Saturday, October 1, 2022

Concerts and Worship Opportunities

Yesterday, I knew that the rains would come eventually, rains and perhaps wind from the remnants of Hurricane Ian.  So I headed out to a more suburban Trader Joe's, 30 minutes away, a place that had a parking lot.  There are some things, like nuts, ravioli, eggs, and seeds, that are cheaper at Trader Joe's than any other area grocery store.  Plus, I had seen the Fall Flyer, and it seemed full of good things.

Of course, when I went to shop, I couldn't remember what some of those good things were.  I got the pumpkin ravioli, which I ate yesterday.  It didn't seem very different from the butternut squash ravioli--tasty.  I'm glad I went, but I probably won't make it a regular habit.

I took a longer walk because I expected it to rain later, and I went a bit further than I anticipated, which left me a bit worn out.  I had planned to go to an evening concert last night.  It was put together by Korean seminary students, and it would include Korean treats.  It was supposed to be an outdoor garden concert, but the rain meant it would move inside.  I thought about not going.

In fact, there was a moment around 4:30 or 5:00 where I thought about going to bed REALLY early.  My spouse and I texted--why do people love texting so much?  It was aggravating to me, so we switched to a Facebook video call.  He encouraged me to go to the concert.  

Since the concert was literally right in my back yard (or side yard), I decided he was right.  I changed into my favorite pair of jeans, the black pair, brushed my teeth, put on an additional layer, and headed over to the refectory.  I was impressed with the technology that was set up.  Somewhere, at some point, there will probably be a recording.

There was interesting food:  sushi rolls that were vegetarian but with tuna and fake crab--so really vegetarian?  No matter.  I'd have been fine with fish, raw or cooked, but the woman explaining choices to me assured me that nothing was raw.  It was tasty.  There were individually wrapped treats, and a pot of something that looked like pasta with red sauce that I avoided when I was told that it was very spicy.  

As advertised, the concert was a half hour long, about five songs, all worship oriented.  On two of them, we sang along, some of us in Korean, some of us in English:  "How Great Is Our God" and a more traditional hymn, the title of which I'll go back and insert when I remember what it was.  There was some sort of track, a karaoke like track, but we also had people playing instruments with us:  keyboard, guitar, and a drum on one track.  At the end, one of the singers offered up a prayer for all of us; I found myself moved.

We had a bit of chatting afterwards, lightened up with some toddlers doing their toddler thing.  The crowd was equally mixed between Korean seminary students, family of those students, a few of their friends in the area, and non-Korean seminary students.  I did feel like one of the oldest people there, but I'm determined not to let that stop me from doing seminary activities.  Plus, I realize that I might be wrong.  And even if I'm correct, so what?  Someone has to be the wise elder student.  Or if not the wise one, the one that students remember decades later and say, "Hey, I can remake my life too, just like that older woman at Wesley did, that year that she showed up to live on campus, even though she just bought her dream house at that church camp somewhere."

As I walked back to my seminary apartment, the wind was picking up, as was the rain.  I slept with my curtains open so that I could see and hear the rain pattering against the window.

I thought about the end of my Washington week, a week when I decided not to go to the Ada Limon reading, but I did go to the on campus concert by fellow students.  It was also a week when I finally got around to going to area libraries.  I will go to 4:00 Evensong tomorrow at the National Cathedral unless it's pouring rain.  

In so many ways, this seminary campus life is what I wanted.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Laureate Thursday, Literary Thursday

Last night at the Library of Congress, Ada Limon gave her inaugural reading as the nation's poet laureate. A few weeks ago, when I realized that my canceled Thursday night class was the same night, I applied for a free ticket.  I got one, but in the end, I decided not to go.

I got an e-mail on Wednesday that advised that we would be required to wear masks, and I would have been wearing one anyway, but I did start to think about the wisdom of this kind of indoor event when a pandemic is ongoing.  I did get a booster shot on Friday, but I'm not in a hurry to test that protection.

