Sunday, May 31, 2020

Process Notes on Pentecost Poetry Project

On May 13, my pastor sent me a FB message asking me how I'd like to participate in the Pentecost worship service which he planned to create in advance.  I asked what he had in mind.  Here was his response:

"I have begun sending out some readings and some prayers for people to film themselves and send it back - looking to you for a reflection or creative reflection (as creative as you want) if that speaks to you - as long as I get video by wed May 27"

Of course I said yes.  Here was my original response:

"Yes--I'd be happy to do come up with something. Pre-recording offers all sorts of possibilities (fire pits, wind, streamers, candles) FUN!!!! Thanks for including me!"

I had thought about filming our firepit and filming the wind blowing something--traditional imagery for Pentecost.  But then, I went in a different direction.

As I walked through my neighborhood, I thought about the Pentecost messages I was seeing.  I thought about making short films and creating poems to go with them.  But the first morning that I took my camera with me, I realized I could actually speak as I was filming.

Some of the material I thought about before filming.  But I'm a poet who thinks on her feet, who makes interesting connections where most people would see none--years and decades of teaching also have kept me nimble in that way.  Here's a clip that demonstrates what I did for several mornings:

In the clip, the goose turns its head just when I needed it to do so--a lovely serendipity.  But the goose also gives a shake--that made my brain leap to the idea of a God who doesn't shake us away, a God who "shakes off all that might disappoint a lesser god."

I was doing this filming in the very early hours of the morning, so I kept my voice down.  I also recorded lots of other sounds along with my voice--most notably birds, but also in some very early morning shots of the anchored boats, the sound of a very windy morning and perhaps some distant thunder.  I didn't see many people along the way, and the houses were mostly dark--occasionally, however, I did wonder if my neighbors wondered what I was up to.

I want to believe that each segment acts in the best way of poems or parables.  As I worked on these, I was looking for ways to create metaphors that would make us pause, make us say, "Hmm.  I never thought of it that way."  I have hopes that one or two will stick with people long after they've seen the whole thing.

For those of us who have been going to church for awhile, we're used to ideas of the Holy Spirit as wind or tongues of flame.  Those images wouldn't have the same power as the ones I collected.

Of course, I realize that the oddness of some of the images might also not have the same power as a really good video of flame. 

I can't put the whole video here, but this link should take you to my YouTube channel, where you can see it.  If you would like to experience the whole worship service, go here.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Milestones and Hinges

In later years, will I/we wonder about the things I didn't record as the week progressed?  Will there be moments that we later recognize as hinge moments yet unrecorded here? 

Probably.  Let me write about some of the possibilities:

--As I drove to my appointment with my spiritual director, I listened to a bit of Trump's press conference.  I wondered if we will look back and wonder why we picked a fight with China--or will we wonder why we waited so long?  Will we go to war over Hong Kong?  Will the global economy unravel even faster?

--This was a week of many racial outrages, the most egregious the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  I made a book spine poem, a puny response, but it's mine:

--This week, we hit a different grim milestone:  100,000 dead in the U.S. of COVID-19.  It's a number that's hard for me to get my head around, so earlier this week I looked up #s of deaths in past wars.  The number that we heard this week is that we now have more COVID-19 dead than in all the wars since Korea.  Daily we lose the number of U.S. citizens that we did on September 11, 2001.

--As I think about my personal circumstances, I think about the meeting I had with the new owners who have just bought the school that employs me.  Having been part of a school that was an acquisition before, I feel I have seen this movie already.  But the Art Institutes and the rest of the EDMC schools were bought by Goldman Sachs, an investment firm that had no interest in education.  I do feel good that we've been bought by people who own a similar school in Brooklyn.  But it is clear that they will be making some major changes.

--In this week of deaths of all sorts, I was sobered by the loss of AIDS activist Larry Kramer, especially since I had just seen archival footage of him in How to Survive a Plague, footage that reminded me of how powerful and effective (and irritating) he was.  But Robb Forman Dew also died.  This obituary in The Washington Post noted that she emerged at the same time as Louise Erdrich and Ann Tyler, and that's how I remember her, as part of a group of important women writers who came a generation before me.  Barbara Sher also died this week--in the mid-90's, I read all her books, and I particularly remember Wishcraft as the type of book that told us to train our brains to think about what we wanted to achieve, not on our fears.

--Yesterday, my spiritual director and I talked about the future of the church, once churches are assembling in person again.  When churches can reassemble in person, it would be good to still do the remote elements, as we have many people who can't gather in person:  the sick, the elderly, the disabled.  But when pastors have to lead in-person worship and visit the shut ins and lead Bible studies, will they have time to do the virtual stuff?  I suspect they won't.

I said, "I wonder if there might be a job as Director of Remote Programming."  We talked a bit about what that would look like.  My spiritual director said, "Your face really lights up when you talk about this."

Of course, it's similar to my dreams of being an online retreat coordinator.  It's so hard to plan for the future, or even to think about the future, when so much remains unknown.  I'm hoping that the seeds that will bloom into an appealing future have been planted in this time of so much death.  I'm trying not to give too much time to my apocalyptic fears.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Sketching During Pandemic Months

For two months, I've been sketching on a daily basis.  In early March, when I returned from San Antonio, I signed up for an online journaling class with the same artist and group that had given me such a wonderful experience at the end of 2018.  I could not have imagined how much life was about to change, but I had some glimmers.  Here's a sketch from the early days of the pandemic:

The journaling group began later in March, and as March progressed into April, we read our way through Cynthia Bourgeault's Mystical Hope:  Trusting in the Mercy of God.  I found a lot that inspired me:

As we got to the end of our first journaling group time, our leader offered another experience for May.  We've been reading Meister Eckhart's Book of the Heart.  It's a book put together by Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows; they've taken the words of Eckhart and put them in poetry form.  I haven't found myself journaling/sketching out specific passages as much, but it has been inspiring, and I have continued to sketch each day:

As I've sketched each day, I've noticed that I return again and again to the swirl, so occasionally, I've experimented with other forms and shapes.

I've used words and passages from the books we've been reading together.

I've even experimented a bit with realism--although it's always been a fanciful realism.

Occasionally, I'd start a sketch and then return to it.  Here's a progression that pleased me.  Day 1:

Later that day:

I've been using the same 4 markers throughout:  1 lilac and 3 shades of gray.  Occasionally, I used only the fine tip pens that I bought for the course:

Today is the last meeting of the journaling group.  I'm looking forward to expanding my color palette.  But I will miss this group!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Spring Creativity Report: Altarscapes, Haiku, Sketching

Yesterday, I felt draggy and irritable for much of the day.  Observant readers of this blog may have noticed that I didn't post yesterday (but I did write in my offline journal).  I wrote a partial post, but never got back to finish it.

Yesterday was a long day at work.  I needed to stay late to make sure the evening lab students had their temperatures checked.  I arrived home to my spouse watching the evening service that my church livestreams each Wednesday.

