feeder, gardens and a pond. I’m thinking that there’s not one member of our extended family who remembers this room with anything but affection and wistful wishing that we could sit around that table again with a cup of tea and a molasses cookie.
Everyone’s home has special rooms where family and/or friends gather for good times. Whether it is kitchen, family room or patio ---- the important thing is that your home be tailored to you. None of us need to offer a magazine-perfect collection of rooms. It is far more important to offer warmth and hospitality --- a place where both you and those who come visiting, feel “at home”. Each home should tell good stories of those who live therein. Our thought has always been that our home is to share and I am pleased when others are able to feel comfortable in it.
Even as most of us are staying home, some things must continue regardless of social distancing. Birthday cards must be sent, bills must be paid, birds expect sunflower seed, cows must be milked, fuel deliveries are necessary and the endless robo-calls keep coming. One rather sad business item for us this past week was the formal ending of Spencer Grange # 1110. We’ve procrastinated about taking this final step. The Grange has, for many years, been a part of the Spencer-VanEtten community providing education, community service, legislative advocacy for our rural region and some very tasty dinners. Several years ago, we felt it necessary to let the Grange building go; upkeep was just too much for our smaller membership. We did so with reluctance but were glad to cede it to Inspire, an organization that maintains it as a gym and community center. Grange members met in homes for several years. Now, however, as membership ages and dwindles, it is time to draw the curtain over what has been a great run. But------ Viva la Patrons of Husbandry wherever they may still thrive!!
It is well-known that most organizations are having difficulty maintaining sufficient membership; that people are not joining or volunteering their time. This is something that we all need to consider, for the lack will have an immense impact on small towns; fire companies, rescue squads, churches, community dinners, transportation and --- ambiance. If we each totally withdraw into our own little enclaves, we will miss much of what we are this earth to provide ----- support and community for each other. We each must somehow find a balance with personal time and helping others time or our communities will suffer, as will our souls. “When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.” **** And nowhere is this more evident than when we are making life more livable and beautiful for ourselves and those around us.
And speaking of beautiful…..I just observed a feeder full of gold finches. Of course, they are just beginning to turn gold and they were chattering as though having a dinner-meeting to plan for spring. They won’t be nesting for quite a while yet, so they have time to party. Flocks of turkeys are now everywhere: back yard, side yard, front yard. They clean our lawn of debris but also make it necessary to be very careful about where we step.
These are difficult and uncertain days, but I wish that you may be well and that you find something good in this period of quiet. “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson*****
Carol may be reached at: email@example.com.
* Dr. Shane A. Berg, Executive VP of Princeton Theological Seminary. Newsletter from Burdett Presbyterian Church.
**Author unknown. Found on Face Book
***Dominique Browning --- American writer and magazine editor for Conde Nast.
****Kahlil Gibran – Lebanese artist, writer, poet. 1883-1931
*****Ralph Waldo Emerson – American essayist, philosopher and poet. Led the Transdentalist Movement. 1803-1882