I don't know why I didn't think about the potential of crowds when I requested a free ticket.  I'm not used to sell out crowds at poetry events, and the Wed. e-mail advised that we would be at full capacity.  The line to get in for the 7:00 p.m. reading would start to assemble at 5:00 p.m., and we'd be let in to get seats, if we were far enough in the front of the line, at 6:30.  There would be overflow seating in a hall where we could watch on a screen.  

I thought about standing in line starting at 5.  I thought about all the people.  I thought about the fact that the reading would be recorded for YouTube broadcast.  I wondered how much I really wanted to go.

When I requested a ticket, I had planned to get downtown early, but so that I could go to a museum, not stand in line.  I was willing to spend the money for a Metro ride there and back, but did I really want to go and spend that time standing in line?  It would have been glorious weather for standing in line, if we were outside.  If we were inside, there was that much more time for disease exposure.

In the end, I decided not to go.  I felt a bit guilty--not because it meant that someone else couldn't go.  I assume that the event planners gave out extra tickets realizing that some of us wouldn't be able to attend.  I told myself that if I had known what the Wednesday e-mail made clear, about crowds and standing in line, I wouldn't have gotten a ticket in the first place, but I still felt a bit guilty.  

When I thought about living in seminary housing, taking advantage of DC cultural events was one of the reasons I wanted to do this.  Ada Limon is a poet I'd like to see read, even if she wasn't the poet laureate.  Hopefully, I'll get another chance.

So, what did I do instead?  I went to the American University library to get my Wesley ID activated to be able to use the AU library.  I came home and made myself a dinner of roasted brussels sprouts and a baked sweet potato, which was much tastier than it sounds.

I was feeling oddly exhausted, so I was even more glad that I didn't go downtown.  I was asleep by 8.  But before that, I tucked myself into bed.  My bed faces west, so I had a great view of a glorious sunset, as I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.  It wasn't the cultural/literary even that I had planned, but it was the one that I needed.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Non-Hurricane Gratitude

I am now taking a break from Hurricane Irma    (interesting slip) Ian monitoring to record some other events that happened this week.

--Yesterday I put my contact lenses in my eyes with my right hand, which is the first time that I've done that since April.  I am still not where I want to be with my right hand/arm/wrist, but let me remember how far I have come.

--It has been interesting setting up a satellite household here.  There are some things that I haven't missed at all, like a TV.  I've been enjoying reading fiction right before bed.  But I have decided that I wanted a vegetable scrubber, and so I ordered one, one that's identical to the one that we ordered for the other house to replace a veggie scrubber that bit the dust after years of faithful use.  I've bought a lot of potatoes, both sweet and white, in the past week, and I want to be sure I can scrub them thoroughly.

--I was about to break down and buy a replacement immersion blender and gallon tea pitcher.  I stashed those in a box on the last morning that we moved, and we haven't been able to find the box.  But hurrah!  My spouse found it.  It was in a box labeled 45's and Odds and Ends.  I think we both saw it and assumed it was all 45s.  I had a strong hunch that we hadn't lost the box in the move, but we had looked in almost every box.  

--I thought I might need a drying rack, but then it occurred to me that I have clothes pins and a shower curtain.  This solution has delighted me this week as I've been seeing how long it takes for my hand-washed socks to dry.

--I thought about how much this image looks like some odd installation art project, which made me think about this arrangement of leaves that I made on a huge tree stump the other morning:

I sent a copy of the picture to my teacher, who had us do this type of art for last Thursday's class.  I think it brought her great joy to know that I continued to experiment.

--I continue to be impressed with the faculty here at Wesley.  I feel so fortunate to be able to learn from them.

--Last Friday I made pumpkin bread, and I have enjoyed having it for breakfast every morning until I finished the last of the 2 loaves yesterday.