The camera stays focused on one image during the livestream. Usually it's the altar, which we've just changed for Pentecost. We're using glass blocks that we created 2 years ago as part of an interactive arts worship--glass blocks that I learned to make during a Create in Me retreat years earlier. 

I liked the earlier altar too, the Easter altar as I came to think of it:

When I put together the Pentecost altar on Sunday morning, I was a bit disappointed.  The glass blocks looked pale against the white of the altar and the white and gold of the fabric and under the fluorescent lights.  But it looks really beautiful as the setting for evening service, in the dimmed light of the chancel. 

When I look back through my poetry notebook in later years, I might assume I hadn't been creative this spring.  In terms of poetry writing, I haven't done as much in my traditional way, on the legal pad.  But I've been writing different types of poetry, including my Pentecost Poetry video project; I'll do a larger reveal on Sunday.  I've also done a bit of composing of haiku-like things:

And of course, I've done other creating:  cooking, altarscapes, sketching, and even some singing.  In later years, let me remember.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Memorial Day: Flooding Rain and Pentecost Poetry Project Video

When I think of this past Memorial Day week-end, what will I remember?  In some ways, it was a week-end like many other week-ends:  grilling, cooking, grading, writing, sketching, and sleeping a bit more than I can during the week.

In some ways, it was strange:  a grad school friend and I did a Facebook call.  It was like a Skype call, so in some ways, it wasn't strange.  But it did start to rain heavily while we were talking, and I noticed some rain dripping on the windowsill.  We haven't had water instrusion through that window since Hurricane Irma; in fact, that's the only time we've had water intrusion through that window.

By the end of yesterday afternoon, we had water intrusion through all the windows that occasionally let water in, which is about half of them.  In a way, I feel fortunate--we don't have consistent leaks, with damage easily contained.  Roof leaks would be more difficult for me to handle.  Fixing these kinds of leaks is a headache though.  It's so hard to know where the water comes in and how it travels.

It was the kind of afternoon where I was glad we didn't have plans.  We sat and watched the flooding creep ever closer to the house, but happily, the rains let up, and the water receded.  Still, in the past year, it's the second flooding rain event, and they weren't related to anything tropical.

But hopefully, as I think back over this week-end, I'll remember the Pentecost Poetry Project that brought me lots of joy.  I had been assembling small videos during my morning walks last week, videos that are part poem, part image, part theology.  Here's one that I didn't use in the larger project:

Yesterday, I put them all together.  It wasn't anything I'd ever done before, but Windows 10 comes with a video editor function that gave me all that I needed.  I loved thinking about how to order them, how to make them most effective, how to finish.  I loved remembering the walks I took, the inspiration that I felt.

On Sunday, which is Pentecost, I'll post the whole video here.  In the meantime, I'm thinking about a larger project.  Could I do something similar with other church festival days?  Could I do it without being repetetive?

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day in a Time of Pandemic

Today is Memorial Day, a day that has often been strange for me.   Once we would have spent the week-end in Jacksonville with old college friends. During some of those years, we had to leave on Sunday, because I taught in South Carolina, a state which didn’t have Memorial Day as a state holiday. Memorial Day began as a day to honor the Union dead, so many southern states had an alternate Confederate Memorial Day. And my school didn't have many of the federal holidays off at all.

But I digress.

That tradition ended when one friend's marriage ended. In more recent years, we've stayed down here and not done much special--although we often meet up with friends at least once during the week-end.  The friends that we would most often meet are staying very isolated during this pandemic time, as she has some underlying health conditions.

I often think that I'd rather spend Memorial Day in a place like D.C., where I could go to a military memorial site or even Arlington National Ceremony.  I'd rather have a place set aside specifically designed to make me reflect on the price paid to protect our country.

Now we are at a time when we've lost more U.S. citizens to COVID-19 than we have in some wars.  For example, roughly 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam; we quickly approaching the 100,000 mark in this pandemic, and that's just U.S. deaths that we know about.

As I was thinking and researching this morning, I was astonished again at the amount of life lost in World War II:  400,000 U.S. soldiers dead.  The death rate around the world boggles the mind.  I predict at some point we will say the same about COVID-19.

It has been interesting to hear various leaders use war imagery to talk about how we're going to fight this new virus.  It's language that makes me wince.  An enemy comprised of humans might be easier than this virus, which will not respond to reason or to threats or to force.

But the same kinds of attitudes can lead us into deeper trouble with this virus--and we're already in pretty deep trouble.

Here's a prayer I wrote for Memorial Day:

God of comfort, on this Memorial Day, we remember those souls whom we have lost to war. We pray for those who mourn. We pray for military members who have died and been forgotten. We pray for all those sites where human blood has soaked the soil. God of Peace, on this Memorial Day, please renew in us the determination to be peacemakers. On this Memorial Day,we offer a prayer of hope that military people across the world will find themselves with no warmaking jobs to do. We offer our pleading prayers that you would plant in our leaders the seeds that will sprout into saplings of peace.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

So Normal, So Not

It is a rainy Sunday morning, but not the flooding kind of rain.  I woke up thinking, is that rain hitting the windows or the tiny feet of a creature in the attic?  Hoorah!  It was rain.

I spent much of yesterday looking for rain, as threatening clouds came and went and then settled in for the evening.  It was sunny early in the day, and we had a great time outside, reading by the pool and then getting in the pool.  I hadn't gone on my walk, so I spent 45 minutes swimming back and forth.

And then, fighter jets appeared out of nowhere, out of the south, flying north.  My first thought:  I hope they're ours.  My old habits kicked in:  listening for explosions, keeping an eye open for a mushroom cloud, wondering if I should go inside to be safe from blast burns or the stuff exploding away from a blast site.

None of that happened, and come to find out, it was an Air Force squadron flying over to say thank you to various hospital workers.  I still find it a curious way to say thank you.

Yesterday felt so normal in some ways:  enjoying the warm but not blisteringly hot day by relaxing in the pool.  And yet, those fighter jets reminded me that it's anything but normal times.  I've lived in South Florida since 1998, and yesterday was the first time fighter jets flew over my house.

On Friday evening, I went grocery shopping.  Again, it seemed like normal times--except for the complete lack of toilet paper.  Happily, I found some toilet paper a few weeks ago, so we're probably set through the summer.  But still, it's strange.

After my spouse was done with his Philosophy class at 9:45 on Friday night, we sat on the front porch to enjoy a glass of wine.  We were almost done, when my spouse said, "Kris, there's a fox."  I saw something by the tires of a car parked at the curb; I wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't pointed it out. 

The creature moved out of the shadows and made its way down the street.  My spouse is convinced we saw a coyote.  I'm still leaning towards fox.  In any case, it wasn't a cat or a dog--the tail was very bushy unlike most cats, the body was more like a cat than a dog, and the pointy face made us think of other creatures.

