My Pandemic Year…And Yours?

To make a day, it took an Evening and a Morning—at least to make the first day. But that was when the world was new and there was in it only light and darkness, day and night, and God. The world has grown more complicated since that creative era. To make a day now it takes bells and whistles and clocks and desks and committees and meetings and money and a serial of daily newspaper editions, and hungry people, and people who are too tired, and luncheon engagements and telephones, and noise and shouting and much hurrying. All these things and many others it takes now, in addition to an evening and a morning.

I found this passage from Abbie Graham’s Ceremonials of Common Days very insightful, a bit humorous and rather timely. While it is enlightening to acknowledge how modern society creates the noisy, complicated rhythm of a day as compared to God’s simple plan, it struck me of my own attempts during the pandemic year to make sense of day and night when responsibilities were few, I was newly retired and like most people did not expect that first employment-free year to be so constrained.

How did I mark time? What separated my days one from the other and from day and night? Besides having a dog I had to keep on schedule my days were only marked by walks, bike rides, reading by day and films and documentaries by night. During the first few months without an alarm to wake me I found myself sleeping late after a night of star gazing until the very wee hours of the morning. I was getting used to being amazed at the night sky at 3am watching, for example, Arcturus once high in the night sky at 11pm drifting toward the west at 2am or finding Jupiter and Saturn had moved to the east just before the sun rose. Yes, some nights I was up that late.

As much as I love the night it’s the overall variety that makes life interesting and this was lacking and the tedium gnawed. I was not getting enough sleep as evidenced by my foggy brain that made the days a blur. I began to wean myself from these late nights and one morning I woke up just before 6am feeling very rested. Looking outside I was shocked to see the moon in the east soon to be obliterated by the sun. I could hear birds singing, but no traffic or human voices. The quiet of my neighborhood surprised me. I could sit in this quiet with the windows open and watch the sun rise. All those many years of working I was awake at this time, but I hustled to get out the door to get to work not aware of the changing light of a new morning or the astronomical remnants of the night.

I soon became an early riser walking Jess in the birdsong-filled morning; light enough to see, but feeling a wonderful lack of any other human existence. My daily life began to fill with simple solitary options: walks alone, bike rides, reading, writing, and I admit it the comfort of finding new YouTubers to follow, including Spain on a Fork, Miranda Mills and The 1920s Channel. I loved the control I had over social engagements—what social engagements?!—and the relief of choosing my own company over the obligations that have always been uncomfortable. Days would pass without my engaging with any human soul and I loved it. Deep in my thoughts day after day without the “bells and whistles” of commerce, employment or other humanity to disturb me I was living the introvert’s dream.

But I am not a hermit and was aware, of course, of the enormous suffering caused by Covid19, including the rising death toll, the closing of businesses and schools the consequences of which will wreak economic and emotional havoc on families and communities for a long time to come; aware too, of the the political degradation of my country’s last administration that couldn’t get needed supplies to hospitals and pushed lies and misinformation that accounted for people choosing and continuing to choose to do the wrong thing, the results of which will have lasting effects on present and future populations.

But now, fully vaccinated, what will mark the days, weeks and months? As Graham notes above commerce and its rules will probably help to remake the days, although new rules will have to be gotten used to. What masking protocols will businesses require? Will I have to wait in line instead of  “walking right in” to control the amount of people in a store? Will I have to continue noting the passenger limit of elevators or keep my list of store hours so I can get there first thing?

And here’s something new to add to the remaking of my days—I am getting a housemate. My mom will be moving in with me at the beginning of June, both a challenge and a relief, but a very different set of dynamics as we both enter a new phase of life as individuals as well as with each other.

But as I watch the stars of evening, and in the morning open my window toward the east, I shall observe the Ceremonial of quietness of heart, of simplicity, and poise of spirit, that I may keep my soul and the souls of others free from entanglements in the machinery of a day.

I am counting on this particular Ceremonial to guide these new days as the larger world and my personal one open up. Together, let’s pause, take it slow, allow others the right to make choices even if they’re not the ones we would make, which is a challenge in the “shaming” culture in which we now reside. Let’s go easy on each other, because we are all like new souls trying to figure out this new world and must admit not one of us knows what is best for another.

How it started….
What has changed for you since March of 2020 as you go out into the world? Whatever your situation or circumstance I wish you and your family safe adventures!


My Edition
Title: Ceremonials of Common Days
Author: Abbie Graham
Publisher: The Womans Press
Device: Hard cover
Year: 1923
Pages: 96

A Hanukkah Miracle for these Covid Times

Most people know Hanukkah lasts for 8 nights and that one candle is lit for each night on a menorah, or technically, a hanukkiah. Hanukkah means ‘dedication’ and it marks the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE when a small band of Jews, the Maccabees, liberated the Jewish people from the Syrian-Greeks who occupied the land forcing Greek culture on the Jews. When the Jews took back control of the Temple they only had oil for one night to rededicate the temple menorah, but it lasted for 8 nights.

Tonight is the 4th night of Hanukkah. Yesterday, while listening to NPR, I heard an inspiring story with Rabbi Ari Saks of the Huntington Jewish Center, New York in conversation with NPR’s Scott Simon. The rabbi brought home the connection between today’s battle against Covid19 and the little victories that help us get through these impossible-seeming times.

He told a story of Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps, and a small band of Jews who made their own miracle.

In Auschwitz this commandant of the Nazis thought it would be right to torment the people by saying, “Hey Jews guess what, don’t you know that it is Hanukkah? See we lit candles for you.” And he pointed to the crematoria that were at full blast.

“Oh, we have a Hanukkah gift for you.” And it was an extra loaf of bread and some margarine. And I think the Nazis just thought they were going to fight tooth and nail just to get a little piece of it. But these Jews inside this concentration camp said, “You know what? We’re going to turn this tormenting moment of being ridiculed into the greatest miracle,” which is to take the margarine and the loaf of bread and some other resources that they had available (and I have no idea how they do it), they formed the bread and margarine into candles that they could actually light in the midst of the burning crematoria that they saw by the window. The mitzvah, the commandment of Hanukkah, is to show off the candle to any passer by. You’re supposed to put it in your window so that people passing by can see it and they can be informed of the miracle of Hanukkah. And these Jews in Auschwitz they took the candle and they put it by the window so that the Nazis could see it. These Jews were scoring a victory over death.

“The miracle is not just in the light lasting for 8 nights, but like these Jews, it’s the faith of the people to light it the first night. It takes a lot of guts to be able to light a candle and say this candle is going to burn and represent my hope that there will be a future that I can hold on to that’s going to be better even more so than in the present.”

In the midst of the battle with Covid19 we are able to find some element of victory, find some thing to hold on to to give us hope for the future.


You can find the whole interview here:

https://www.npr.org/2020/12/12/945788794/celebrating-hanukkah-during-the-covid-19-pandemic