My husband and I received our first COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Tuesday. I have never been so excited about getting a poke in the arm.

My husband has numerous pre-existing conditions, so this past year we have been exceedingly cautious. Some have called us “prisoners.” We’ve called ourselves “prudent.”

Our only regular outing has been to the grocery store, always at “Old Farts” hours (7:00 am to 8:00 am), and after we’ve put away the groceries, I’ve wiped down every surface we’ve touched (and any we thought we might have touched). When absolutely essential, we’ve visited the doctor and dentist. Even more rarely, we’ve ventured into hardware stores or the post office. We’ve ordered on-line to be delivered and ordered for curb-side pickup. We’ve quarantined mail and parcels for three days once we’ve brought them into the house. We’ve social-distanced, worn masks (long before our fair city decreed it obligatory), used hand sanitizer and wipes, and washed our hands till we thought the skin would fall off (or run out of soap, whichever came first).

But now! Now it feels as if we have left prison and are living in the half-way house. Freer, although not entirely free. We will still wear masks (we’re double-masking now that the “variants of concern” are running amok), we will still social-distance; we will still be careful about where we go and when we go there.

But now! Now, we can visit friends and relatives. Maybe I will work up the courage to venture into my favourite shopping venue – our local thrift store. And maybe get a real haircut and . . . .

We don’t know when we will receive our second Moderna shot. The Canadian government has royally screwed up the vaccine situation, leaving us dependent on the good graces of other countries. But we – my husband and I – are on our way.

Yay, freedom!

BUT that freedom has come at great cost. Over 22,250 people have died in Canada and millions around the world. “Long-haulers” continue to suffer COVID symptoms with no relief in sight. Front line workers suffer from exhaustion and burn-out, or PTSD, or worse still have died of COVID. Millions have lost jobs or businesses because of COVID. Millions are hungry or homeless because of COVID. Uncounted numbers have committed suicide because of COVID.

The moral of the pandemic is this: none of us will be free until everyone is free. So, don’t dilly-dally. Get that vaccine as soon as you can. Help us all be free.

#COVID #Pandemic #COVIDVaccine #Freedom #ModernaVaccine #NotesFromIsolationWard #MargaretGHanna

Family Gatherings in the Time of COVID

ClaytonCouleeView7My husband’s family still owns the quarter-section (160 acres, about 80 hectares) that their grandfather homesteaded over 100 years ago. It is mostly farmland with some pasture and, in prairie parlance, a “coulee” that cuts across the southern part of the quarter-section.

About 50 years ago, my husband’s father decided to build a family campground in the coulee. Over the next 10 years or so, they built a cook-out shelter for the barbeques, a camp kitchen, a couple of tiny sleeping huts (one recently restored, the other still derelict), and – wonder of wonders – a shower room and a flush toilet (Ooooh! Aaaaw!) Yes, they had piped water down from the farmstead up on the prairie level, but it is non-drinkable, good only for washing and flushing the aforesaid toilet. There used to be electricity until a Richardson’s Ground Squirrel thought the buried cable might be a tasty snack and got fried in the process. At least, we think that’s what happened.


Over the years, the campground has been the venue for impromptu wiener roasts, family gatherings, weddings, birthday parties, and what have you. We’ve shared laughter, stories, jokes, debates and an awful lot of food. It’s been a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the frenetic city and working life.

It hasn’t been a refuge from COVID.

05_GatheringForPatWe had a small family gathering of 20 people this past weekend. COVID changed the dynamics. We couldn’t hug each other as we arrived and, later, when we left (air hugs just don’t cut it). We couldn’t mingle or stand elbow-to-elbow to regale each other with the latest goings-on. We couldn’t share snacks or sample someone’s craft beer. We couldn’t sit with whomever we wanted to eat supper. We couldn’t crowd around the campfire as the night air cooled. 

And try as we might, even with only 20 people in a large open space, it was really difficult to maintain our one caribou/one hockey stick/ two meters/six feet distancing. We continually migrated towards each other, pulled together by some unseen yet irresistible gravitation force, ruptured only when someone woke up and yelled, “Distance!”

Thankfully, COVID, try as it might, could not fracture the comradery, the sense of belonging and the joy of gathering with family. We could still share stories and laugh and debate. We could still reminisce about the past and hope for better times to come.

In that regard, we conquered COVID.

Next year, we’ll hug and mingle and share food and . . .

#COVID #Pandemic #FamilyGatherings #SocialDistancing #MargaretGHanna

The Fellowship of Food

I’m on a liquid diet these days (I’ll spare you the details of “why”). Fruit smoothies and soup blended to mush fill the stomach and nourish the body but they fail in one regard – they do not nourish the soul.

I miss texture. I miss the crunch of carrots and snap peas, the chewiness of good bread, the juicy explosion of cherry tomatoes, the annoyance of apple peel between my teeth, the fibrousness of a steak.

I miss the variety of flavours. Blended foods are blended flavours. Nothing stands out. Blueberries, bananas, papaya, kiwi become one. Same with stock and lentils and rice and cabbage and whatever other vegetables I put into the soup.

I miss the variety of colour. Stock soup is always brown; cream soup is always white. Fruit smoothies are some form of pinkish-bluish-white (I’m sure the paint stores have a fancy name for that colour).

What I miss most, though, in this time of COVID is the fellowship that attends food.

Food binds us together as family and community. ‘Breaking bread’ with someone may be a simple gesture, something of seemingly no great consequence, rather like hugging someone, but that act signifies so much:

We are friends.
We hold some values in common.
We have shared history and experience.
We can put our differences behind us for just this moment.
We trust each other.
We belong together.
We are part of something larger than ourselves.

All those young people you see on TV who are flocking to bars and beaches once they’re open? – they not just being “COVIDiots.” They are responding to the deep-seated, primal human drive to be with one another. They are celebrating an essential aspect of what it means to be human – to be part of something larger than themselves, to be part of community. Even as I shake my head, wondering “How can they be so careless! So negligent!” I envy them the joy and comradery they are experiencing.

A cup of coffee drunk alone is only a cup of coffee. Shared with a friend, it is laughter, stories, jokes, memories, and plans.

Just as a blended fruit smoothie is no substitute for the joy of eating each fruit individually, neither is food eaten alone a satisfactory substitute for the sense of belonging and oneness and joy that attends food eaten with friends and family.

Until my circumstances change, I will continue to “make do” with a liquid diet. And, until our circumstances change, we will continue to “make do” with vicarious virtual community.

Let’s hope those circumstances change sooner rather than later.

#Smoothies #LiquidDiet #FoodAsCommunity #SharingFood #FoodAndFamily  #NotesFromIsolationWard #HumansSocialBeings #LivingInCommunity #Contemplation #Meditation #COVID