My spouse made this Facebook post: 

"Online teaching until 9:50 pm last night, then out to the front porch for a glass of wine.

That is when Kristin Berkey-Abbott and I noticed wildlife taking a clue from recent human behavior. That's right, even the neighborhood coyote doesn't use the sidewalk anymore."

It seems to me that the post would make a great writing prompt of some kind.

Speaking of writing prompts, I've been having fun watching others make poems out of the spines of books, so on Friday, I decided to try.  Here are two versions:

Because the title on Jeannine Hall Gailey's book was hard to read lying flat, I decided to use a slightly different approach. And although the version with the palm tree in the background isn't quite as good in terms of photography (so hard to get a picture without shininess using my cheap camera), I'm including it here anyway.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

My Mood in Movies

Last night, I fell down a different kind of rabbit hole.  Two months ago, when it became clear that libraries would be closing soon, I checked out several DVDs.  I had wanted to see Contagion, which had become very popular in pay-on-demand streaming services--but I knew the library had copies, and I snagged one.  I also checked out How to Survive a Plague.  I had seen both movies when they came out (probably by way of the same DVDs), but I wanted to see them again.

We watched Contagion back in March, but I wanted to see it again, especially the first 10 minutes and the last 10.  My spouse was teaching his Philosophy class from the comfort of the living room last night, so I put the DVD into my computer.  Before I knew it, I had watched the whole movie again.

As I watched, I thought about how I'm seeing the movie differently, even though it's only been 2 months.  Two months ago, parts of the movie seemed like a far stretch, like the Illinois-Wisconsin border being sealed, but in late May, it seems possible.

What seems most unrealistic is that the vaccine is developed and declared safe roughly 6 months after the disease starts.  And we see lines of people day after day as they wait to be vaccinated.  I hope to be wrong in my prediction, but I am willing to bet that there will be lots of resistance to a vaccine for COVID-19--IF we ever get one.

Watching How to Survive a Plague reminded me of how long it can take to find a cure, much less a vaccine.  I watched this movie years ago, but I don't remember much of it.  I watched half of it last night and then finished watching the rest this morning.  I found it both compelling and boring, at the exact same time--but I have the ability to rest in multiple mysteries, so I kept watching it.

It's interesting to watch this film and watch all the shots of people in such close proximity, which feels so hazardous right now.  There's historical footage of groups of activists on a plane or on a bus, and part of me shudders.  I have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks thinking about what 6 feet of distance means and staring at the AC ducts trying to determine air flow while I think about how the chairs should be spaced in classrooms.

It's also stunning to watch the bits of political footage and to realize that we're seeing all these same mistakes again--and this time, it's with a disease that's more transmissible than AIDS and impacts more people across a wider variety of communities. 

Insert a heavy sigh here.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pentecost Poetry Project

Last week, my pastor asked me if I wanted to do the message for Pentecost Sunday.  He's putting together some sort of video service which will be unlike the livestreaming that we usually do--that means that the message could be different from a traditional sermon.

I said yes, although I didn't really have a plan, and my videography skills aren't my strongest creative skills.  I thought about some traditional images:  fire and wind.  I could build a fire in our firepit or in the fireplace and film it.  Surely I could capture wind in a similar manner.  But as I've been walking through my neighborhood in the morning, I started to develop an alternate plan.  I had planned to record certain elements that have something to teach us about the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday morning I took my camera with me on my walk.  Happily, early in my walk, I realized I could film and talk at the same time.  My earlier plan had been to film and then figure out what to say and somehow splice the two together and then splice all the units together.

Later, I watched what I had created Tuesday morning, and I was pleased with it.  It's one of the rare moments of creativity where what I create is better than what I had hoped for--and it went in different directions than what I was thinking I would create.

My vignettes are more like poetry than anything else:  what does a trash pile have to say about the Holy Spirit?  Are we so busy looking for a burning bush that we miss the subtle shadings of the shrubbery?

When I first started this process, I thought I'd go to all sorts of locations.  Now I think I'll use what I've generated during these morning walks.

Let me see if I can post one of them here.  And then later, once I have them all put together, I'll write more about it and try to post it all.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Old Syllabi and the Differences Between Then and Now

Earlier this week, I got an e-mail with the subject line "Syllabus."  I was surprised to find a request from a student from long ago when I taught at Nova Southeastern University.  She asked if I had a copy of the syllabus from the class that she took in the summer of 2000.

My first thought:  Of course I don't have a syllabus from 20 years ago.  I threw out that filing cabinet when we moved to this house in the summer of 2013.  How many computers have I had since 2000?  I almost typed a reply suggesting that the student reach out to the school.  But then I thought, let my take a look.

I went to the Documents file on my current laptop and there was a file called "Old Computer."  Sure enough, in the file labeled "Teacher Stuff," I had all my files from those years of adjunct teaching.  And there was the syllabus the student needed.

I was so happy to be able to help--and I was also a bit distressed that a college writing class, clearly labeled as such, from a widely known, SACS accredited, Florida private university was not accepted by a state supported Florida community college.  You shouldn't need the syllabus to accept this course.  But fine, that's the world we're living in.

I thought back to the summer of 2000 and felt that kind of shock about the world we're living in now.  How much has changed!  We've had a Great Recession in 2008.  We had the events of Sept. 11, 2001.  We've had several pandemics that didn't turn out to be as problematic as they could have been, and now we have a pandemic that does.

I think of all the changes in my personal life.  In the summer of 2000, I was struggling with such severe acid reflux that I would lie on the floor in agony, curled around a heating pad, waiting for the acid reducers to take effect.  Now I rarely feel any acid flares, and when I do, they're minor.  Then I was driving many miles from adjunct teaching job to adjunct teaching job.  Now I'm an administrator, a life path I wouldn't have foreseen.

I'm still writing poetry, like I did then.  But I've adopted new practices, like journaling/sketching with my Copic markers.  I have made several full size quilts.

I could go on and on like this.  But now there is work to be done in my current job.  First up, the daily temperature recording--another entry in the list of tasks I never thought would be part of my working life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic Protocols: Masks, Thermometers, and Ash Wednesday

Yesterday was the first day of what will likely be the new normal for a long time.  Students arrived on campus in a limited capacity; they came only to do lab work for classes, and only the lab work that couldn't be done virtually.  We all wore masks, and I took everyone's temperature upon arrival with a no-touch thermometer.

We had the advantage of having several months to get used to some of this.  In our county in South Florida, we have been wearing masks to stores for almost two months, so wearing a mask on campus is less strange than it would have been in early April.

It still feels strange to take people's temperature, even though it's a no touch system.  With all these months of hearing about 6 feet of social distancing, it feels invasive to get that close, even when we both wear masks.

