Springtime thoughts overshadowed by COVID-19

My last post was exactly one month ago. At that time the new coronavirus hadn’t yet received a name as the world watched it gain hold in China. On January 30 the World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. For a time, we were lulled into believing that our excellent Canadian health care system would ensure that, with a few normal precautions, we wouldn’t need to worry too much about it. We were “low risk”, they said. “Just wash your hands and don’t touch your face,” they said.

Then we heard of the cluster of confirmed cases just across the border from us, in Kirkland, Washington. The subsequent deaths. The outbreak in Ontario. Confirmed cases in BC. The first Canadian death in BC.

As Canadians watched this new respiratory infection, now named COVID-19, spread rapidly throughout the world, it became obvious our risk of catching it was no longer low. This morning there were 240,589 cases worldwide, 801 of them in Canada, with 231 of those right here in BC. The numbers change every hour.

Every focus right now is on COVID-19. We are urged to practice social-distancing, sneeze or cough into the elbow, wash hands frequently for 20-seconds, don’t touch eyes, nose or mouth, and self-monitor for signs of illness. All public events are cancelled. Schools are closed. With the exception of essential services, buildings and businesses have shut down. Non-essential cross border travel between Canada and the USA is prohibited. Television carries constant updates, interviews and ‘breaking news’ broadcasts from the Prime Minister, the Premier, the Minister of Health. It’s hard to think of anything else. We are daily reminded to “take good care of yourself, and of each other.” [Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC Provincial Health Officer]

This past Tuesday came and went. For the first time since beginning this blog in 2008, I didn’t think of writing a St. Patrick’s Day post. I didn’t think of St. Patrick’s Day until it was almost over. I didn’t even wear anything green! Woahhh!

And now it’s spring; or it will be this evening. I absolutely refuse to let its arrival go undocumented. It’s a big deal, especially this year. We all need the sense of hope and renewal that accompanies this particular season.

Also, Lent began on March 1st — “a time of self-examination, of contemplation and of returning to God” as we move toward Easter. It shouldn’t be overshadowed by all the negativity that accompanies this virus outbreak…but it could be.

While our congregation has currently suspended Sunday services and all midweek groups, the work of the church continues. Our minister stays in contact with phone calls and emails, providing resources for individuals and families.

One of our Lenten activities has been PRESBYTERIANS READ, the reading of NT Wright’s book, LENT FOR EVERYONE. Some folks are reading it by themselves, others in weekly study groups (at least, they were until the groups had to disband), and still others are interacting in a cyber forum.

N.T. Wright invites readers to explore the truth (that “the God of heaven and earth was coming to earth to establish his sovereign saving rule”) through Matthew’s telling of the gospel story. Through close readings of the lectionary texts for each day during Lent, Wright draws us into the biblical scenes as they unfolded, revealing more and more about what it means that Jesus is King and Lord, not just ‘in heaven’ but on earth as well.

At the beginning of Lent we received bookmarks with these scripture readings, so with or without Wright’s book in hand, we can continue exploring them on our own.

I don’t know about you, but I need this daily reminder that despite the turmoil in our world, God is still in control. From the beginning of time he has had a plan for ME. He loves and cares for each one of us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
[Jeremiah 29:11]
On this first day of a new season, I’m trying to ignore all the COVID-19 hoopla and instead, rejoice that so far, I and my loved ones are still healthy; that regardless of the worries and inconveniences of this time, God’s love is unending, his mercies are available to me fresh every morning; and together we will prevail.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is his faithfulness.
[Lamentations 3:22-23]
~  ~  ~

 

May Pole, May, May Not…

I’m old enough to recall dancing around a maypole on May Day. Dressed in our best, with an art-class-created crown of flowers and ribbons, my Grade Two classmates and I did our best to skip in and out, around each other, guiding the long streamers from the top of the pole. Rehearsals must have given our teachers grey hair. Time after time we giggled our way through the pattern, only to have at least one of us mis-step and end up with the streamers tangled instead of neatly braided.

There’s a special post-Easter  joie de vie that wends its way into May. The dreary, colourless winter is subtly overtaken by springtime blooms, and I become impatient for my pre-Mother’s Day treat which entails a trip to the local nursery for bedding plants to begin filling deck tubs and hanging baskets.

