Good-bye 2020

This has been one @#$%^ of a year. SARS-CoV-2 came storming in and stomped on, shattered, crumpled and otherwise destroyed and threw out the window every dream and plan we had for 2020. It trashed weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, trips to the mall, meeting up with buddies at the local watering hole, graduations, school, playtime, and then, to add insult to injury, prevented us from gathering to mourn the loved ones it snatched from us.

It made us stand apart, stop hugging, stop holding hands, fear the very air we breathe. It divided us into tribes: pro-maskers vs. anti-maskers, the virus is real vs. the virus is fake, the stay-at-homers vs. the go-out-and-partyers.

People lost jobs and businesses and homes; people cued for hours for a bag of groceries or a COVID test. Parents working from home had to juggle work with home-schooling their children.

It’s been a year of seemingly unprecedented racial violence, of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, tyrants clinging to power, wars, mass murders, mass kidnappings, famines, etc. etc.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we’ve been pummeled with one disaster after another. Wild fires that threaten to devour the whole world, and hurricanes and tornadoes and plow winds and hail storms that demolish everything in their wake. We’ve been left homeless, bereft, bruised and battered.

But not without hope.

Hope is the one thing that has carried us through this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year. This isn’t an airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky kind of hope. It is hope borne of a million random acts of kindness and generosity by neighbours, and even strangers, who look out for one another. It is hope borne of the knowledge that we have fallen on our face before and, like the words in Frank Sinatra’s song, picked ourselves us, brushed ourselves off and started all over again. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we can survive now because we have survived before.

It is hope borne of the courage of so many people who have continued to serve in the face of this scourge, people who have put their lives on the line for us and, alas, have often lost them. People, such as those who work in hospitals and clinics – nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, EMT personnel, maintenance personnel and suppliers. Civic workers who pick up the garbage, drive transit, keep the heat and power and water flowing, clean the streets, patrol the neighbourhoods and fight fires. People who work in grocery stores and pharmacies and department stores and gas stations, and the truck drivers who bring the stock to those stores. Business owners who care enough to make their premises safe for those who venture in.

It is also the hope borne of promised salvation. Two vaccines have been approved, others are coming. This does not mean that SARS-CoV-2 will be immediately or even permanently vanquished. We’ve fought that long-term fight before, too: smallpox was eradicated only after a long, concerted, multi-nation battle; tuberculosis and polio have been beaten back but not banished and we’ve learned to live with them. What the vaccines mean is that we can now breathe more easily, we can hope more strongly.

It is fitting, if entirely coincidental, that vaccines are being approved in December – the darkest time of the year when it seems night has won over day, and darkness over light. Since time immemorial, societies in northern latitudes have gathered during these darkest days to conduct ceremonies to lure the sun back and to ensure that Earth’s wintery death is only temporary. These festivals of lights beat back darkness and death just a little bit and remind us that, yes indeed, light and life will return. Now, the promise of light has come to us in the form of a tiny bottle of serum.

We’ve even invented a new “ceremony of life” surrounding the first recipient of the vaccine. It’s the same everywhere, no matter who the first recipient is or where it occurs. The TV cameras are there to record it, the person is surrounded by nurses and co-workers, the inoculation is given, everyone bursts into applause and cheers, and the recipient gives a little speech. Each time we witness this, we affirm that COVID is being beaten back, even if only just a tiny bit, and that light is returning.

We’re not there yet. Darkness still surrounds us. We’ve a long path ahead but we know the light is returning. As long as we have hope and courage and stamina, as long as we continue to support each other, the light will return.

Hold the faith, dear readers.

#Hope #Sacrifice #HelpingFriends #HelpingNeighbours #Caring #Future #2020 #COVID #SARS-CoV-2 #WinterSolstice #Pandemic #MargaretGHanna

On Walking Home after Midnight Christmas Eve Service

Snowflakes the size of dinner plates drift slowly earthward,
soften squeak of boots on snow,
halo street lights,
whisper “Peace on earth.”
A solitary car ghosts by, not daring to defile the silence.

Our world has no time for silence
for stillness.
We must be busy
productive, engaged, connected.