Each one of my masks makes me miserable in a different way.  One is too tight, while the other has elastic ear loops that are a bit too big.  One I lined with a flannel fabric that sheds fibers and makes my nose itch.  I've tried every way of getting them to stay on my face:  elastic ear loops, ties, clipping them to my hair in addition to the other securing.  Plus I'm realizing that I'm often holding my breath when I put the mask on.

Our no-touch thermometer has the temperature taker aim for the lower part of the forehead.  This morning I took temperatures and thought about how much it felt like Ash Wednesday, except I wasn't smearing ashes on the foreheads of parishioners.  Still, it's a potent reminder of what's at stake regardless of whether its' the taking of a temperature or the smearing of ash.  We are all dust, and to dust we shall return.

I also thought about the week-end when I had made the mask I was wearing.  It was Easter week-end, and it was becoming clear that we would need masks; it was also becoming clear that there was a national shortage.  It was strange to sew masks and to think about the Easter readings of the empty tomb with the folded grave cloths.  I've always been touched by that idea:  Jesus rising from the dead, but taking time to fold the grave wrappings.

Can I write a poem that captures all of these elements?

Monday, May 18, 2020


Our communal tables have gone dark.

We may feel like empty jars waiting to be filled.

We search the dark sky, searching for clues.

We look for signs that others have gone before us.

We hope for shutters that will open safely.

Filled with hope and dread, we anchor ourselves as we sing the Liturgy of the Hours, the way the ancients taught us.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Just Another Normal Pandemic Week-end

This has been a strange week-end, as so many week-ends/week days/weeks have been strange.  It's been a mix of unexpected wonderfulness, crushing moments of grief, a tingling current of rage, sadness leaking out at various seams and hemlines that I didn't even see before the pandemic swept across the planet.

Let me put the above in quantifiable terms. 

In terms of wonderful, we made pizzas in the cast iron skillet, which was just what I wanted to eat.  In fact, I may have it for lunch again.  I had a Zoom meeting with my small group from my spiritual direction certificate program.  I relaxed by the pool in the backyard.  I sat on the front porch and enjoyed pleasant weather; there's always the realization that summer is coming which means days on the front porch may be numbered.

In terms of sadness, it's tough to think about how life may change.  If it's not safe to gather together on the seminary campus, we'll do our next intensive in January by way of Zoom.  It's better than nothing, but it's not what I wanted to be experiencing.  It's tough to think that the way we do fall and winter holidays may have to change.  I'm trying not to leap forward to thinking about that--much may have changed by the time we get to October.

I had time to read, and I finished The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.  I had really looked forward to reading it; it sounded like this generation's A Canticle for Liebowitz.  It was not.  The ending baffled me so much that I went online to see if anyone had figured it out.  I'm not the only one with questions.

It was strange to spend Friday restocking some supplies and then to listen to my spouse teaching his Philosophy class by way of distance learning--they're using a Blackboard version of Zoom or Go to Meeting.  I tried to keep from thinking about ways that my Friday would have been different, if my spouse was meeting his students in a face to face classroom.  In the past, I'd have met friends for happy hour or dinner or gone over to a friends' house for a get together.  In the past, if friends were busy, I might have watched a movie at home; on Friday, I didn't want to watch a movie in case it disturbed the class.

Here is a memory that I don't want to slip away.  On Saturday evening, my spouse was looking at a text for his Logic class adoption.  It includes Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress."  My spouse read one line, and I said the next from memory.  We went on this way, an interesting call and response.  My spouse was amazed and impressed that I could say so much of it from memory, word for word.  I've taught that poem for years, saying it out loud several times a term, several terms a year.  Clearly it has sunk in.

I miss teaching poetry that way, in front of a room of students, reading the poem out loud.  It's a sadness to realize that we shouldn't be teaching poetry that way for awhile.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Corona Virus Care Packages

In the early days of the pandemic, by which I mean just before the U.S. started to lock down in March, I ordered 3 copies of Jeannine Hall Gailey's Field Guide to the End of the World.  I had a copy of the book packed away, but I decided to order some more copies.  I'd read one, and then give all three away, or keep one for the April Poetry Month display in my college campus library, and I'd support a small publisher:

Above, you can see I was also supporting one of my favorite local wine shops!

Well, by the time the books came, my friends had gone into self-isolation, and it was clear that students wouldn't be using the library during the month of April.  That didn't prevent me from reading a copy, along with some apocalyptic fiction.

When I came across a packet of sunflower seeds, I thought about my friend who had been posting about her gardening adventures.  And thus, the idea of a care package was born.  And since I was sending a package, I decided to include my latest manuscript chapbook:

I loved putting it together, and my friend loved receiving it. I also created two masks, and made a separate care package for my parents.  Below is a picture of my sister (who was visiting) and my dad on the day the masks arrived:

I now have the urge to put together all kinds of flat care packages--they're cheaper to mail than a box.  Let me ponder all the delights that could lie flat in an envelope:  poems, seeds, puppets, earrings, cloth creations.

Stay tuned!

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Different Kind of Hospitality

I spent much of yesterday writing and revising our protocols and procedures for a safe reopening of our campus.  Reopening isn't exactly the correct term.  We're having some students come back to do lab work.  We've looked for ways to minimize the need to do that:  many of our students will be doing simulations as we explore ways to do labs from a distance.  Some lab information can be done virtually.

There's been some insistence about what cannot be done virtually.  I'm the administrator several levels removed from the classroom/discipline, so I have tried to let faculty and Program chairs make the decisions about what can be done virtually and what must be done face to face.  I have encouraged everyone to think about other options, and I've reminded us all (perhaps tiresomely) about the dangers of being together in the same room.  We will practice social distancing, but that's not as safe as staying home.

Today one of our tasks will be to prepare the campus physically.  That means moving chairs out of classrooms and putting down tape on the floors where the remaining chairs should stay.  We will put tape down on the floors, even though we don't expect students to be lined up in hallways.  We will keep the student breakroom locked when students are on campus; students will need to come in, do their labs, and leave.  If they need to eat, they're safer eating in their cars.

Some part of my heart is breaking over these developments.  We've done so much to make the campus a hospitable place, and now we have to abandon it.  I know that safety from contagion is a different kind of hospitality, but I would rather attend to the kind of hospitality that involves baked goods.  Sigh.

So, today I will wear clothes suitable for taping the floors:  another chapter that doesn't appear in my edition of Dressed for Success.  What is the proper sartorial choice for a business setting when one will be moving furniture?  I will wear jeans and sneakers and a sleeveless mock turtleneck so that I can bend over without giving it much thought.

