Sometimes You Have to Look Harder for the Joy, But It’s There

“It is December and we must be brave,” poet Natalie Diaz wrote in “Manhattan is a Lenape Word” in her book Postcolonial Love Poem. So, so true. (Lenape is the language of the Delaware Native American tribe)

In Kansas and nearby states, survivors gaze at the rubble where their homes used to be, where their neighbors died in tornadoes that swept through on Friday and wiped out homes, businesses, dreams, and lives. How do you bear such a tragedy? How do you attend so many funerals and not want to die yourself?

I guess you ask the people Out West whose lives were ravaged by wildfires, or the folks in the South clobbered by hurricanes. You keep going the best you can.

A mass shooting happened in Baytown, Texas yesterday. These shootings have become so routine that NPR didn’t even mention it on this morning’s news update, although it was on my Yahoo home page. One dead, 13 wounded at a vigil for a friend who had been killed two weeks earlier.

COVID is still raging. The omicron variant is said to be more contagious than the previous versions of the virus. In one week, we went from no cases in the U.S. to cases all over the country. Those of us who have had two vaccine shots and a booster still don’t feel safe, and it seems as if this will never end. A friend from my old church died of COVID last week. People are still disputing the need for masks while almost 50,000 new cases have been diagnosed in the U.S. in the last 30 days.

The economy is berserk. Some gas stations in the Bay Area are charging more than $5 a gallon. Prices for food and everything else are up, and yet you can’t get everything you need because the supply chain is broken and businesses can’t find people to fill jobs. There are no new cars in the Honda dealer’s parking lot because they can’t get the computer chips to make the cars. Crazy.

This weekend, high winds and rain hit the Oregon coast. I woke to find my patio table overturned, my garden statues knocked over, and a fallen tree across my fence. There are branches everywhere. My whole yard is so soggy I’m afraid my house is going to sink. But I suffered no real damage. I spent a few hours without Internet or TV, but that’s nothing. I’m back at my desk, writing, sipping English Breakfast Tea, and looking forward to Christmas cards coming in the mail.

I had tea and scones with a new friend last week. The next day, Annie and I had a nice visit with the neighbors, swapping stories by the fireplace. I sang at church on Saturday. My refrigerator is full of good food. I’m healthy. My life is good. We don’t get tornadoes here, but a disaster could change everything in a blink. All we can do is trust in God and each other to carry us when things get too hard.

The holidays can be torture for people who are already suffering from the loss of loved ones, natural and unnatural disasters, or physical or emotional problems. Please consider reaching out to friends who might be having a hard time. Even more than gifts and cards, they could use your company.

I hate that I won’t have any family around me at Christmas. At some point, I will cry hard over that. But then I will move on. There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just a turkey sandwich or a TV show or a walk with the dog. Last night while doing the dishes, I turned on some music and started dancing. The dog stared, confused. But if your feet still hold you up, why not dance?

It is December, and we must be brave. The month is only half over. There will be more storms, more tornados. There will be more COVID, more shortages, and more frustrations. But there will also be Christmas and New Year’s and another sunrise every day, each one a little different from the one before, and that first wonderful sip of coffee or tea in the morning. If you look for the joy, you can find it.

Happy holidays, I wish you warm scones, fuzzy slippers, and sloppy dog kisses.

I welcome your comments. Tell us how you’re doing this month.

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Hang onto each other as the world goes nuts

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } I’m watching the Sitka spruce trees behind my house dance in the wind against a partly blue sky. It’s not quite sunny. In fact, as I write, the clouds are expanding and darkening, but it’s brighter than the twilight we have experienced the last few days. Last night’s gusts tossed my hot tub cover across the yard like a Frisbee and sent my recycle bin halfway to Seal Rock. Small branches are scattered around the yard. But I seem to have escaped major damage. That’s not true everywhere. As I was driving home from Newport yesterday, signs were sailing across Highway 101 and branches were flying. The wind threatened to toss my Honda off the Yaquina Bridge. This morning, all the major roads east are blocked by debris and fallen trees.

Tomorrow it may snow. Or just rain like crazy while we hurry to build an ark or at least stretch tarps over our leaky roofs. It’s a stormy time on the Oregon coast, but this is typical of December.
What is not typical is all the violence happening in our world. A gunman opens fire at a shopping mall in Oregon, killing two strangers plus himself. Another gunman kills 20 kids and six employees of an elementary school in Connecticut. Before he went to the school, he killed his mother. Finally he killed himself. He was only 20 years old. All of us watching on our televisions are horrified and heartbroken.
There is more violence all over the world, people getting killed more often in greater numbers, but here in the U.S., we think it won’t happen to us. My city, Newport, is even smaller than Newtown, Connecticut, but we have seen violence, too. Remember Christian Longo, who killed his wife and three children, put the wife and one child in a suitcase in Yaquina Bay and the other two kids in the water in Alsea Bay? He’s in jail now. Remember the guy who shot the cop in Lincoln City and led local law enforcement on a two-day manhunt that came up empty? They never have found him. Remember the too-many people who have died here in boating accidents or gotten swept off the jetty or taken out to sea by sneaker waves?
We’ve had plenty of natural disasters that surprise us with their power. Superstorm Sandy was the most recent, but it seems to happen more and more. One day, life is fine, and the next day it’s over.
It’s hard to find something to hang onto when you know that at anytime a gunman, a sneaker wave, a flood, or big gust of wind can take it all away. For some of us, it’s God and a life beyond this one. For all of us, it’s each other. It’s ironic that all of this is happening at Christmas time. But the holidays bring people together, and that’s exactly what we need right now. Put up the bright lights, enjoy the good food, have fun giving each other presents. If it becomes a chore, stop and just enjoy being alive and safe and together.
The blue sky is gone now, and it’s about to rain. It may snow here tomorrow. Let’s hug each other and hold on.
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