baby ash

I wrote in January about having to take down the ash tree in our backyard because it had been infested with emerald ash borer.

This week, we noticed something growing near the stump.

It’s a new ash tree!

It’s growing very quickly. It certainly has a very large root structure, given that it is growing directly from where the bark meets the wood of the stump. Given its position, we aren’t sure it will survive long-term, but it is nice to see nature trying to come back from a plague.

A little hope is a good thing to have right now.

signs of hope

As I was posting about yesterday, things are pretty distressing in the United States these days.

I am, though, finding support and reasons to hope.

Although I wish it hadn’t taken such a dire convergence of events to do, I find hope in the millions of people around the world who are drawing the fights against injustice, inequity, climate change, oppression, inequality, poverty, violence, and lack of education, opportunity, health care, affordable housing, etc. into a new vision for the common good, for care of each person and community, and for the planet. The massive disruption that we are experiencing from the pandemic and the resulting social and economic impacts gives us the opportunity to re-build in a positive, sustainable way. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has just released a major “Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” This is the kind of thinking envisioned by many long-time social justice advocates and by Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. While there will be obstacles to enacting such large-scale change, there finally seems to be momentum toward adopting and implementing meaningful reforms, which gives me hope.

There are personal signs of hope, as well.

Sometime this summer, a new grandchild will arrive, a sibling for ABC. While we have no idea when it will be either allowed or advisable to travel to London, both ABC and the new little one are signs of hope for the future, as well as powerful motivation to makes things better for them.

Earlier this week, a lovely surprise appeared in my mailbox, a card with a beautiful photograph of a mother wood duck swimming with two ducklings. It was from two Smith college friends who are twin sisters, vacationing together on a lake in New Hampshire. They were thinking about me awaiting our new far-away grandchild “across the pond” and sharing their own family stories, filling my heart with love and joy.

They both mentioned my writing, which I appreciated. I’ve also recently received a couple of emails from a poet-friend in reaction to my posts here at Top of JC’s Mind. I enjoy reading and responding to comments here, on the TJCM Facebook page, and on my personal page, too. Sometimes, it seems as though I write and publish posts – and have no idea if they are actually reaching anyone. I don’t often look at my blog stats, but, even when I do, a visit doesn’t necessarily equal a read. My visit stats also don’t reflect people who receive posts via email. I sometimes find myself surprised that friends know certain stories or viewpoints from me when I know we haven’t discussed it, forgetting that I had posted about it. (Conversely, I sometimes think that everyone knows a certain thing because I’ve written about it, forgetting that many friends and family members don’t read my blog.)

Perhaps, hope is not the proper word, but I do so appreciate the sense of connection that comes through sharing our words and thoughts and emotions with each other. When I do have the privilege of interaction, it reminds me that I am not just scrawling words into cyberspace without purpose.

There is always the hope that someone is reading, mulling, and reacting.

Thank you, Readers. ❤

a package!

Like many other places during this pandemic, our stores have been out of yeast for weeks.

I usually keep a jar of bread machine yeast in the refrigerator. Besides using it in the machine, B sometimes uses it to make treats like Chelsea buns. As my jar was running low, every time I went to a store, I would check to see if I happened to catch a new shipment coming in, but either my timing was never right or there wasn’t any in the warehouses to send to the stores.

I decided to look online. I couldn’t find any jars or packets, but finally found a one-pound bag of Fleischmann’s instant yeast. I wasn’t used to the term “instant yeast” but apparently it is the same as rapid-rise or bread machine yeast. The yeast is sourced from Canada, so perhaps instant yeast is the term most often used there.

It took over a week to arrive, but now we should be supplied for a long time, given that this bag is equivalent to four of the jars I usually buy.

The pandemic has changed my perspective of time so much. I admit to thinking maybe this yeast will last until we have a vaccine available to the public so that the pandemic will be well and truly over.

Of course, this won’t be a miracle like the story of Elijah and the widow in 1Kings 17, where the flour and oil did not run out until the drought was over, but it does symbolize to me that same sense of perseverance, that call to not be afraid while we wait, watch, and work for better times.

holiday greetings

Brent's Christmas Chelsea Buns

We’ve all been trying to recover from our colds and get ready for our increasingly simplified Christmas celebration. My talented-baker-spouse B felt well enough this Christmas Eve morning to be up early and baking. He made these awesome Chelsea buns based on a Paul Hollywood recipe. They are delicious! Bonus: There are so many buns and so few of us that we will have them for Christmas morning, too.

May the light and hope of Hanukkah and the peace and good will of Christmas settle on people of all nations, tongues, and beliefs.

New Year’s Eve

Today is the last day of 2018. Both 2017 and 2018 have been challenging years for me and 2019 is likely to continue that trend.

I do retain some hope that 2019 will be a better year for the United States with more shared responsibility in Washington. Perhaps there will be some consensus building and more attention to the common good.

We can hope.

Best wishes to you all for 2019!

first-time finalist

In December, I submitted to the QuillsEdge Press chapbook contest and I am pleased to announce that I was named a finalist. Though I didn’t win publication of my chapbook, I am thrilled to have made it into the final round.