We rush thither and yon
worry and fret
search for fulfilment
purpose, satisfaction

fill up our day-timers get another app make another appointment book another meeting make a call answer a call send a text Facebook LinkenIn MySpace SnapChat Instagram Google Twitter TikTok

and feel empty.

“How silently, how silently . . .”
“How still we see thee lie . . .”
“Silent night . . .”

I stand still in the darkness
catch snowflakes on my tongue
and let profound contentment mantle me
in the still

#ChristmasEve #Meditation #Contemplation #BeingInTheMoment #MargaretGHanna

Christmas Traditions

Part 2: Christmas Angel

The top of every Christmas tree has something, usually either a star or an angel, to provide the finishing touch to all the lights and baubles and tinsel and garlands that sparkle and glitter and twinkle below. Ours is no different – we have an angel.

But she’s not any old angel.

Once upon a time, many years ago, a few weeks before Christmas, a little girl accompanied her daddy to the hardware store. She went everywhere with him because he was her hero and, in his eyes, she was his little angel (boy, was he mistaken! but I digress).

While her father conducted his business with Mr. Enticnap, the little girl wandered around the store admiring all the decorations for sale. And then, she saw it. Her! The most beautiful angel in the whole world. In the whole universe!

Her silvery shining hair was held in place with a golden diadem. Golden wings spread wide behind her. Her flowing gown was bedecked with golden stars and in her right hand she held a wand tipped with a star. And she shone because you could put a light inside her.

The little girl ran over to her daddy and in her best whiny six-year-old voice pleaded, “P-l-e-a-s-e, Daddy, will you buy her? P-l-e-a-s-e!”

Of course, he did.

She has graced our family’s tree top ever since. She came with me when I moved to Alberta and she continues her duties here.

Mind you, after more than 65 years, she is showing her age. The golden diadem is slightly askew. The starry wand has been glued back into her hand several times. Her wings are not as bright. Her backing is so warped by the heat of numerous tree lights that she is now held together with wire.

She is still the most beautiful angel in the world but not because of her looks. No, that beauty is a result of 65 years of memories, and particularly that one special memory of a father who loved his daughter so much he bought her the angel of her dreams.

#ChristmasMemories #ChristmasAngel #ChristmasTrees #FatherAndDaughter #MargaretGHanna

Christmas Traditions

Family Tradition #1: The Fence

Traditions – what would we do without them? Celebrations just wouldn’t be the same. It doesn’t matter what the occasion, we expect that certain foods will be served, certain practices followed and certain things said, and if they’re not, well, the whole shee-bang falls apart.

Traditions represent continuity through past, present and future. They cement family ties and provide a sense of security and normalcy even if all else is falling apart. They give us something non-tangible yet still very real to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

Traditions make sense to those who follow them; to outsiders, they might raise eyebrows.

Take the Christmas Fence that stood around our tree for decades. A fence? you say. Why a fence?

Once upon a time, many years ago, a certain toddler by the name of Margaret just couldn’t keep her hands off the shiny baubles that dangled off the Christmas tree, despite numerous admonitions and even punishments. They were so enticing, they demanded to be grabbed at, handled and, Oops! dropped and broken.

My Uncle George, who lived with us that year, came up with the idea of a fence. He cut a sapling into lengths, nailed them onto wooden bases, bored holes through them and strung two lengths of silver garlands through the holes.

I was informed that everything behind the fence was a “no-touch” zone. Apparently, I listened. However, if even the tiniest bit of a branch extended outside the fence, well, it was fair game.

By the time I had grown past the “grab and dash” stage, my brother had arrived, so once again the Christmas Fence was needed. By the time he had grown past that stage, the Christmas Fence was as much a part of the tree decorations as the lights and tinsel. For many years, once the tree was in place and decorated, we put the “snow” (a.k.a. white cotton batting) around the base and on top of it went the manger scene, the church, the snowmen made of styrofoam balls, the plastic Santa in his sleigh pulled by six reindeer (only six?), the pipe cleaner evergreen trees and, of course, the presents, all securely protected by the fence.

