A year ago this weekend we were in Shelburne Falls, a magical place I’ve written about before. Unbeknownst to us, it would be our last “normal” getaway pre-pandemic. By normal I mean mask-free, hugs okay, indoor dining and open mic nights at local breweries — it was all still happening. We’d stopped in nearby Turner’s Falls on our way there, and delighted with what we found, looked forward to returning to explore it there further. I miss that.
Nevertheless, I’m thankful we have some photos of the time. Photos can make me feel wistful and nostalgic, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, it really depends on the photo, as well as my mood. Looking at the year-old Shelburne Falls photos makes me happy, I suppose because I feel that hope is closer on the horizon now. In the meantime I have our photos to remind me of that weekend —The Deerfield River iced over, fresh snowfall, misty breath in frosty evening air, and plenty of walks back and forth from the Airbnb across the Iron Bridge, and past a silent Bridge of Flowers into Buckland — for favorite restaurants, the brewery and the coop. We enjoyed the Friday open-mic night at Floodwater Brewing followed by a cozy Saturday evening at the fabulous Blue Rock Bistro, sitting at the bar. Casablanca was showing on the screen and we shared a delicious meal and cocktails. Morning coffee run to Mocha Maya’s and homemade doughnuts from the Foxtrot Diner. Walks through quiet streets with friendly hellos and drivers who actually drive like people live there — and even better — stop to let them cross the street. Places like Shelburne Falls don’t need a pandemic to slow things down and illuminate what truly matters, they never forgot, but for others who have forgotten, our former speeded-up, business-as-usual world would be one of the few pandemic casualties I’d welcome.
Candles feature today with the celebration of the Feast of St. Blaise, and the blessing of the throats. Legend has it that St. Blaise, a bishop and a physician, while on his way to be martyred, cured a child who was choking on a fish bone. In the Catholic Church, a priest will bless a parishioner’s throat with two crossed candles, praying for protection from choking and diseases of the throat. It’s fascinating how Christian and Pagan rituals and celebrations share so many symbols and themes — from candles, fire, light, smoke and herbs for ritual, to gods and goddesses (or angels and saints) who are patrons and protectors for various human experiences.
Between St. Brigid’s Day, Imbolc, Candlemas, GroundHog Day and St. Blaise’s Feast Day this week, there’s a whole lotta light and candle magic going on. I celebrate the Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days in some small way, as I find this to be a sort of anchor for the rhythm of my days and the flow of the seasons. They can certainly be something to look forward to, much like the phases of the moon for me. There is endless information available over how different cultures celebrate some of these festivals or feast days, but I prefer to do my own abbreviated versions of various rituals associated with my own Celtic heritage — and as we are now halfway through the dark season and moving into the light, naturally I have candles lit. Keeping it simple means I will actually celebrate with some intention. For St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc, I have my herbal smoke blend with violet leaf, and a supper of salmon, with my riff on Colcannon (basically a mash of potato and cabbage) of kale and potato — the salmon symbolizes the return of Springtime for me, violets are early harbingers of the warmer days ahead, and the potato is a reminder of the importance of the dark of the underground, as well as the light from above for growth and renewal. Stuff like this is just one of the things that floats my boat, what floats yours?
The truth of the matter is…I haven’t really missed Instagram this past month. Another truth? I didn’t get a whole heck of a lot of writing or work on my website done either. That was my intention — sort of anyway. BUT…I took lots of walks, did lots of baking, tried a new meditation app, did some hand sewing and knitting, read and reread good books, rediscovered other places to sit and look out the windows of our home, watched snow fall, heard gale winds howl, and rainstorms dance, and listened to classical music. The most radical act of all though was sitting and doing absolutely nothing else but put my arm around my furry beast, Oonagh, and allow myself to rest in that space and enjoy the sheer luxury of…doing nothing. The break has served me well. It’s an art you know. Tricia Hersey, of @thenapministry is an artist who speaks to this art in a language I understand. Perhaps she speaks it for you, too.
We earthlings need an anchor (our bodies) to contain the infinite energetic matter of our spirits. My body and direct experience help me hold it together. With virtual experience I become one of the ghosts in a machine. I don’t want to live in a machine. I will love being a ghost when it is my actual time and my spirit is freed from a material (mater, mother, matter) vessel, but I don’t want to be swapping out one vessel (my body) for another (a machine).
I’ve had to adjust my morning routine somewhat — rather difficult as my morning rituals help set the tone for my day. Lately my personal space has felt a bit crowded — that heavy breathing during a phone call? Not me. Strange garbled text you received? Again, not me. Hoping to come up for air soon.