--Pumpkin bread was not the only treat I got this week.  Last Friday, when I was out and about trying to get my vaccine booster, I missed the narrow window that I have to pick up packages from the mailroom, so I had to wait until Monday to get my care package from my home church:

Cookies and notes of encouragement!  And I used the quilt that my church got me as my going away present for a back drop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Strange Survivor's Guilt

I confess that I am still monitoring Hurricane Ian, even though there's not much mystery left.  That radar is mesmerizing--a category 4 storm off the southwest coast of Florida.  I find myself thinking of trips we've taken to that coast; it will be awhile before tourists head back to that area.  I am listening to various weather forecasters.  Right now, I'm listening to Craig Setzer's 5:30ish broadcast where he calls this storm "a generational event."

Last night after class, I checked Facebook to find that many of my friends in Broward county were dealing with tornado warnings and flooding.  I got e-mails from the city of Hollywood advising me to worry about flooding and offering to let me move vehicles to park for free in 2 city garages, but not the ones at the beach, since that barrier island is expected to flood.

Happily, I don't own property in a flood zone anymore.  I think about the motorcycle that sustained severe damage in Hurricane Irma, and we finally got it restored to a shade of its former self--just in time for the post-Christmas flood of 2019, the flood that wasn't forecast, that wasn't tropical, but it took out the motorcycle and the Prius that was parked on the street.

A bit later:

I'm feeling a multitude of feelings, while at the same time not having much focus to write about these feelings, as I toggle back and forth between hurricane coverage and the recorded lecture for my Church History class this week.  Let me see if I can bring this post to a close.

I am feeling an odd sort of survivor's guilt, even though it's not like I had any secret knowledge.  We could see the increasing strength of storms, along with more flooding that was unconnected to storms, and we decided to sell our house.

I spent much of September and October of 2021 when the house was on the market, worried about this kind of hurricane, the kind that would either destroy our house or make everyone remember why they didn't want to buy a house in hurricane country.  Happily, we closed on the sale in January, and I've rarely looked back.

I have this odd guilt this morning, 1000 miles away from that house we sold.  I have a lovely day planned:  going on a walk in the morning once it's warmed up a bit and later in the afternoon or early evening.  I'll do seminary work and have a video chat with my spouse.  I will cook and maybe bake.  I have this spacious 2 bedroom apartment on a day when so many people will be losing everything they own.

I have no idea how to wrap up this post.  It won't wrap up neatly.  There's no way around my guilt, and the people losing everything will need more than I can give them.  I will use my guilt twinges as I enjoy my nice day to remind myself to pray for those in the path of the storm--and there are so many, when we broaden the definition of storm.

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Planet We No Longer Know

I wrote this post to a friend this morning:  "Nothing like an approaching storm to make me remember how much of my heart is in Florida--I know so many people throughout the state."

This morning's forecast track looks like it could be dreadful in a multitude of ways.  One of the worst ways would be that a major storm comes ashore at Tampa.  Others have done deeper analysis than I will do here, but here's a short version:  lots of development on lots of low-lying land, with lots of potential for flooding and other types of destruction.  Are those people insured?  Will insurance companies go broke and not be able to pay?  Will Citizens, the Florida insurer of last resort, have enough reserves?

There's the threat of storm surge.  The only hurricane advantage I had when I lived in South Florida is that the area wasn't prone to storm surge because of the deep drop off of the shelf under the ocean, as the sea meets the shore.  Much of the Florida coast doesn't have that, so a storm like Ian will be even more damaging because of that storm surge.

There's another dreadful scenario--the storm could sit over the peninsula and/or move very slowly and dump a lot of rain.  And even if it "speeds" across the state, it's still a lot of water falling on land that's already saturated.

People in the path of the storm don't have much time to make decisions.  One hopes that people have been paying attention, gathering important paperwork and possessions, and making plans.  I know that many of them have been thinking that the storm would come ashore where the panhandle meets the peninsula.  That could still happen, but if I lived on the west coast of the peninsula, I wouldn't bet on it.  I'd be making plans and finishing preparations as if the storm would pass over my head.  Soon it will be too late.

It's days like these that I'm glad I'm not in emergency management.  Of course, there's never a day when I'd want to be working in an emergency management department, but today will be intense, for many of the same reasons that the day will be intense for many Floridians:  decisions to make with many of the factors remaining uncertain.  And how to evacuate people safely?  That's a level of emergency management that would make me lose sleep.