This year the impatience hit me on April 2nd while in Costco. Multiple shoppers passed me with beautiful baskets of bright flowers in their carts. When I discovered their source (and the ridiculously low price) in the garden section, I squelched the little voice that told me it was wa-a-a-y too early in the season, and I picked up two hanging baskets. My usual choice of colours would be pastel, but these screamed with bright red, deep pink and sunny yellow. My inner self apparently craved colour!

Of course, once home, I had to pamper and protect them against the still-frosty nights. They spent three weeks nestled under the eaves, against the patio doors where I could slip out every night and wrap plastic bags around them. But now it’s May. They’ve been hung where I can admire them from our family room windows, which is where I sit when I’m writing.

The trouble is, now that I have something lovely to stare at, I’m doing more staring than writing, and that’s not terribly productive. I sent a manuscript off in early February, then occupied myself developing another work I had in progress. Writing went relatively smoothly through March and part way into April. Then I turned my attention to Easter projects I had committed to doing for my church.

And after Easter? Mmm … my hanging planters are so pretty.

To be honest, I have to admit as I stare at those flowers, the same little voice that cautioned me about buying them has been whispering other discouraging ideas, ideas that make me question if I’m waiting to hear about the submitted manuscript before finishing another novel; and if I am, why.

I will always write, because I love creating stories. But — I resist saying this — I may not always write with the goal of publication. I’ve received considerable encouragement from agents and editors, but without the validation of the next step, the little voice suggests that continuing in the current direction is futile. I want to ignore this unsettling whisper — after all, it was wrong about the flowers — and I’ve never been a quitter.

It’s a time for thinking, for contemplating my options, and, while I’m at it, I can also draw up the list of bedding plants I plan to buy on Mother’s Day weekend.

~

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

~  ~  ~

I am reminded of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne…

This afternoon I discovered the garden’s chilly white blanket has been receding just enough to reveal spring flowers I thought might not have survived the frigid month just passed. There they were: a bedraggled patch or two of sweet nodding snowdrops and two golden crocuses. They’ve fired a hope that there are more just waiting to be uncovered.

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

This is one of those days.

~

My reading project for the month of March is the collection of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’ books. I fear I’m never going to finish all of them because I’m dawdling through their delights.

Anne Shirley’s ecstatic but sometimes relentless descriptions evoke memories of Marilla’s impatience, but at the same time they provide a vision of the wonders we grown ups too often miss. Montgomery gives us a second chance, writing a view of life through Anne’s eyes. It reminds me that my goal as a writer is to do the same — to transport readers into the world of my unique characters. If only I could do that as well as Lucy Maud!

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

You have, Anne; you have.

~

(Anne’s ‘gift of gab’ also prompts me to wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.)

Winter’s Worn Out Its Welcome

We’ve arrived at the second weekend in March. Did you remember this is when our clocks jump forward an hour (not on their own, of course; you have to change them) and our bodies rebel at losing an hour’s sleep?

I dislike these biannual time changes. There was a purpose for Daylight Saving Time way back in 1916 when it was first introduced in Germany to save electricity, but I’d be happy to keep one or the other — either Saving or Standard time — and not have to change back and forth.

What I DO like about mid-March is the coming official start of Spring on March 20th. We’ve finally taken down the front door plaque that says ‘Winter Welcome’, because winter has worn out its welcome around here. I’m tired of it. I want the snow to go away and let the buried crocuses show their cheery colours. It’ll be a while before the mini-avalanches disappear. Our shake roof relieved itself of several loads, one of which landed on the back deck, and I imagine that pile is going to be there for a while.

My hubby likes to say we are an Easter people, and Sunday morning at our church one more candle on the Lenten wreath will be extinguished, bringing us another week closer to Easter. As the Lenten material says,

Lent is a season that focuses our attention on discipleship.  It pushes us to examine ourselves and the many ways we have turned away from God.  Rather than a shallow giving up of personal pleasures, Lent invites us to give up those things that have pulled us away from God and take up those things that draw us toward Him.”

I like March. It’s a forward-looking month and right now I’m all about saying goodbye to Winter and looking ahead to all that is to come.

Now, it’s an hour later than my clocks are proclaiming. Time to change them and go to bed, even if it’s a bit early for me. I’m going to need all the hours of sleep I can get tonight!

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The Before and After…

“On budget and on time” … yes! Four weeks to the day, our bathroom renovation was complete, and we’re very pleased with the result. We didn’t dislike the original decor, but after twenty-five years an update was definitely called for.