As we prepare, I will pray.  That, too, is a different kind of hospitality.  I will pray for the safety of us all, I will pray that we can prepare students for their futures without jeopardizing their health, I will pray for those of us who will need patience as we oversee these protocols--and I will pray that our students will understand the necessity for these protocols.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thursday Snippets: Pandemic Protocols and Other Writing

--This morning's internet rabbit hole revolved around music.  First I wanted to find the song that was on the very end of a Jefferson Airplane album.  It has a memorable line that repeats, a line about doing what we want.  That song is "Stairway to Cleveland."  From there, I wanted to find the more popular song that was on the album, "Find Your Way Back."  And later, just for fun, Rush's song, "Distant Early Warning."  I thought about how I bought those albums for just a song, and then struggled to like parts of the rest of the album.

--If I was making a list of music that influenced me, those groups and music wouldn't have made the list.  But I can still sing them, and I still felt this pang when I heard them.

--It's a pang that's nostalgia pierced with loss.  I've been feeling that pain a lot lately.  Some of those pangs are about things I hadn't thought about in years/decades.  The other morning, I was thinking about how a cake recipe is similar to a muffin recipe, and I remembered the time when oat bran seemed like the healthiest thing we could eat.  I felt a pang for the oat bran muffins I made in grad school, even though I have no desire to eat them.

--My morning has gotten away from me, but it's for good reasons.  I've been writing poems.

--And I got some cooking done.  Last night I got some mangoes that needed to be used today.  So I made a mango black bean kind of thing.  I used too much coconut milk, so now it's more like a sauce that will need some rice.  It's amazingly good.

--I have made 2 main dishes for tonight.  I also needed to use up some potatoes.  So we will also have a potato chili cheese soup.

--And now I need to get to work getting ready for work.  It will be a heavy writing day there too, but not the kind of writing I enjoy.

--And now a different kind of writing that seems surreal.  I missed the course in grad school that trains us how to write pandemic protocols to have the least pernicious impact on pedagogy.  But I aced the course in alliteration.

--Of course there was no course in alliteration.  But I would have aced it, had it existed, and had I taken the course.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Julian of Norwich: A Mystic for Our Time

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich if you're Catholic.  Anglicans and Lutherans celebrated her feast day on May 8.  In these pandemic days, it feels like we've been celebrating her by emulating her for two months--well some of us have.

Of course, if we're being honest, most of us have much more room in our lockdown spaces than Julian of Norwich did.   As a 14th century anchoress, she lived in a small cell attached to a cathedral, in almost complete isolation, spending her time in contemplation. She had a series of visions, which she wrote down, and spent her life elaborating upon. She is likely the first woman to write a book-length work in English.

And what a book it is, what visions she had. She wrote about Christ as a mother--what a bold move! After all, Christ is the only one of the Trinity with a definite gender. She also stressed God is both mother and father. Her visions showed her that God is love and compassion, an important message during the time of the Black Death.

We are going through our own time of plague, and we may be having all sorts of visions.  Many people report vivid dreams and nightmares.  What would happen if we took those visions seriously?  What if we started with those visions and explored them in our writing?

Julian of Norwich took the world in a direction it hadn't been before. She's one of our first known female theologians written in English, and because she did it, others coming afterwards would take their own visions and their words seriously too--as did other people.

And yet, she didn't set out to change the world.   I comfort myself by reminding myself that Julian of Norwich would be astonished if she came back today and saw the importance that people like me have accorded her. She likely had no idea that her writings would survive. She was certainly not writing and saying, "I will be one of the earliest female writers in English history. I will depict a feminine face of God. I will create a theology that will still be important centuries after I'm dead."

These days, I often repeat Julian of Norwich’s most famous quote: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Would Julian of Norwich be pleased that so many of us derive comfort by repeating those words? Or would she shake her head and be annoyed that we have missed what she considered to be the most important ideas?

I remind myself that she would have such a different outlook than I do. She was a medieval woman who served God; she likely would not even view her ideas as her own, but as visitations from the Divine. If I could adopt more of that kind of attitude, it could serve me well on some of my more stressful days when divesting could be the most helpful thing that I could do.

In these days, divesting ourselves (of our plans/expectations for the future, of our need to be sure of the future, of our worries and fears, of my disappointment in the federal response to this huge crisis) on and on I could go) would be helpful for many of us.  Let us repeat the words of Julian of Norwich, even if we don't believe them:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A Distant Mirror*

Yesterday, I had this stray thought that at some point, I'd look back and miss the quarantine days. We're figuring out how to slowly re-open school for onground, face to face stuff that needs to happen. We have some classes that MUST have a face to face lab--at least that's been the traditional approach.  I wouldn't want someone drawing my blood who had only practiced on a computer simulation. 

Some of our faculty have been making interesting decisions about how to do labs virtually, while some have not. There's some great computer software out there, simulations and such. The school will pay for some of it, but some of it we can't afford.

Having students back in school won't be the old normal, however. We'll be locking up the student lounge  (which is more like a lunchroom) so that students don't linger. For the first time, I've been glad we don't have booming enrollment, since we can't have more than 10 people in a room. There will be lots more sanitizing and wiping down--we're trying to figure out who does the wiping and who does the monitoring to make sure the sanitizing is happening and who will be the hall monitor making sure that people aren't congregating.

The thought of it exhausts me, and yet at the same time, I feel lucky to still have a job.  I'm keenly aware that we may open up and in a month or two, need to go back to being more/completely online.  It makes it very hard to plan and to think about what's best--both in my work world and in the larger world.

As I drove home last night, after an exhausting afternoon considering these issues, I heard the president's press conference, the end where he unraveled and then walked off in a huff.  It was startling.  I don't know why I continue to be startled by the approach of the federal government, and in particular this president, but I am.

My Amazon book order came.  It's the first time I ordered books that came late instead of early.  Included in the shipment:  the next 2 books in my spiritual direction certificate program.  On the one hand, I was happy to finally have them, and they look much more interesting than the book I just finished for the program.  On the other hand, I look at them, and I think about how full of hope I was when I started the program, and now it's all I can do not to fall into a deep pit of despair.

I feel like I'm looking in a distant mirror, that I see a reflection that I sort of recognize, from a time that feels very far away.

Life is uncertain, and I've always known that, but I found it easier to cope with the uncertainty on an individual (and often theoretical) level, not in our current national and international situation.  I would have thought I would find it easier, with the "we're all in this together"vibe.  I'm not sure whether I do or not.

And now it's time to get ready for school.  Today we stay later for New Student Orientation, a different sort of odd mirror.  In some ways it's so familiar.  In some ways, it's so different, as we do it remotelywith a skeleton crew.

*I'm reverting back to a habit from my early days of blogging this pandemic, when I tried to reference earlier works about plague.  Historian Barbara Tuchman spends some time on the effects of the plague outbreaks in the 14th century in her work by this name.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Unbroken Circles

My church has been doing a variety of projects to celebrate Mother's Day.  Last week, a group of us got together to create a version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."  One of us had only been playing mandolin for 2 weeks, but you wouldn't know it from her skill when she played with us.  One of us has banjo skills that he doesn't often display at church.  We had organ, flute, percussion, tambourine, and of course, voices.

