So Many…

thoughts and ideas playing tag and leapfrog through my mind, creating a dizzying and endless meandering path that weighs heavily on my waking hours. This is always a stressful time of year, made more so by worries of the times and memories of the past.–not to even mention the desire to make the holidays special, at least to me.

Special, in my mind, means decorating with the colors of the season (whatever I deem those colors to be at the given time) and making my world temporarily more happy by invoking my concept of what Christmas is to me. One aspect of Christmas that I find important is baking the kinds of cookies my mother always made: sand tarts, Christmas cut-outs, sometimes lace cookies and spritz as well. In remembrance of my grandmother, I make springerles (using hartshorn, the modern version termed ammonium carbonate, or baker’s ammonia) and Aunt Esther’s fruitcake which incorporates unseasoned ground pork sausage in its ingredients. Surprisingly, it tastes quite good and is moist and rich, unlike most of the dry fruitcake I’ve tasted in the past. Do I need to do these things to keep their memories alive? No, but it allows me to share them with others who may never have known them.

A task I willingly undertake most years now is making a Christmas ornament each year for my children and their partners. When they were young, other people started the tradition of an ornament each year, and I have continued with that custom. Some years they were solely purchased ornaments, other years they were commercial designs I tweaked to make them mine, and some were completely designed and handcrafted by me. Three children, who are now off on their own, has resulted in more ornaments that our tree can accommodate. Perhaps, it is time to make a gift of them from Santa on Christmas this year.

None of this even begins to touch on the handmade gifts I always plan and seldom accomplish. So many desires, so little time left to manage all I want to do, let alone complete the chores that are always part of life and unending. So, off I go, on this third day of December, 2021, contemplating my next move(s).

Summer’s Final Hurrah

It is now late evening on September 1, 2021, and the rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida has finally stopped. Here in Lycoming County we were fortunate; areas downstream were not as lucky. Still, none were near as devastated as a southern area of the United States.

Sixteen years to the day Katrina rumbled through New Orleans and created massive destruction, Hurricane Ida attacked the Louisiana coastline, albeit just a little over 20 miles from the previously ravaged New Orleans. Power may be out for weeks for some, creating huge drawbacks for cleanup in a hot and humid climate. No air conditioning, little clean water, and increasing Covid-19 Delta variant cases at the same time as likely increased storm-related injuries will tax the hospital systems that are already struggling, many of whom are dealing with storm damage as well.

So much water! Water that is desperately needed in the western area of the country is flooding the south and northeast. The increasingly arid weather in California is making conditions all too desirable for wildfires. One can debate whether the fires are caused by climate change, improper disposal of cigarette butts, or unraked woodlands, but the cause now is unimportant as the flames continue their often unimpeded race through forests and communities. Homes are destroyed, businesses ravaged, wildlife killed, as the orange menace strikes again and again, as human efforts to stop its relentless march forward dance in a forward, then backward, then forward again lockstep with the demon. The ultimate success or failure of the war against the destroyer will depend both on skill and luck.

So much depends on luck alone.

I Know Where I Want to Go

There comes a time when life becomes weighty and quite unmanageable as it is lived. When one feels like every day is a battle that can never be coped with as it stands, let alone won. When loved ones are as a millstone around one’s neck and finding comfort in their presence is not doable. That can lead one to feeling like a hermitage is desperately needed to preserve what is left of one’s soul and sanity.

I want to have a secluded spot to go absent other humankind. I do desire creature comforts of a sort: electricity, cell service, running water, and a cat or two. The problem is how to afford these luxuries as a poor senior citizen with very limited resources and few friends who have any access to such habitats.

Help!

In Like a Lion…

Some old maxims seem quite dependable; March coming in like a lion is one such truism, at least today. Central Pennsylvania is under a wind advisory until tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 10 AM. And, to add to that bluster, there is a chance of snow until 8 PM. Not a lot, of course, but do we really need any?

I’m fairly certain many of us are a bit winter weary by now, and I am even more sure we are all tired of the pandemic estrangement that is close to its first birthday. I remember sitting in the Writing Center at Penn College in early January 2020, reading the news about Wuhan, China and the disease outbreak, and being very thankful (and obviously naive–in hindsight) that we were not required to wear masks like the Chinese citizens. Then, in the latter part of January, the United States announced its first case of the novel (i.e., new) coronavirus in the state of Washington, a man who had traveled from Wuhan. COVID-19 had penetrated American shores.

By mid February, that initial comfort I felt was abating, but the virus still seemed distant. In early March of 2020, I was looking forward to Spring Break, not because I was heading south to a southern haven replete with sun, sand, and surf, but I was getting a break from providing suggested edits to distracted students anxious to escape school and parental oversight. Spring Break arrived, giving us that brief respite. It was soon extended by one week due to the virus. Before March ended, the virus had taken enough of a foothold that Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf ordered non-essential businesses to close for an unknown amount of time. That was the end of in-person tutoring, and tutors then worked remotely.

March of 2020 did not leave like a lamb. When the lion thundered, it was a resounding rumble, and its roar has not ceased. It quieted to a low grumble briefly, only to return as an even more terrifying bellow. The lion has claimed over 516,000 victims in the United States as of today and is not likely to return to its den any time soon, certainly not by the end of March.

It may be some time before the lamb is safe again.

I’m Late; I’m Late!

