So here I Am. In the Episcopal tradition we have a season of Christmas, a.k.a. The Twelve Days of Christmas, not just one day. This is a super handy understanding when it comes to writing annual holiday letters. For me, addressing cards has become a welcome task beside the fire at the beach cabin. Today rain is pelting on the picture windows to one side of me. And the wind is howling out there. Here inside though, we are cozy and warm. Talk about privilege. We have two houses, each offering a safe change of scenery during the worldwide pandemic.
This time last year, we were planning a trip to Southeast Asia, the last step in Rob’s recovery from major surgery. Clarke was moving in with his girlfriend, Jannet. Carolina was relocating to Capitol Hill to be closer to culinary school. Who knew that we’d go to Palm Springs instead, returning to Corona Central on March 17th…that Clarke would land on the other side of the West Seattle Bridge right before it was declared unsafe and closed to traffic…and that Carolina would live within a couple of blocks of the famed CHOP/CHAZ after George Floyd was murdered? What a year!
As 2020 draws to a close, we are proud of our young people. Employed as teacher and grocer, they are making their way through the chaos. We are fortunate they live nearby during this stretch. Mom lives close too. And even though we haven’t been able to hug each other for way too long, we have created The Anchorhold (our bungalow’s front porch in the Ravenna neighborhood), The Grotto (at Carolina’s) and Backyard (at Clarke and Jannet’s) and now as of last night, The Cave (on the edge of the garage here at the beach), all open and ready for outside visiting at a moment’s notice. We have our ways.
This year I finally and officially and completely retired. The first payment lands in our account today. People ask me what I’m going to do now that I am no longer going to work. The first thing I am not going to do is report to anyone else. Well, I do report to God. And I tell Rob what I’m up to. Like, I intentionally exercised for at least 30 minutes every day in 2020—practiced yoga in two classes per week, cycled an average of 14 miles per week on Her Purpleness, walked a lot, kayaked some or swam laps a few times (but way-too-few for this mermaid) each of the 366 days in this God-forsaken year. I have also read a book a week and am finishing my theology class, “Education for Ministry.” I am almost back to a respectable level of Spanish study—enjoyed a quarter of Casa Latina’s “Somos Vecinos” class as well as weekly morning prayer with my bilingual friend. For me, it’s about trimming those lamps and being ready. Sometimes I still strive and struggle. But mostly I simply love spending a lot of time in the blue room, reading and writing contemplatively.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Rob is well. He is wonderful company. This man runs a couple of miles every other day like he has for the 40-plus years I’ve known him. Raises bees. Makes music. Rob is a gentle peacemaker who is leading in his reserved and dry-wit way.
I am also grateful beyond measure for my sisters. We encourage each other in our love for Mom. She is good sweet company even though we haven’t been able to spend nearly enough time with her physically in 2020. Yes, her 92 years have taken their toll. After Dad died, her intent was to move closer to us and then make friends before she became dependent on staff and others. It’s inspiring to realize she’s doing that. Our Bernie reads the newspaper every morning and zooms with us, puzzling and chatting along. She is neighborly to all, where neighborliness is suspect due to contagion-fear.
I know I take my life in my hands when I admit how basically content I am. I do love that we have created ways to safely connect with others even in the cold wet darkness of winter. I scared myself about how lonely I might feel at this point. Instead there is a part of me that recognizes this too as vocation. I treasure the inside monastery-like home we have created along with how we reach out and welcome. I wonder how I can maintain this inner stillness when the CV19-lockdown measures lift.
As vaccinations begin to spread out around us, I am optimistic about the health and goodness they promise. I hope, when this global experience is behind us and even now, we can acknowledge how we are one, all the same Dear One in fact—connected, interdependent and part of the whole. The warm vaccine blanket will tuck us all in eventually regardless of how we each individually choose to respond. We, dear one, will be on to the next blessing and challenge. That’s my take at least.
Happy Christmas and a Hopeful, Healthy New Year to Everyone, Everywhere!