I think of all the people with electric cars and what a headache those will cause for evacuation.  I am thankful it's not my headache, while at the same time, I feel this anxiety.  Some of it may be some variety of PTSD.  It's not that long ago that we had similar decisions to make about hurricane Irma.  For 24 hours, it looked like we would get a direct hit from a category 4 storm.  On the Wednesday before the storm hit, my spouse and I took a walk around our sunny neighborhood.  I said, "I'm assuming that if we evacuate, we're coming back to nothing."  But it was not to be that bad.

Of course, in some ways, coming back to nothing might be preferable to coming back to flood and wind damage and spending the next 2 years navigating insurance, contractors, repairs, all the while holding onto a full-time job and a part time job.  I am glad we won't be facing that in the near future.

I am now saying a prayer for those who are facing all of these worst case scenarios, and a prayer for all of us in this time of changing climate, a planet we no longer know.  This will be the 3rd record breaking storm in a week.  There was Fiona that wiped out a chunk of Canada, Noru that set records for rapid intensification (and significant damage for Vietnam and the Phillipines), and now Ian, which I'm willing to bet will set some records too.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Walking Meditations and the Path of a Storm

So far, I've had a good week-end, my first full week-end here in my seminary apartment.  I've had Zoom-like conversation with my spouse and my quilting group, along with instant message type written conversations, so I haven't felt lonely. I've done school work, I've read for pleasure (Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which I started the week before Mantel died), I've cooked, I've gone on a quest for veggies, I've done a lot of walking.

Yesterday I walked a mile and a half to a farmer's market, but it was organic veggies, so they seemed very pricey to me.  I want to support small farmers, but I don't want to pay $6.00 a pound for sweet potatoes, regardless of how they're grown.  So on my walk back, I took a detour to Wegmans, a grocery store, and bought some cheaper veggies.

Yesterday evening, as the sun was setting, I walked to St. Columba's Episcopal Church.  I had read about DC Art All Night, where various neighborhoods had a variety of arts events.  

St. Columba's offered a walk in the indoor labyrinth (on a canvas) accompanied by music, an arts gallery/shop, and organ concerts.  

I took part in all of those things, and then I walked the two blocks to Tenleytown to see the rest of the events.  It was so crowded that I could barely make my way through the public library.  So, hurrah for the library, but I walked on home.  I felt safe from violence, but a bit worried about trip hazards.  I didn't want to walk in the street for fear of being hit by a car, but the sidewalks were much more dimly lit.  I walked on the sidewalks and took my time.

As I've reflected on last night, I thought about the process of slow walking.  I had to take my time in the labyrinth too, but we expect that.  The music was provided by overtone group Harmonic Introductions.  I confess that I liked the musical parts that had just piano, harp, cello, and singing bowls best.  The overtone singing was distracting.

I've also been keeping an eye on the glob of weather that's slowly becoming Hurricane Ian.  I don't own property in Florida anymore, so you might wonder why I'm paying such close attention.  Most of the reason is force of habit:  I've always paid attention to storms, and I've always kept a wary eye on the weather.  And of course, I still have friends who might be in the path of a storm.

I came across this sentence this morning from this blog post on the Yale Climate Connections site:  "8 p.m. EDT Saturday: As this post was being prepared, Typhoon Noru was in the process of becoming one of the fastest-intensifying cyclones in modern Earth history, strengthening far more than expected while heading toward the Philippines."  This strengthening happened during the same week-end that Canada was slammed by Hurricane Fiona, the strongest storm to hit that coastline ever.

It's made me think of a poem I wrote a long time ago, when I looked up at the pre-dawn sky and thought about how many astronomical objects are cold, hard rocks as far as we can tell.  It led to this poem, which has become a renewed favorite of mine, after the spouse of a dear friend told me how it had stuck with him and made him think about the universe differently.  It was published in my first chapbook Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Geology, the True Life Science

Our planet—warm, gooey corner
of a cold, lifeless cosmos,
a primordial ooze which forms
the perfect building blocks for life,
a miraculous exception to the universal
rule. The official astronomer’s story.

