The Silent Spring: My holy corner

Many churches are offering online services, Bible studies and hangouts. We’re all Zooming all over the place and one benefit is that you don’t need to dress too elegantly. I try to remember to switch off the ceiling fan and not wear dangly earrings that might distract my fellow Zoomies. The rector of Saint Anne’s, Reverend Licia, suggested creating a holy corner, a safe space for worship. It can be in the middle of the living room if you like – no one is coming to visit.

For my safe space, I moved a rocking chair from the bedroom into a corner of the living room near some bookshelves that house several of my Bibles and prayer books. I angled the chair so I can look out of the window and see the hummingbird feeders and the sunset. A safe space doesn’t have to be fancy – a couple of cushions on the floor where you can worship, think, pray, cry, reflect. My safe space is already comfortable and familiar and I suspect might become a permanent fixture that will keep me peaceful even after the duration.

 

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The Silent Spring: We’ll Meet Again

If you didn’t watch the Queen’s speech yesterday, I encourage you to find a rebroadcast. At the end of the speech, the Queen invoked the words of the song made famous by Vera Lynn, the Forces Sweetheart in World War II, “We’ll Meet Again.” Vera Lynn was one of Cedric’s favorite singers during and after the War. His mother was unimpressed, calling her a crooner, and proving that parents never approve of their children’s music.

Cedric and I have been spending much time exhorting each other not to let the virus germs invade our space. He woke up at 3 this morning, crept into his study, switched on his computer and sent me this poetic email:

— and when each one of us refuses to remain silent, and each one of us follows the rules, and each one of them can no longer get through, and when all of us together become smarter than they are — then and only then shall we have overcome them, and move ever forward in a silent spring of renewal ——— CPM

The Silent Spring: But verdant and luscious, too

Take a deep breath and look around you, if you are lucky enough to be able to go outside for a few minutes, Or look through that pane of glass. There is no denying that this spring is the most verdant and luscious ever. We might not agree on much, but no one can deny that this spring is the prettiest ever: the colors more vibrant, the trees more luscious, the flowers more verdant. A reduction in traffic and pollution is giving the earth a break. Birdsong seems louder, flowers more fragrant, the sky bluer. If there’s a sliver of silver lining in the horror, it’s perhaps that the earth is taking a deep breath, too. When the duration is over, in memory of what we have all been through, we could mark one or two months in the years to come as “down months” when we all make a conscious effort to stay home more, be more neighborly and unselfish and count our blessings. It would give the earth an annual break.

Happy Palm Sunday – as I write this, I am in my worship space and have just listened to Saint Anne’s online service. And, right on cue, I have seen our first hummingbird of the season. May you have a blessed Holy Week.

The Silent Spring: For such a time as this

Thousands of sewing machine owners are dusting off their machines, threading needles, filling bobbins and downloading mask patterns from the Internet. I didn’t have to dust off my machine because I sew and quilt all the time, but I’ve joined the Mask Angels as someone has sweetly christened us and am sewing, sewing, sewing as fast as I can. I’m working with a wonderful group making masks for Emory Hospital in Atlanta and Gigi delivers the fabric and elastic to me in batches of 25. To be frank, it’s not as easy as I had hoped. When I was asked to help, I didn’t hesitate. Make a mask? Sure, it’s only sewing up four sides, inserting elastic into the four corners and making tucks so the mask has a shape. Uh huh … I’ve never been so stressed out as the first afternoon when I broke three needles and had such a major jam in my machine that I had to look up a video on YouTube to help me fix it. I felt like a sewing machine mechanic taking my machine apart and pulling out fabric and thread.
The first few masks were taking me at least 18 minutes to make. But, like anything, the learning curve is steep and now I can make one in 9 minutes, providing my machine cooperates. I’ve been sewing since I was four years old but this is the hardest project I’ve ever worked on. My machine doesn’t like sewing over elastic; I have to be sure to push the elastic out of the way or I sew over it, the tucks are always uneven and then come untucked just as my needle approaches and altogether I’m not having fun. I keep thinking of all the other projects I could be sewing, but then it hits me … there’s a verse in the Old Testament in the story about Esther. Verse 4:13 ends, “… for such a time as this.” Every time I get frustrated, I think that perhaps my mother taught me to sew for such a time as this and I say an extra prayer for the person who will wear the mask I am making.
Kudos to all the mask-makers all over the country – we are making a difference in a small way and that’s all that matters right now.
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The Silent Spring: Repurposing the wall calendar

Every year, I treat myself to a lovely Rifle Paper wall calendar. It’s helpful to see the month’s planned schedule at a glance even though I use my electronic version on a daily basis. It’s therapeutic to enter Saint Anne’s Church services and gatherings, Prayer Shawl Ministry, my Book Club – and it was devastating in March to strike through with a big X nearly every entry as the news shook the nation. The Lenten entry Xs particularly pierced my soul – a fitting link to Good Friday. This week, I turned over a new page to April. The theme of the month is spring hydrangeas – a striking contrast to the horror circling the globe. Again, I took my pencil and put an X through entries already marked – the majority for Lent and Easter.