On Saturday, our pastor posted the first of our video projects, a collection of songs and photos.  My spouse was so crushed that our song didn't make the cut.  But happily, our song didn't make the cut because our project was released as a solo project.

Yesterday, I made this Facebook post:  "Something different from what I usually post: a group of us at my church put together a special song for Mother's Day. As I look at it now and think about the latest advice about singing in groups with a virus ravaging the planet, I realize we are much too close to each other. Still, I hope you enjoy."

You, too, can view the video here.

I am not crazy about my singing voice in the video.  Happily, my spouse sang the verses, and he really carries us.

I remind myself that we only rehearsed the song for about 20 minutes before the worship service.  After the service, we ran through it several times, and then we recorded.  There's a version that I don't have yet; for our first recording, the camera stayed steady, and I'm guessing that our voices sounded more unified.

In the version that's up now, our pastor walked among us as we sang.  And yes, let me just say that I am relieved that no one is sick at this point, and it's been 8 days, so I'm hoping that we aren't going to be punished for the risk that we took that we didn't really realize we were taking.

In this version, as our pastor is close to us, you can hear our individual voices. I think we sound better as a chorus when you can't pick out our voices.  I've been feeling bad about my singing voice since--well, forever--and I wonder if now is the time for voice lessons.

But what I love about this type of music is that it can accommodate a variety of voices.  If you listen to various versions, you'll hear people who would never be successful opera singers or featured choir members.  Some of those people, like the Carter family, have become musical icons.

After church service streaming yesterday, a group of us stayed to talk about our approach to choir in light of the news about the risks of COVID-19 transmission by way of singing.  We have a small choir now, only about 6 people.  Should we quit having live singing during the livestream?  Should we space the choir members out across the sanctuary? 

I'm not sure what we'll decide.

As we talked, I thought about a quote from Maria Popova's Figuring:  "One of the greatest betrayals of our illusion of permanence, one of the sharpest daggers of loss, is the retroactive recognition of lasts--the last time you sat across from a person you now know you will never see again, the last touch of a hand, the last carefree laugh over something spoken in the secret language that binds two people in intimacy--lasts the finality of which we can never comprehend in the moment, lasts we experience with sundering shock in hindsight" (p. 184).

I think we will be able to sing again, maybe even in close proximity.  But one of the things that makes our recording for Mother's Day so poignant is that we may not sing like that for a very long time.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

"Necessity of Moisture": A Poem for Mother's Day

It's Sunday, May 10--a Mother's Day that will be one of the more unusual than many of us have ever experienced.  Maybe it will be a relief, a reminder of what's important:  our love for each other, our ability to nurture in all sorts of ways.  And of course, there will be many occasions for mourning on this Mother's Day.

I find myself missing my mom, even though she's still alive, and I can call her later today.  My mom is/was a great mom in so many ways, but the one that was perhaps most important to me was that she kept me supplied in books. Before I could drive myself to the library, she drove me and checked out as many books as I wanted (the Montgomery Alabama public library only allowed children to check out 5 books at a time--5 books??!!--I could read that amount in a lazy afternoon!). And when our family only had one car, we biked to the library. She was supportive in any number of my future endeavors too, like writing and drama and choosing a college and writing a dissertation and oh, the list is so long--but all those quests are rooted in my early reading. It was those books that showed me all the possible lives that humans could have. And it was my mom that made it possible for me to have books.

I'm also missing my grandmother.  In my younger years, I drove over to see her once a month, when we both lived in South Carolina.  She didn't always approve of my life choices, but there was a bedrock of love between us.

I've found myself thinking of her gardens, her cooking, her sewing. I don't have anything that's like a traditional celebratory mom poem. But "Necessity of Moisture" seems to fit the bill, in terms of celebrating family traditions and love of all sorts. It first appeared in Tar River Poetry and also in my chapbook I Stand Here Shredding Documents.

Necessity of Moisture

His last letter spoke of snow,
the necessity of moisture, the dryness of the soil.
Even though he had not tilled the ground
in more than twenty years, the dirt
still spoke to him. As with an old love,
his connection to the land would never completely cease.

Although she would never farm his way,
his daughter always kept a garden.
Even now, long after she’s let the grass grow
over the backyard once ruled by green
beans, squash, tomatoes, and okra, even now, she shovels
her organic waste back into her compost heap.

I will never garden on even my grandmother’s
small scale, but I save all my kitchen scraps,
mix them with grass clippings, compost
in my non-professional way. I long for her rich, black dirt
as I stick my seedlings in the Florida sand.
We chat every Sunday, exchange rainfall statistics
the way some men might discuss baseball details.
Catlike, I save weather tidbits through the week as a love offering.

Some families develop elaborate gift giving rituals,
a whole language of material love. Others create pet
names, secret personalities, languages no outsider understands.
My family’s secret language lies in the meteorological details
and soil analysis, love as moisture, compost, seedlings.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Loose Ends, Lots of Sketches

I feel a bit at loose ends, which is strange.  I've spent weeks waiting for a Saturday that was completely free, and now I have one, and I feel odd, a combination of listless and restless, two states which shouldn't go together.

Of course, I'm not completely free.  I've got online classes that start again on Monday, which means I need to figure out due dates and enter them into various places in the course shells.  I still need to do our taxes.

Let me collect a few thoughts that seem worth preserving.  Then perhaps I'll do our taxes or sort through a pile or two of paper.

--I have been worried that I might have gained 83 pounds in the last 7 weeks. This morning, I stepped on a scale. I am happy to say that I have not gained 83 pounds. I'm weighing myself on a different scale, my home scale instead of the one at the wellness center. My weight is either steady or I've lost a pound or two or I've gained a pound or two.

--Last night, a small group of us gathered in the backyard of our friends in the neighborhood.  They have a big yard, and we were a small group, so we could stay the requisite 6 feet apart.  They made pizzas on the grill--so yummy.  It was so nice to be able to walk home on a beautiful evening with light traffic.

--I've been thinking about friendship in a time of a new pandemic.  Some of my friends have gone into complete isolation.  One friend and I exchanged long e-mails several times a week in the early days of the lock down.  Now we're down to one e-mail a week.  As a grown up who moved around a lot as a kid, I always expect to lose some friendships, but I have always assumed it would be because of a move to a new city or because of job demands or death.  It's very strange to feel friendships drifting away because a pandemic means we can't see each other.  Part of me thinks I shouldn't think it's strange; a separation is a separation, after all.

--Let me remember that I've taken not one but two online visual journaling classes during this odd spring.  They've been amazing classes, and they've led my sketching/journaling to new and interesting places.  But more important, they've given me reason to stay creative.

