‘Tis the Season

The marsh grass is the color of wheat, now.

Little did I know, that when we bought this house, the lowcountry marsh behind it would change color with the seasons. I have a desk pointed in that direction, so I can study the panorama and think deep thoughts as I write. Or think nothing, which seems to be my default position these days.

My creativity has leeched away temporarily. There’s a lot on my mind, but this week, the week of Christmas, I’m pushing it all away. I’m choosing to focus on the holiday. All is calm, all is bright, joy to the world, amen.

The holidays are never calm in my house, since there are multiple adult kids and families to consider, so it’s a choice to remain calm. My mind goes back through the years. I think the only ‘Silent Night’ Christmas I remember was the Christmas I’d just gotten divorced and the absence of stress and relationship struggles made all the difference. I still remember that time fondly, sounds strange, I know, but a horrible marriage does not a calm and silent Christmas make. But the peace…it felt incredible.

Lately, I’ve been fighting for peace and sanity amidst the pandemic and the voices that fan terror and strife from the media, which I no longer trust to tell the truth. Fighting for sanity amidst the changing landscape of shopping and planning events and interacting in general as a society. I think we can all agree, it’s been a tough year, and we’ve been infected with more than a virus. Tensions are at an all-time high, and it’s harder than ever to choose ‘calm’ or ‘peaceful’ or ‘optimistic’ but we must. I can either give in to fear or choose faith. I can let my feelings overtake me, and drown in depression; or choose hope. I can become angry and tense when things don’t go my way, or I can let go and choose love. Love is the highest road, the best road. Always. Even when we disagree, we can do it patiently. Kindly.

So…I’ve determined to love even when I have to grit my teeth. I’m choosing to remain silent when I want to blow up at someone. (Not always successful here, but I’m definitely trying.) I’m choosing to focus on the birth of Christ and God’s incredible gift to humanity. I’m excited about seeing the ‘Bethlehem Star’, which happened with a spontaneous gathering of neighbors, complete with binoculars and telescope. A magical moment, and a time for quiet speculation. Hope in the midst of the storm. Light in the darkness. Reassurance that as a country, we will move on, we will learn from 2020 – the year of radical unmet expectations – and our country will not give in to despair and contention. I’m letting petty differences and the fear I’ve picked gifts that my loved ones won’t like slide away. I’m determined to ignore a messy kitchen and an even messier life…for now. I’ll pick this stuff up again next week, but I want a timeout. I’m forcing a timeout. At least mentally.

My zillion gifts I bought for kids and grandkids and husband have been Amazoned (this should be a verb now, right?) to their destinations, and the rest wait patiently under my tree for the parts of my family that will be here. I have an entire week on my calendar that has nothing on it except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My cats have not ripped up the gifts and the tree, for once, so that is something to celebrate! A small thing, but still. Notable.

Like the marsh grass in winter, my outlook lies dormant and devoid of color. 2020 has been a long, rough season. But like all seasons, it hasn’t come to stay. It will pass.

Though we may not feel it or see it right now, we are passing through. Spring is on the way!

I Liked the Old Normal

I miss hugs.

It feels strange to go out now. If I have to sneeze (heaven forbid) and I am in a store, even though masked, I feel like a ‘super spreader’ caught in the act. The ‘covid elbow’ is a poor substitute for a handshake, and though we laugh about it, it is weird. Isolating.

Then there are those who want to spew their anger all over those who don’t mask up. Don’t they realize that the masks they are wearing do little to stop the spread of their saliva as they scream obscenities and accusations? I prefer to not go through the exercise of explaining why I don’t want to wear a mask, so now, I jerk one over my face as I enter a store, then jerk it off the moment I leave. It is a reluctant obedience. I gave up.

And that is the problem. A lot of us have given up. And given over.

We wander through our few, but necessary, shopping expeditions like silent wraiths in an apocalypse. I’ve noticed people have begun avoiding each other’s eyes. The friendly hello is fast becoming outdated. Our ‘new normal’ is gaze avoidance, silent meandering, a quick snatch of products needed (lest they not be on the shelf one day) and screening the checkout lines for distancing.

I hate the phrase ‘we are all in this together’. We are not in this together. We are in this APART, i.e. social distancing and Zoom calls. Mandatory masking. Video call apps are becoming wildly creative. Microsoft Teams has a new mode called “Together.” If more than five people are on the call, they look like they are seated in an auditorium side by side, as if everyone is in a classroom. Together. And everyone seems happy about this. It even includes fake high-fiving. This is so creepy I’m having trouble comprehending the consequences. Are we now manufacturing fake togetherness in an effort to make forced isolation more palatable?

It’s not palatable. It’s not healthy. And it won’t last forever.

Friends now look at each other as if they are already infected, and stand a good distance away or raise their hands in protest if one zeroes in for a hug. Can you say…rejection? I know, I know…it’s protection…subliminally, though, that rejection thing is happening. Mandatory quarantining and screening are a given. My dentist takes my temperature when I walk in, makes me swish with hydrogen peroxide for 30 seconds (no less, or they make you do it over) and nearly slathers hand sanitizer all over my upper body. They perform all of this like medical attendants from a Hitchcock movie. Smiling, militant, hard-lipped, steely-eyed. They are focused on the mission. After all ‘we’re all in this together’.

Nope. I’m not all in this at all. I mean, I am…but…in my mind, I’m running as fast as I can for freedom.