Moreover, QuillsEdge does a really cool thing! They choose a poem from each finalist and assemble a mini-anthology to accompany the winning chapbook. Given that few of my poems are available in print, I am excited to be included in an actual physical book.

While I assembled the chapbook for the QuillsEdge contest, I have submitted a slightly revised version to four other contests. Two rejections came in prior to the news from QuillsEdge. The remaining two are big contests which will draw lots of entries.

Yesterday, I received another rejection, but it was a very hopeful one. Although I did not make finalist – their top ten – I was in the top 1%. I so appreciated their encouragement, knowing that my chapbook was noticed in a field of 1000+ entries.

When things calm down a bit, I need to research more places to submit, but at least I know that there are editors – plural! – who think I am on the right track. A poet friend told me that a chapbook should be submitted to at least ten presses. Halfway there…

SoCS: no retreat

“After what might” have been a night on retreat, I am instead sitting on an upholstered chair next to our still-fragrant Christmas tree with my new Christmas-present laptop on my lap.

I had hoped to be on a 24-hour retreat at a nearby spiritual center. The theme was to have been finding some optimism for the new year.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people sign up to go ahead with the program.

Part of the reason signups were low was probably the weather. Yesterday, the weather was rainy with a high in the 60s F. (16 C). Overnight, the temperature plummeted to well below freezing. There is an inch or two of snow (5 cm), mostly likely with a coating of ice underneath with more snow expected.

I know it is safer for all of us to be at home, but I still wish the retreat had not been cancelled.

I need any hope or optimism I can get for the year ahead.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to base the post on the sixth, seventh, and eighth words of whatever piece of writing was at hand when we sat down to write, hence the quotation marks at the beginning. It’s also part of Just Jot It January. Join us for one or both! Details here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/12/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-13th-2018/

 

 

One-Liner Wednesday: hope

“Hope is that thing inside us that exists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.”
~~~ Barack Obama
*****
Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays and/or Just Jot It January. Find out how here:
https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/10/one-liner-wednesday-jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-10th-2018/

 

 

finding hope in impossible times

I had hoped that my next post would be about ABC’s baptism and the family visits around that, but I haven’t been able to get organized to write it.

There has been a lot going on and a lot swirling in my head, so maybe this post will help…

My parents raised me to always do my best. I was fortunate that my best generally also stood me in good stead in school and in life experiences, as I juggled my various roles and tried to do good in the world.

When my children were young, there was a book about being a “good enough” parent. I remember bristling at the concept, because I was geared to be a “best I could be” parent – and daughter, spouse, sister, friend, citizen, Catholic, volunteer, committee member, musician, person.

The current roster of roles now includes grandparent, blogger, and poet.

And it doesn’t feel as though my best, even when I am able to muster it, is good enough.

Not even close.

With my mom in hospice care and granddaughter ABC in residence, there has been massive re-prioritizing, which is necessary and good and understandable. Some things in which I was accustomed to being very active, such as public policy and social justice advocacy, have been sharply curtailed, unfortunately at a time when my country is coming apart at the seams. I am keeping some of my poetry and blogging activities going, but in a scattershot way as I have time/brainpower available.

(It is not especially helpful to have Facebook reminding me how many days it has been since I posted to the Top of JC’s Mind Facebook page.)

I think, though, that the root of the problem is that nothing I do, whether it is my best or not, can change the fact of the mounting losses. Illness and decline and death and people moving away and rejection and running out of time and all manner of losses, anticipated or unforeseen, will keep happening, no matter what I or any of us do, think, or philosophize over.

And, yes, I know circle of life and faith and recommendations to take care of myself notwithstanding, some days are just difficult to get through without tears.

Sometimes, those days with tears string together.

I am blessed, though, with people who bring me as much support and comfort as they can when I am struggling. B to talk with and give me hugs. The warmth of ABC snuggling in my arms. E and L to step in and make dinner when I can’t wrap my head around the concept of eating, much less shopping and cooking. My sisters with calls, notes, and visits. Friends who are sending thoughts and prayers and who understand my sporadic contact.

Earlier this week, I was looking for a bell for Nana to use to call her nighttime aide. Unsure where to look, I went to a dollar store near the pharmacy where I was picking up one of Nana’s prescriptions. I don’t often go to dollar stores, so it was a bit difficult to figure out where to look. I had started to check out some possible aisles when I heard the unmistakable sound of a bell. I followed it to find a girl carrying a little bell toward the checkout where her grandmother was waiting for her.  I waited until they had finished their transactions and asked where they had found it. (The grandmother told me that the bell said “Ring for Beer” on it and that they were getting it for a beer-loving dad.) The girl cheerfully led me through the store to the shelf in the gifts aisle that held the bells. I thanked her. I chose a bell that said “Ring for Service” on it, paid $1.08, and brought it up to my mom’s, who was surprised that I had been able to find a bell so quickly.

(Feel free to insert your favorite It’s a Wonderful Life, serendipity, answer to prayer, etc. thoughts here.)

For me in that moment, it was a reminder that hope and help can appear unexpectedly in the midst of sadness and confusion and uncertainty.

I just have to listen and allow myself to be led.

 

 

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.