Here's my favorite sketch from the past few weeks:

It's the kind of sketch where I look in wonder at the page, shake my head, and say, "Me?  I did that?  How?"   I thought I would go back to add some additional color, but I haven't yet.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Jubilation and Joy: It's the Little Things

Yesterday I finally got to enter a Trader Joe's. I haven't been in a Trader Joe's since mid-March when I left a friend's house on a Friday and stopped by Trader Joe's that evening. Back in mid-March, the freezer section was completely wiped out--empty. I bought cheese and wine and beer, like I had been doing. I've tried to go to Trader Joe's since, but they were only letting a few people in at once, and the line to get in stretched down the store front. I like cheap alcohol and cheap cheese, but not enough to stand in line.

Yesterday, I drove by on my way to Home Depot to get some pool chemicals, and there was no line at Trader Joe's. So I parked the car, put on my mask, and went right inside. The shelves were fully stocked--finally, I could get my cheap frozen raspberries! At various other markets during the past month, I have been unable to find frozen berries. I got lots of cheese. And of course, cheap beer and wine.

And then I was able to get right into the Home Depot, and they did have the algae killer that I needed. Hurrah!

Some days, when I reflect on how much life has changed, I am just stunned. Yesterday was one of those days. As I drove away from the Home Depot, I felt like I had won the lottery. And I thought about how that jubilation was so unusual--getting cheap cheese never made me feel jubilant until recently. I haven't been finding much in the way of the kind of cheese that you put on crackers (as opposed to bags of shredded cheese, which I've been able to find).

I've been reading a variety of documents as I try to envision how to have safe assemblies (of church members, of students) in these days when we've still got a raging pandemic with no cure and no vaccine.  Yesterday, I read this article does a really great job at explaining how this COVID-19 spreads and which places/activities have the most risk of exposure. I've seen bits and pieces of this information elsewhere, but this article puts it all together in a very accessible way.

It's hard to imagine how to keep everyone safe, but I know that others are thinking through all of these processes.  It's clear we need to avoid singing together in big groups, and perhaps in smaller groups, until we've got a cure or a vaccine or herd immunity (if that kind of immunity is even possible).

This morning, I made this Facebook post:  "Early morning baking beginning soon. This morning, a vegan chocolate cake, from a recipe from one of the wonderful Moosewood restaurant cookbooks. And then I will have chocolate vegan cake for breakfast. And then I will walk and greet the sunrise and sing all by myself, the only singing we should be doing for awhile. And then I will eat vegan chocolate cake to comfort myself."

I did make the vegan chocolate cake, and it always surprises me how delicious it is.  Likewise, I trust that those of us who see singing as a sacrament will find a way to sing together somehow.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Masked Education

Yesterday my school had our first onground teaching experience in our new pandemic reality.  We didn't have students--we're still doing our classes remotely.

We had a potential faculty member come in to do a teaching demonstration.  Since we still can't have students back on campus, we had the few faculty members who were on campus come to watch the teaching demonstration.  As I think back to past teaching demonstrations, the fact that faculty members did the evaluating is not the strange part; that's how we've usually done it.

No, what was strange was the masks.  The job candidate wore a mask as did the evaluators.  I've worn a mask briefly here and there to make some purchases, but yesterday was the first time I sat with a mask on my face and tried to concentrate on something other than the mask on my face.

The job candidate did an admirable job; I can only imagine how strange it must have been.  Her voice was muffled here and there, but overall, I could hear her.

As we've all gone about our business in masks, I've been realizing how much of our facial expressions emerge from the lower part of the face.  I tried to smile at the candidate to give encouragement, but I don't know if she could see me.  If I exhibited boredom while masked, would she have perceived the difference?

I don't know if these are questions I'll return to at a later date.  We're still under shelter in place orders that ban groups of more than 10 gathering, so right now, we don't have to think about how to conduct classes while masked.

I realize that we might have to consider this.  It may be that students eventually choose online classes so that they don't have to deal with a mask.  I would.

But of course, I've got the background and the resources to be comfortable with online classes.  I'm not like our average students.

Maybe my brain is racing ahead of me.  Maybe we won't have to teach while masked.  But the coming months and years will bring us a very different approach to education, of that I am sure.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Risky Business

There are days that seem just like every other day.  And then there are moments when I realize how much things have changed.

Yesterday, I drove a textbook to the house of a teacher who will begin teaching the class from her living room next week.  Ordinarily, she'd have stopped by my office, and I would have handed her the book.  Or I would have called the publisher and had the book shipped to her.  But in these days, she's not leaving the house, and I can't trust that the book will get to her in time.

I was a little surprised that she let me come to the house.  I've been out and about, and her household has been much more severe in their self-isolating.  But she did.  We even chatted for a bit.  I suspect that the isolating is getting to her, and she was grateful to see a face that didn't belong to a family member.

At times, I felt my brain slip to the oddness of it all.  I've known this teacher a long time; we taught together at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.  I've been to her house for all sorts of happier reasons, like Passover and her annual New Year's Day party.  Yesterday we sat 6 feet apart, but we did chat for a bit.

While I was there, a roofer came to give an estimate.  Afterwards, she picked up a spray bottle.  "Is there a bug?" I asked.

Nope--she was spraying the door knobs.  It's one of many times that I think about how lax I am in terms of staying safe.  In fact, on the way home, I indulged in very unsafe behavior.

Let me take a bit of a time out here to reflect on unsafe behavior.  Once that might have been something super risky, like drug use.  Once that might have been sex without protection. I think about that 80's movie, Risky Business, that introduced Tom Cruise to the wider world.

What did I do?  I went to the WalMart Neighborhood Market at 4:45 p.m.  I halfway expected not to get in the door.  But there was no line, so I decided to take the risk.

It was crowded, and that made me feel uneasy.  But there were pallets of toilet paper--the good kind.  I thought about stocking up, but I got only 2 packages.  Now I know how long I can make a roll last.

I also wasn't sure I'd like it--it's my brand, but it's a larger size roll than usual.  But since I haven't actually seen toilet paper for sale since the middle of March, I added it to my cart.

There are days when the implications of the big changes are just overwhelming:  how can we have students on campus safely?  Will we ever sing in groups again?  How will airline travel look?  On and on I could go.

In these overwhelming times, it's good to focus on the little changes.  My colleague friend may be spraying her door knobs, and I'm thrilled to find toilet paper.  Let my brain process those small changes before moving on to the bigger ones, the riskier business.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Good Shepherd Wanted

Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday.  We heard Psalm 23, which is one of the chunks of the Bible that many people know from heart ("The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," and so forth). I made this sketch:

As you can see, I wasn't as comforted by the Psalm as I often am.  As I reflected on the Psalm, I wondered why so many of us do find it comforting, with its talk of the valley of the shadow of death.  It's not a Psalm that promises us a happy, easy time.  Is there a Psalm that does offer us a happy, easy time?  It does seem to offer the hope that we have a shepherd beside us.

As we left church to make the bank deposit, we noticed a big duck and 8 tiny ducklings beginning to make their way across the street to the pond that's on the campus of Broward College.  I saw an oncoming car, and I knew that the light was about to change.  I said, "I can't look."