The new catchphrases of the dreaded COVID existence:

new normal

mask up!

virtue signaling

flatten the curve

essential business

novel coronavirus

shelter-in-place

stay safe!

social distancing

super-spreader

contact tracing

droplet transmission

PPE (personal protective equipment)

Our communication is peppered with these phrases, now. It is the top conversation on every network, FB, Twitter, Instagram…the entire world, I guess. Still, I refuse to cave. I’ve limited the amount of news I allow into my brain. I’m stunned by the division this ‘pandemic’ has brought, and avoid FB posts that lecture the rest of us apparently misinformed, misguided, uneducated, helpless souls. It now makes me laugh, the sheer condescension of some of the comments aimed at those who rail against imposed restrictions that should not happen.

One thing is certain, a pandemic brings out the best and the worst in people. At least now, it isn’t hidden.

I miss hugs.

I believe they’ll be back.

 

Non-Seafood People Need Love, Too

B448DEC3-5F36-41B4-B555-E67F5A26B1E4I’m really not the best person to tease. In fact, I was teased so badly as a child, that it’s called ‘bullying’ today. The scars are healed, now, but once in a while they flare up, and I fly off the handle a bit. It’s usually due to a repetitive scorn, and after about a trillion times of throwing it in my face, I just…well…here’s the rest of the story.

There is one thing my husband and friends mock and denigrate me about as if I were the queen of fools. Quite honestly, I’m sick of it. I have driven a stake in the ground. (Umm…sand, actually. We live on an island.)

I’m saying no.

I will absolutely not, ever again, eat seafood in any form. Not clams. Not oysters. Not shallots. Not grouper. Not redfish. Not…well, I can’t remember names of seafood, but believe me, folks have all but forked bites of it into my mouth in an effort to show me how wonderful it is. Do they not think I’ve tried several times? Do they think that I outright lie when I say I don’t like it? It’s a mystery. One of my good friends even told me to stop saying I hated seafood  because I wouldn’t be considered a local (insert eyeroll here). Seems to me people that love me would know this about me and LEAVE ME ALONE ABOUT IT.

Sigh.

Why do people feel they have an obligation, nay…a holy DUTY…to recruit non-seafood people into the seafood-lover militia? I will be the token anomaly. It’s okay. Locals can point to me and whisper, “that’s our last holdout, but we still have hope” all they want to, but there is no hope. And I reject all manner of putting stuff in my mouth that is even slightly fishy. I have the right to refuse, don’t I? Isn’t that the American way? I especially reject crustraceans that wander the ocean scooping up all manner of fish poop into their little clampy mouths and then arrive on a restaurant table artfully displayed for $500. Yuk on several levels.

Look, seafood people – we non-seafood people should make you even more proud of your lofty seafood vocabulary and discussion of culinary literacy regarding lobster, crab, dauphin, (is that a fish?) or whatever. You know something we don’t. (We don’t really want to know, but hey, we will listen with rapt attention and respect your right to know. We can still get along.)

Speaking of crustaceans, the worst of the worst happened a couple of weeks ago.

My husband and I are semi-retired, and he is looking for hobbies and fun stuff to do as he feverishly awaits full retirement. When we moved across the street from a lake, I took a very deep breath when he took up fishing.

With all his heart.

I mean…the man seeks out every neighbor and pulls information and help from them like a dentist pulls teeth. He is merciless. So now we have not one, not two, but THREE stinkin’ fishing poles in the garage PLUS a filet knife, line, tackle, and all the other fishy accoutrement. Trust me when I say I hate the smell of fish more than the taste of it and this man knew it when we got married. Did that deter him?

Of course not.

But we have agreed on boundaries. He can’t bring the fish in the house unless its fileted and on its way to the freezer. Don’t get me started on the rotting bait he ‘just happens’ to throw into the trashcan for our poor trash pickup people to endure. Plus, now we have a racoon problem? Hmmmm.

But I digress. Worse than that, he has started CLAMMING.

OMG.

Now, he has dirty, muddy rubber boots, borrows this little rake-thing from a neighbor and wanders out into the muddy marsh. With a smile on his face, no less. I know now where the phrase ‘happy as a clam’ comes from. These, also, cannot come into the house, and I thank God that we have water faucets all around the perimeter of our home so he can wash the little critters outside. His mud-spackled clothing has to go straight to the laundry, and his mud-spackled body straight to the shower.

When he’s done clamming, he looks like a slightly remorseful- but proud -three-year-old boy fresh from a mud puddle. The other day, in all his mud-bespeckled glory, still wearing the grimy rubber boots, he grabbed his white, plastic bucket of unmwashed, still very much alive clams and strode purposefully toward a neighbor walking her two little purse-dog Pomeranians in the street in front of our house.

I was downright horrified as he marched toward her, bucket held high, little bitty fork-rake thing at his side, in all his clammy glory to show off his catch. Come to think of it, I guess clamming is where the term ‘clammy hands’ comes from.

Eww.

Our neighbor smiled and tried to be polite, but backed away before the dogs leapt into the bucket.

A few days ago, he asked me to come watch while he raked the salt marsh mud for clam treasure, which I did. After all, a wife’s gotta support her man, at least on the surface, right? I don’t have to smell or touch the mud or the clams if I stay a good space away from the entire activity. He bought me black rubber boots for the occasion (why?) and I nicely responded that I’d watch from the bank in a chair, thanks.

With a goodly amount of wine.

So now I’m finding out that there are plenty of clam-lovers and clam-diggers out there. To my horror, once a friend of ours found out my husband had become conversant in all things clam, he promptly invited us over for dinner. He’d make Clams Casino Fettucine.

Guess who provided the clams.

The host generously cooked me chicken instead, but told me later he cooked it in the same sauce as the clams.

Did he have to tell me that? Really?