today

This wasn’t the plan.

I expected right now I would be in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic after a month in the UK visiting daughter E and her family, meeting granddaughter JG, walking granddaughter ABC home from nursery school, celebrating US Thanksgiving in London on what is there just the fourth Thursday of November.

I thought I would get to attend mass for the first time since March as we celebrated JG’s baptism, wearing the white dress that I, E, and ABC wore before her, as well her Aunt T and great-aunts.

Of course, there would have been two weeks in quarantine before any of the visiting, but still…

It was a blessing in disguise that the news of the UK lockdown leaked early, before we flew out, so that there was time to cancel. It took most of the month, but I finally got all the charges refunded.

I had planned to get a lot of writing done while we were in quarantine and to do a long-delayed, self-guided retreat, neither of which happened this month as the usual things that needed doing were before us here and the inevitable bumps in the road appeared that needed attention. I was also impossible to ignore/escape the maelstrom of news on the election and its aftermath and of the horrifying, continuing escalation of the coronavirus pandemic.

Enter the first Sunday of Advent, with its message of watching in hope.

I’m struggling with that.

By nature, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I try to be more of a realist. I know that with over 13 million confirmed cases so far and a seven-day average of new confirmed cases of about 160,000, compounded by Thanksgiving travel, the United States is going to have further acceleration in COVID cases in December and most likely into January, as well. There are also going to be spikes in hospitalizations and deaths flowing from that. Although there will likely be some vaccine administration starting in December, there won’t be enough to make much of a dent in transmission. The exception is that, if health care workers are vaccinated first as expected, we may be able to keep our hospitals staffed well enough to meet the surge in cases this winter.

I do have hope that the incoming Biden administration will have staff and appointees who are capable of improving the lives of people here and beginning to repair our international relationships. However, I am disheartened by the efforts of the current administration to undermine the chances that Biden’s team can implement changes quickly and easily. There are a number of last-minute rule changes, treaty withdrawals, troop withdrawals, and other measures that will make the transition even more difficult than anticipated in this time of public health emergency, economic downturn, civil rights protests, and general distrust in government.

Sigh.

So, one foot in front of the other. Doing the best I can manage under the circumstances.

Stay tuned.

Desire of Nations

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, which my family celebrated at a vigil Mass yesterday, given that E and T will need to spend significant amounts of time at church this evening singing for late Christmas Eve mass.

In the readings and especially in the hymns, which included several different versions of the “O Antiphons,” there were calls for the endings of divisions among nations.

It is very difficult for me to have hope about this in the near term. I am filled with sorrow that my own country is sowing division rather than peace and harmony among nations and that, within our country, divisiveness is rife.

O come, Desire of Nations, bind in one the hearts of humankind. Bid our sad divisions cease and be for us the Prince of Peace.
~ translation from Latin of the 8th century hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” verse seven

Singing the “O Antiphons”

Last Sunday, I posted about how moved I was with the communion song at church.  This week, I am sharing again. I managed, barely, not to cry this week, though.

We sang all the verses of Dan Schutte’s “Christ, Circle Round Us”. Sadly, the recording below does not have all the verses.

Schutte based the tune on the chant melody for Salve Regina, giving it a sound that is both traditional and contemporary. The text is based on the “O Antiphons” which are traditionally sung in the last days of Advent. They use the language of the Hebrew Scriptures to evoke the coming of the Messiah. They also incorporate more universal themes of winter solstice, longing for light and new growth.

What strikes me especially this year is the emphasis on hope. Hope is not one of my stronger virtues, but it is one that I need to find in large measure now, with so many challenges facing us.

Sometimes, the right song helps.

Beyond the Moon and Stars

I hadn’t planned to post again today, having written a long post which is an open letter to the electors of the United States electoral college, but we sang this at church this morning and I wanted to share.

Well, T who was with me, was singing. I tried to, but wound up mouthing a lot of the words because I was crying too much to sing.

Elizabeth and Mary

My friend, Rev. Pat Raube, has been sharing Advent meditations on her blog every evening in Advent. I wanted to share this one in particular with my readers because it deals with the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. I love that Elizabeth is the first to proclaim Mary as mother of the Messiah. While we most often hear that her son John is the herald of Jesus, Elizabeth is the first herald of the Gospel before John or Jesus is born:    http://swimmerinthefount.blogspot.com/2015/12/advent-4-monday-blessed.html

Fall-ing

As some of you know, this fall has been rough, as we deal with myriad health issues with one of the family elders.  (In truth, the fall had a bit of a rough run-up as we dealt with both of my parents having their own medical issues, but things are going much better with them now.)

I have been doing much to-ing and fro-ing and have needed to grab little snatches of consolation, comfort, and beauty as I can find them. I was grateful for the unusually vibrant fall foliage this year, beginning early with the first peaks of gold among the green of the hillsides and ending with our neighbors vivid red Japanese maple.

 Even after all the leaves had fallen, I continued to marvel at the white chrysanthemum on our front porch. I had originally bought the plant from the grocery store to clip some blossoms to fill in for some wilted flowers in a Christmas centerpiece almost three years ago. I had managed to keep it alive indoors and it offered a blossom here and there, but this spring, I asked my husband to re-pot it and put it outdoors.  To my surprise, it flourished and offered hardy white blossoms that withstood several hard frosts until the snows came.

With the cold weather, we started to put out birdseed and suet in our feeders and I delight in catching glimpses of chickadees, jays, finches, woodpeckers, juncos,  tufted titmouse, cardinals, and nuthatches enjoying the food.

The best gift of the fall was the visit of both of our daughters and our son-in-law for Thanksgiving.  I am still holding in my mind the picture of us around the Thanksgiving table with the three grandparents.  We were too busy eating and enjoying each others’ company for photo ops, but here is a photo our older daughter took of her spouse and sister tending to the birdfeeders in the snow. Larry, who grew up in London, was relishing in the eight inches of snow we received. Now living in Hawai’i, he was not used to that much snow at once!

Still, despite my best efforts, I have recently had a bit of a crash. Last Friday, I spent hours working on a letter that I plan to send in lieu of holiday cards this year. I needed to recap the year and finally cried over a lot of the difficulties that I had been powering through because I had to keep going for those who were depending on me.

I thought I had gotten the melancholy out of my system until I was sitting next to my parents in church Sunday morning. The handbell choir and adult choir were both participating, which was emotional for reasons I wrote about here.  The First Sunday of Advent, I had been in church with my daughters and son-in-law all singing beside me. On this Second Sunday, the handbell choir was processing and the choir and assembly were singing “Christ, Circle Round Us”, a setting of the “O” antiphons by Dan Schutte, and my daughters weren’t there to join in. I started crying and barely sang the hymn, even though I love it. I had my face turned away from my mom, hoping she wouldn’t see my tears. I found out later, she was also emotional, thinking back to all the years she had heard her granddaughters singing and ringing in church.

Like the autumn leaves, sometimes tears need to fall, too.