Whew! I’m just going to relish the feelings I have had all day — profound relief, a cautious optimism, and delirious happiness that at the very least, while he may not be who I wanted (Bernie always), I sure am happy to have Biden and Harris safely on board. Wise, experienced, compassionate, humble and intelligent leadership. The voices I heard speak today — from Biden to our brilliant poet laureate, Amanda Gorman — reflected many of my thoughts, acknowledging our weaknesses as a nation, but also recognizing our innate capacity for resilience, perseverance, and endurance. We are emerging from a dark time that has illuminated the worst of what we are as a nation for many of us. The white supremacist, racist, imperialist, better-than-you persona that lives deep in the bones and sinew of our collective American psyche, and how we move through a world we all share. The more I learn of the racism and supremacy inherent in the structure of our country, the foundations upon which it stands, the more I believe that until we eradicate that, we will again face another time of darkness like the past four years. And we may not be so lucky the next time. This is the gift of that second chance. I hope we don’t blow it.
Yesterday was my parents’ 64th anniversary and although my mum slipped through the veil almost five years ago, I still like to take a walk down Memory Lane with my dad while I still can, so I called him with some questions. There’s always little details about a family story we forget to ask…until it’s too late. Even though I have lots of my mother’s stories written (and many not), when I retell them I realize another new detail I forgot to ask her.
I’ve always known and loved my parents’ wedding story, have probably shared it countless times before, but really, what’s one more? A good story is a good story, right? And our memories can be fickle, the details morphing with new embellishments, or mingling with another person’s version of how they remember the experience.
My parents’ were married twice — both times to each other. I like to call the first marriage “the elopement.”
January 16, 1957 they married at town hall in East Greenwich, RI, most likely with my Aunt Carol and Uncle Harold witnessing. My mum was 18, my dad 20. He was the son of Irish Catholic immigrants, she was the orphaned daughter of Yankee Protestants. When my Irish grandmother learned of this, she had an absolute fit as they were “living in SIN!!!”
This is what lead to the second marriage, the one I call “The Sacrament.” Needless to say, my parents’ both needed rescue from this scandalous lifestyle. My father marrying a Protestant was bad enough, but her future conversion was possible. However, this urgent matter of “living in sin” had to be rectified, so on Feb 2 my parents were “re”-married at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in the Quincy parish they lived in. My uncle drove my grandparents (who didn’t drive) from Arlington to make certain of it. I imagine my Aunt Carol and Uncle Harold were also there providing “Protestant” “moral” support for my mother, who was a bit embarrassed and slightly humiliated by all the ruckus. At any rate, my parents went on to raise four little Catholic schoolgirls, borne within the bonds of HOLY MATRIMONY.
“Says Kamina on what’s your word for 2021: “My word is DOG. Because: 1. Dogs only have four modes: sleep, play, eat, and jobs. (This is what I call the intense, self-important focus of a dog in work mode – whether digging a hole or helping a human cross the street.) 2. Whichever mode they are in, dogs are totally focused on that mode. Dogs don’t multitask. 3. Dogs are happy in all modes. Even jobs. Dogs love jobs. I tend to be sulky, distracted and discontent and I want to try to be more dog in 2021” From A Cup of Jo, posted 01.08.21
Needless to say, I find it’s the perfect word for me, too — for this year and perhaps for every year. So many ways of making art with your “OLW/one little word/word of the year/whatever you want to call it”or you can let someone else make it for you. ColleenAttara crafts custom words once a year for customers — and she uses recycled plastic whenever she can to do so. She scripts and cuts your special word for you, and they are simple, but elegant. I’ve toyed with the idea of ordering one myself but have never quite gotten that far (is “gotten” even a word? Well, no matter, it is now😉). Haven’t been able to commit to just one word, but if I could, DOG would be the one I could get behind.
It rained today, and although the rain cleared after a while, the puddles were huge, making our daily walk less than attractive. People have such a lack of awareness of others, as well as themselves, especially when rushing and driving fast —that if my feet aren’t getting soaked wading through the depths, cars flying through make waves that drench me from head to toe. Hence, no walk today, but we did take an extra long one yesterday into Hyannisport, along the shore near where the old train wharf used to go. It was pure blissful solitude, and a perfect opportunity to let Oonagh loose. Whenever we do, as I watch her, I feel such unleashed joy that one of these times (when the surf isn’t so cold), I am apt to join her. I am not a beach girl, but, dang, my girl just makes it look so delicious and inviting.