But I have to do something with the calendar. Let’s face it – there’s nothing going on. I’m a list and project kind of gal, so I divided each daily block into six small squares and I have a color-coded legend … yep, that’s me! I’ve got chores, blog, exercise, piano, Bible, making masks (look for an upcoming blog on that) and each day, I delight in taking my colored pencils and coloring in the appropriate square. I don’t know what I did before The Silent Spring, but I’m sure busy now!

Keep safe and wash your hands!

The Silent Spring: Give up something for the duration

I gave up chips for Lent. I am very partial to chips (crisps for my one UK reader). When I was young, I loved chip sandwiches – fat slices of white bread, butter and chips. My favorites are the ones that have folded over themselves so they are double thickness. I fish those out first and Cedric always puts them aside for me. It’s the salty crunchiness I love. And, I gave them up for Lent … go figure. It was also a health decision – I can eat a whole bag before dinner and that’s not good. I’ve been looking forward to my first chip on Easter Sunday and then I thought – why not give them up until The Silent Spring is over – if I can bear it. I’m not promising, but that would be very meaningful.

Oh, I also gave up sugar – no cakes, chocolate or ice cream. But I’m not that crazy. I WILL be eating the Italian Panettone I have put aside on Easter Sunday!

The Silent Spring: Gotta keep up our standards

Cedric now refers to the situation as The Silent Spring – a nod to the silence that embraces our lives and The Phoney War, the name given to the period of time in World War II from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after the blitzkrieg attack on Poland in September 1939, seemingly nothing happened. The quiet of the Phoney War was punctuated by a few Allied actions.

Like many other churches, Saint Anne’s Episcopal has jumped into using Zoom as the platform for Bible studies and meetings. We have been attending a weekly study on Benedictine Spirituality for Everyday Life. On Monday, I was superexcited to have an excuse to wear lipstick and mascara. When I switched on my laptop ready to connect, Cedric looked at me and said, basically – are you wearing that? Hmmmm. I quickly changed into something nicer. I’ve heard of several people angling their computer cameras during video meetings so co-workers can’t see they are still wearing pajamas. Like when a tree falls in a forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? If there’s no one to see what you’re wearing, can you wear daytime pajamas all day? As for our Monday Zoom meeting, for added good measure, I spritzed myself with perfume. Yep – gotta keep up our standards even virtually.

COVID-19: It’s a girl thing

Almost every girl I walk with mirrors my action when we reach our appointed destination – i.e. if we are walking to the fence or the lamppost, we have to touch it, before we turn around to walk back. In Toronto, on my perambulations around the Music Garden, I hugged a specific tree on the water’s edge. Recently, before the 6-foot rule vetoed our regular walks along the river, my girlfriend and I touched the huge pylon at the top of the hill as usual. It marks the “short walk” turning point. Two guys were coming toward us; they started laughing and asked if it made a big difference if we actually touched the pylon. “Of course,” I answered. “It’s a girl thing.” I don’t think it made them any the wiser.

But now, when I’m walking on my own with Savannah, and our usual route takes us to the fence at the end of the path, I find myself automatically reaching out to touch. I’m getting better, but at least 25 percent of the time, I fail and actually touch the fence and I know every other girl that day has probably done the same. I just can’t help it.

COVID-19: A certain irony

We’re all friends now, but there was a time when the Allies were at war with Germany and Italy and Japan. Cedric is very saddened that all countries now have to join together to fight an invisible enemy. Yesterday, on reading that his beloved American Church in Paris had closed its doors, he sent the following email to the church:

Dear Reverend Dr. Herr:

My parents, sister and I were welcomed to your church at the end of the War in April 1945 by Dr. Williams and his wonderful family. Although I have lived in many other cities since that time and now live in Atlanta, Georgia, my home church will always be 65 Quai d’Orsay, where I grew up under the watchful eye of Dr. Williams.

I am distressed to see that, in common with churches in Atlanta, you have wisely had to close the doors at this time. It is ironic that for 65 Quai d’Orsay the dreaded virus has accomplished what even the Germans were unable to do. Amanda and I send you greetings and pray for your continued blessing —– Peace—– Cedric P. Marie.