But perhaps God prefers rocks and minerals.
Why else create such a diverse abundance?
Maybe animals and humans are the experiment
gone horribly wrong, an accident of pumping liquids
surrounded by decaying flesh.

Bones calcify, kidneys form stones, arteries harden
with plaque—instead of medical disaster,
perhaps our bodies move towards their ultimate evolutionary
destiny, seeking God’s pleasure.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Adventures in Vaccinations

I got my 5th COVID shot yesterday, this time, the bivalent version that protects against the Omicron variants.  On the face of it, that's not a remarkable sentence.  But I had a significantly different experience this time than I've had recently, so it seems worthy of a blog post.

My reaction to the vaccine wasn't noticeably different, although this time, I haven't (so far) gotten much in the way of side effects except for a sore arm.  I got my last booster on March 31, and by the time I went as a student to my online class, I was feeling headachy chills.  I could watch my condition changing as I was on Zoom for 3 hours.  I woke up the next morning feeling better.

I know that some people have increasingly more difficult side effects with each booster, so I wanted to have the booster at a time when I could take it easy for a day or two if necessary.  This week-end was perfect, since I have no travel planned, no face to face visits, and a light load of homework/long term work for classes I take and classes I teach.

In South Florida, there's so little demand for the vaccine that one doesn't have to make an appointment.  My spouse had a similar experience earlier this week in North Carolina--the local grocery store pharmacy had no customers, so my spouse inquired and was able to get his COVID booster and a flu shot.  I decided to try to go to a grocery store too.

I could never find the Safeway.  I had looked it up on Google Maps, and it looked fairly straight forward; I did not use my magical phone.  I knew it wouldn't be a suburban grocery store with a huge parking lot, but I hoped to find street parking or a parking garage.  When I couldn't, I kept going in the hopes of a Trader Joe's--not to get a vaccine, but to do some shopping.  I knew that there were 2 locations on Wisconsin, but I couldn't find the one closest to me.  The one further away had no parking anywhere close that I could find.

I got a bit lost as I tried to head home, and I finally pulled over into an elementary school parking lot to get directions.  Feeling gratitude for this technology, I let the phone guide me home.  

I didn't want to give up on getting a vaccine, so I tried making an appointment at various drug stores.  There weren't any appointments available until late next week or October.  I thought about how much driving I had done in the morning.  I widened my search.  Finally I found a same day appointment for a drugstore in Frederick, Maryland.  At the time, I though Frederick was only about 15 miles away, so that seemed doable.

It's a bit further, but it's an easy trip on the Interstate--although there was slow traffic in places I didn't expect. But happily, I was able to find the CVS and get my shots.  With a flu shot in one arm and a booster shot in the other, I headed home and only had a bit of early rush hour slow down.

I don't drive the car very much, so it was good to give it a drive. I probably won't drive it again this week. There's a lack of parking in the city, so I tend to go to nearby grocery stores and buy what I need and can carry. So far, it's working. When I go to visit people like my sister or my parents, I stock up on heavier things like bags of flour or cans. 

Last night I waited for symptoms to start, but they didn't.  This morning, still no side effects aside from the sore arm--hurrah!  I have said before that I would get the COVID vaccine, even if I knew I would have a day or two of significant side effects; I really want to avoid COVID and boosters seem like a powerful tool.  

I have never gotten a flu shot.  Since 1998 we've lived in South Florida where there's not much flu.  But this year, I'm in DC, where there's flu and strangers and soon we'll be spending more time indoors.

I'm becoming the opposite of an anti-vaxxer.  I want all the vaccines, even if there's not much risk of the disease.  I'll start, though, with the diseases that pose the most risk to me.  Next up, I need a tetanus shot; I had my last one  in 2013.

Today after my quilting zoom group, I'll walk to a nearby farmer's market.  I feel lucky that I have so few side effects from my immunization adventures that I can do this.