But I'm glad that I did look.  Traffic on both sides of the street had stopped, and one had put on the emergency blinkers.  Even though the ducks took their time to make their way across, no one honked, no one zoomed around them endangering others.   Hurrah!

I thought about the Jesus talking about being the good shepherd, which is a metaphor that might not work for many of us these days--who among us has ever seen a shepherd.  I thought about Jesus as the person driving the car who not only slows down, but puts on emergency blinkers to let everyone else know the need to slow down.

There are days when the future feels a bit bleak, when I can't imagine how we'll move forward into whatever the new normal is going to be.  That's when I remind myself that nothing has really changed.  We may think we know what the future holds, but we don't.  These days, that reality is just a bit more stark.

But there are little ones that need to be protected, and plenty of other types of this work that needs to be done.  Let us get to it.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Dolphins in North Lake

So today, much of the nation re-opens.  Some will re-open slowly; some states will crash back into what they hope will be the time before the pandemic, when we can just go back to work and go out to lunch and take trips again.

Of course, those of us who have been keeping track will point out that the virus is still out there, even more widely spreading than before, none of us with immunity, no cure, no vaccine.  We haven't used this lock-down time to manufacture more masks, more gowns, more protective gear, more beds.

We may be slightly worse off because the lock-down went so well.  Now we'll go back to having elective surgery, non-elective surgery, all the ways we may clog up hospitals just when the virus attacks us all even more widely.

This past week-end, we saw my brother-in-law, who works as a Surgical Tech in a local hospital.  He's in the maternity ward (do we still call it that?), but he was able to see the impact of the virus on the whole hospital.  The refrigerated trucks on hand for the bodies that were expected, the ones that would fill the hospital morgue and overflow--those weren't needed.

I fear that those refrigerator trucks will be needed with the next phase of the virus, which I am expecting in July or August, not October or November.

I was thinking of all those things as I walked this morning.  I took a minute, as I often do, at North Lake, which is a very small tidal lake in my neighborhood.  It's connected to the Intracoastal Waterway, but the part where I walk is fairly shallow, so there aren't any anchored boats.

Today the fish skittered across the surface, which is unusual--lots of fish jumping out of the water.  Usually it's completely calm.  I've never seen more than one fish jumping at a time, but this morning was different.

I stared at the sunrise, which was beautiful, as usual.  And then I thought I saw a fin arcing out of the water.  Could my eyes be playing tricks on me?

I continued to stare at the water, as did a woman who was distracted away from her yoga routine.  On my way back, I asked her if she thought we were seeing dolphins.  She said she had only seen them in the islands.

I walked away thinking I was headed home.  But then another big splash distracted me, so I stared a bit longer.  I was rewarded by another fin arcing through the water.  This time I was sure I was seeing at least one dolphin.  The woman doing yoga and I shouted our joy at each other.

It was a good reminder that even as the world struggles to adjust to this new normal, there are signs of every day miracles, if one stays alert.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Question of When to Reopen Churches

Many churches are having a variety of conversations about when to reopen.  Many states seem to be saying that it's perfectly fine.  Many people are rushing back to try to recapture "normal life."  Many people don't understand that the "normal life" we once had will not be coming back.

What I can't determine is what the regular congregation member thinks about coming back to church.  I know what many church leaders think.  I don't know what the people in the pews think.

My congregation is predominantly older people.  I've been seeing a question lately about whether or not we should reassemble now--perhaps, some people say, we should not reassemble in a physical space until it's safe for all of us to come together.

That safety won't come until we have a cure or a vaccine or herd immunity.  That might not happen for a year or two.  We've been trying to come up with an AIDS vaccine for decades.  We might never have a vaccine.  A cure is more likely, but not immediate.  Herd immunity won't take place until more of us have been exposed, which means we likely won't achieve that for several years.

Can we keep doing virtual church for several years?  Will people still keep attending? 

My church congregation is much smaller than the building that we have--it was built for a congregation of hundreds, and we rarely have more than 60 in the pews.  We could space out to keep safe physical distance.  Would we remember to do that as we left the building?

And who will be the distancing police in the new church?

And then there's the whole question of communion--both the eucharist and the coffee hour.  Should we bring our own elements so as to avoid the possibility of contamination?  How close do we need to be for the sacrament to take place?  Can we do coffee hour while staying 6 to 10 feet away from each other?

I don't have any answers, of course.  I've only just now been considering these questions.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

World Labyrinth Day 2020

Today is World Labyrinth Day. 

For more on labyrinths, this website is full of information. 

Below is  a poem-like thing with some of my favorite pictures of labyrinths I have known and loved:

We have walked labyrinths
made of fabric, made in fields,
laid out in tiles
or offered by cathedrals.

We have relied
on the promises of the labyrinth:
one path in, no dead ends,
no false turns, not a maze.

We have trusted
that the path leads
to a center that can hold
us all in all our complexities.

Friday, May 1, 2020

May Day in a Pandemic Year

If you were hoping for a traditional May Day post, I've written plenty of them through the years.  Here's a recent one from my creativity blog and here's one from my theology blog.

Let me create a collection of May themed snippets and see if they hold together:

--I was up before dawn, but I didn't leave flower bouquets on the doorsteps of my neighbors.  In these days when most of us have become germaphobes, what would my neighbors make of bouquets on the doorstep?

--It's a gorgeous morning--the storms that swept through yesterday have left us with cooler, less humid weather.  I did a bit of running with my walking this morning.  Actually, I ran a lot.  And again, I use that term loosely.  It felt good to get my heart rate up.  It felt good to be doing something that has brought me joy in my younger years.

--I wrote a poem this morning.  I'm not happy with it, but I'm glad to be writing again.  I may try to write a poem a day in the month of May.  I need to get back in this poetry saddle.

--When I look back to wonder why I didn't write more, let me remember that my sketching has been bringing me great joy.  Here's a sketch that I worked on for several days:

I thought about adding some color, but decided that I liked it without color.  I also didn't want to ruin it.

--My spouse was up early too.  He's got grades to turn in by noon.  What a topsy-turvy semester we've had.

--I will spend much of the week-end grading--one set of my online classes have grades due Tuesday.  My spouse teaches for that school too, so he, too, will be grading.  But hopefully we can find some time to sit in the sun.  The weather is supposed to be gorgeous.

--On this May Day, I'm thinking about how this holiday has been celebrated in more modern times.  I'm thinking about worker's rights and wondering how our approach to this holiday may change as we move through these pandemic times. 

--This week, the president of the school that houses my full-time job announced that she had sold the school.  She's sold it to another school, so that gives me hope.  I have also seen these sales leave schools broken or dissolved, so I'm also a bit fearful.

--My household has been listening to this version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."  It is the most perfect version of this song that I've ever heard.