As you, my reader, can observe, some of the recent posts have embedded dates that do not reflect the posted time. I had originally begun those particular writings at the noted hour/date and somehow was distracted. Oh, look, Squirrel!

So, I decided to finish and publish them. Better late than never, right? As that timeworn adage suggests, they might still have some value. Whether you chose to see them as entertainment or education is your decision. I can state I will strive to do better in the future, but that, in itself, well… Therefore, no guarantees will be offered.

The Darkening Sky

Today, January 6, 2021, has become a dark day in the history of the United States, one I never anticipated experiencing. Today, hoards of white supremacists stormed the capitol building in DC, seemingly with the advice and consent of President Donald John Trump, the 45th president of the United States. According to the media, there were over 30,000 of his ardent supporters who assaulted the Senate and House, breaking windows and swarming over the barriers and walls. This transpired because Trump does not want to go quietly, as the outgoing president is expected to do, but he wants to fight on in spite of numerous lost court battles, with the electoral votes certified by every state and as the Republicans have lost control of the Senate in the Georgia runoff elections, taking Mitch McConnell out as the majority leader.

The Representatives and Senators had to be sent into hiding for their protection.

What Happens in the Past

Oft Does Not Remain There

We are frequently admonished to not dwell on what has happened in the past as we cannot change it and to not let any such events impact our lives going forward. Since we, each part and parcel of our beings, are the aggregate of all that has occurred throughout our known existence, the past cannot be escaped nor ignored. Indeed, some believe that the influence extends even further back than that cliched spark in our father’s eye. Regardless of the origin of the guidance, the bygone days and all attendant happenings in the human sphere of being cannot help but leave their mark.

Mercury in Retrograde:

The Beginning or the Ending

It is 12:17 am on November 3, 2020, the ending of the most recent Mercury in retrograde. All in all, the year 2020 has been a time of great trials in many arenas. Wildfires, torrential rains and floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, drought, heat, terrorism, and of course, COVID-19, aka the coronavirus or, in some bastions of intolerance, the China virus. As if 2020 has not been challenging enough, the United States, or the term I frequently use– the Untied States of America, is in the midst of possibly the most difficult and dangerous time it has faced as a nation in many generations.

The Struggles and Perils of a New Year

Hello 2021

It’s been far too long since the last post. January of the new year has come and gone, and February has reached its middle age. Punxsutawney Phil, the little scoundrel whose den is located in Punxsutawney, PA, opted to foretell the continuation of winter on Groundhog Day. Whether fair or not to blame him, the cold season shows no sign of disappearing for good anytime soon. Just ask Texas.

December of 2020 ended with the headache, fever, cough, and aches of the COVID-19 virus–oh, and the lack of being able to taste or smell the traditional pork and sauerkraut of New Year’s Day, the definitive telltale sign of the viral infection. Thankfully, our experience with the virus was a relatively mild one, and if we hadn’t lost our ability to smell literally everything, we might have suspected we had contracted a seasonal flu. My positive test result basically sealed the deal, too. After a few weeks, we felt more or less normal again, or as normal as we ever do. Those of you who know us will understand; others, it doesn’t matter whether you get it or not. Finally, my sense of taste and ability to smell all manner of odors, both good and bad, has returned, for the most part.

We didn’t make it out of January unscathed even after defeating the virus. My mother-in-law, who has resided in a nursing facility for the past few years, was diagnosed with the COVID-19. She was moved from her usual room, along with her roommate who also tested positive. That lasted a few days until the staff decided there was little point in keeping the separation since she showed no symptoms. They also were not sure the positive result might just be due to the vaccine she received. That reprieve lasted all too briefly, as she soon had a devastating stroke and was transferred to the local hospital where there was doubt she would survive. She did live and then was taken back to the home within a few days, unable to speak and barely able to swallow. For a time, Mom started to show signs of recovery, but she only lived about ten days altogether before passing away on January 30, 2021. She is already missed so much.
https://www.sungazette.com/obituaries/2021/02/joy-grafius/

While there is cause for sadness, there is also relief. Those of us who had the virus in our immediate circle have recovered; some other family members have even been able to get or schedule their first dose of the new vaccine. We can all rest a bit easier knowing that, while it hasn’t totally given up, winter is getting closer to leaving and spring to arriving. The snow will melt, the grass will grow, and the birds will return from the south.

And–we have a new president!!!!

A Slightly Merry and Very Wet Christmas

It is shortly after midnight December 25, 2020. After a record snowstorm here of 24.7 inches last week on Wednesday into Thursday, central Pennsylvania is now experiencing warmer temperatures and day long rain, leading to mild to moderate flooding in the area. Of course, it is only mild or moderate if you are not in the path of the water. The other factor pending is the temperature. Right now, it is 47 degrees, a relatively warm start to Christmas day. However, in true 2020 fashion, the high is to be 37 degrees today and the low 19, and Saturday will be even chillier.

Here’s hoping for a stellar 2021! A year where the COVID-19 pandemic becomes relegated to history even as we remembe and mourn those who were its victims, where Donald J. Trump is resigned to the garbage heap he deserves along with his complicit family, friends, and the weak Republicans who allowed him to run roughshod over the United States and ruin its reputation across the world, and where compassion, empathy, and peace become the new watchwords and behaviors the world so desperately needs.

Blessings to all and fervent wishes for a wonderful life ahead.