Yes, it got a bit ratty over the years, all that security work took its toll. Eventually – I don’t know when – it fell apart and was discarded. Ever since, the Christmas tree has looked so unfinished, so alone, so unprotected, without it!

Next time: Tradition #2 – she isn’t just any angel!

ChristmasTraditions #ChristmasTree #ChildhoodMemories #HannaFamilyHistory #ChristmasDecorations #MargaretGHanna

Finding Mary’s “Voice”

In case you hadn’t notice, I write. At least, I try to write. It isn’t easy, not for me anyway. Questions abound – What do I write about? Will it make sense? Is what I’ve written what I really want to say? Will anyone read it? Will anyone care?

The pundits say, Write for yourself and the readers will come. Perhaps they’re right.

As of now, I am writing (trying to write) what I call semi-fictionalized family history. Like many movies, it is “inspired by . . .” because it is more or less the life of my maternal grandmother after she immigrated to Canada from England in 1912.

The facts are no problem. Creating the scenes around the facts is not too much of a problem. Finding Mary’s voice is the problem.

The story is presented through Mary’s diary so finding her voice is essential. I have several letters that my grandmother wrote so you would think that finding her voice would be a snap – just copy her style.

It isn’t that easy. I struggled but what appeared on my computer screen just didn’t sound like her or at least how I imagined she sounded. Then someone suggested I uncap my good old fountain pen from my high school days (no ball point pens back in 1912) and write something by hand. With ink. On paper. As Mary would have done.

I couldn’t believe it – Mary’s voice appeared like magic. It’s almost, but not quite, a stream-of-consciousness voice and why not? This is a diary, after all, and a diary is where you pour out your heart and soul.

I wrote the first several diary entries by hand with fountain pen and then transcribed them to my word processing program. Her voice is now ensconced in my head so that I can write most diary entries directly on the computer but whenever I run into trouble, when her voice eludes me, I go back to fountain pen and paper and, lo and behold, she is back with me.

This isn’t the first time I discovered the mind-hand connection can be messed up by technology. Back in university days, I wrote my term paper drafts by hand and then typed them (anyone remember typewriters?) before handing them in. One day, I had a Eureka moment – why don’t I type the drafts directly on the computer before doing the cut-and-paste of the old-fashioned scissors-and-tape variety. I inserted the first sheet of paper into the typewriter, rolled it through the platen and poised my fingers over the keyboard.

Nothing! That piece of paper stared back at me and dared me to put a single letter, never mind a word or sentence or paragraph, on that paper. It was as if the circuit connecting the words in my mind to my fingers above the keyboard had suddenly been disconnected. That first draft was a struggle to put on paper but eventually the new mind-hand circuit grew and it was no longer a struggle.

Then came the computer era. I acquired my first computer in 1982 – two floppy disk drives, 64K memory, 84-character green screen and a word processing program that required embedded dot-commands to format the text. Transitioning from typewriter to computer would be a piece of cake, or so I thought.

Ha! The first time I tried to write, that dratted green cursor blinked back at me, daring me to put a (virtual) word on that (virtual) paper. I could hear it laughing at me. Once again, it seemed as if the mind-hand circuit had been disconnected and, once again, I had to build a new one.

Now, it is normal for me to sit at my computer and type away. The words flow with little effort (okay, not always, but mostly) from what’s in my mind to what appears on the (virtual) paper.

Which brings me back to my recent re-discovery, that the technology I use has helped me find my grandmother’s voice. Why is that?

If there’s a neuroscientist out there reading this, perhaps she can explain.

I certainly can’t.

Unlike my maternal grandmother, who died when I was eight, I knew my paternal grandmother, Addie Hanna, very well because she lived until I was well into my twenties. I had no trouble finding her voice when I wrote “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead. Check it out – it will make a great Christmas present – but be prepared to meet an opinionated woman who doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is.

#WritingWoes #FindingCharactersVoice #WritingTechnology #HighamFamilyHistory #ImmigrantWomen #FamilyHistory #Biography #NonFiction #MargaretGHanna #SaskatchewanHistory