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Our desire for the new look was classic white on white, and we chose bianco carrara tile for the tub surround, floor and baseboards, highlighted with a metallic and glass mosaic trim. Counters are a dark-ish grey quartz installed on medium grey cabinets, and all fixtures are now white. I still don’t have the window covering made, but it’ll come eventually. There are only trees beyond the window; it’s not as if we need curtains for privacy, but a bit of fabric might be nice to soften the look.

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So here are the “before” and “after” photos. The serene white and grey monochromatics won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s what we were looking for. A fresh new spa-like look for spring 2016.

The next renovation will be our en suite bathroom, but at the cost of renovations, it won’t be something that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in another year or two. Maybe.

~

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

[Isaiah 32:18]

~  ~  ~

 

Spring Things – 3

A whim took me down our trail to the marsh late yesterday afternoon. I hadn’t ventured in that direction in months, but a few weeks ago my hubby had been given a tiny fir seedling at a special event. He’d planted it in the woods near the edge of the marsh, and today was heading there to water it. I grabbed my camera and went along. (With both bear and cougar in the area these days, it’s nice to have his company.)

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The marsh is a transitional mess of lingering brown and gold slowly submitting to new green. Lily pads have already emerged from their winter depths and unfurled over the surface in still places.

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A pair of mallards squawked briefly at our presence (it really couldn’t be called quacking) and disappeared into the grasses.

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I’ve occasionally heard geese flying in, but there was no sign of them today. It was disappointing to discover bushes shooting up from their old nesting spot atop the abandoned beaver house — an end to their unique and safe mid-marsh maternity ward.

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A lone blackbird silhouette was the only other presence. At least, the only one we saw. What lurked in hidden places stayed hidden.

Blackbird

~

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause
righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations. 

[Isaiah 61:11]

~  ~  ~

Does God do it on purpose?

I’m convinced He does … do it on purpose, that is. With the arrival of every spring season I comment constantly on the wonderful progression of new colours.

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Winters on the southwest coast of Canada aren’t extreme, and, while my lawns may remain green throughout, full of moss as they are, deciduous branches everywhere are bare. The woods are stark, the marsh beige and lifeless. The underbrush along roadsides is brown with last summer’s dead grasses and ferns, and rain falls frequently, dampening everything to a grey sodden mess.

Out of the dirt and winter debris of our late January garden poke spiky little green tips from which nodding white snowdrops emerge. On our property they are always the first hint of the coming new season.  They’re delicate … a quiet transition from the winter landscape. From then on, we start discovering a green haze that begins to spread through the woods and gardens. I love all the new greens in their fresh shades of lime and harlequin and chartreuse playing among the darker evergreens. Every spring I exclaim over how many different shades of green there are.

Suddenly I begin discovering splashes of non-green and white shades. Mostly yellows and pinks and purples. Hellebores and Daphne.  Crocuses, Daffodils, Forsythia. Cherry blossoms and Magnolia. (Not all in my yard, you understand, but throughout the community.)

I’m convinced God intended this succession of colours and blooming times. It’s as if He knew we needed a gradual handover from bleakness to beauty, testing and tantalizing our senses with pastels before the bold and brash colours are ready to burst upon us.

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Tulips and Iris, and the dependable Rhododendrons and Azaleas are just arriving now … later springtime surprises. It’s wonderful!  God is much better at planning the seasonal colours than I am at planning a story. He’s such a well organized artist!

~  ~  ~

 

 

Spring Things – 1

 

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“This is the forest primeval.
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate
answers the wail of the forest.” 
 .
.
From the poem ‘Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie’ (1847),
as collected in The Poetical Works of H.W. Longfellow (1855)
~  ~  ~

Spring Things and Other Excuses

I haven’t gone AWOL, but I admit to ignoring my blog recently. It’s one of those priority things I mentioned a couple weeks ago — I had to decide if writing posts was a bigger priority right now than family, work commitments, the mess that passes for our slowly-unwintering garden, and my ongoing novel writing. It wasn’t, so blog posts lost out.

Lilac Buds

The annual ‘March Madness’ challenge with my #wipmadness gang began on March 1st. ‘Speedbo’, a similar effort involving the Seekerville peeps, also started then. AND my garden began showing signs of spring. Next weekend Daylight Saving Time will begin, and we’ll lose an hour that I won’t be able to find again until November.

Everyday life still has its share of obstacles this month, too, so if I don’t plop new posts into this space quite as often as usual, please don’t hold it against me. In fact, you might even consider joining me in the writing frenzy. We can keep each other accountable since excuses don’t wash under scrutiny.

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