Can I Get a Witness?

Musically, I’m all over the place. There aren’t many limits to what I like, though once upon a time, I couldn’t handle loud music at all. As the years passed and heavy metal came into being, I realized that I really didn’t mind ACDC, or Metallica. It’s the volume that’s an issue. My older sister feels the same. Once when I was playing my Led Zeppelin II album, she came screeching into our room. “Have we died and gone to hell?” (When stressed, we all tend to quote my mother.) For some reason, Led Zeppelin gets a pass from me. I think it’s because Robert Plant’s voice is so agile and almost feminine at times. 

Linda and I are not alone in our response to loudness. Some years back I went to a movie with my five sisters. The moment the music swelled and the violins/whatever the hells/ were screaming, I looked around. Every single one of us had our fingers stuffed in our ears. We’re all a bit like Dustin Hoffman in the Rain Man movie. If the sound gets too loud, we have a tendency to slap ourselves about the head. Or slap those responsible. So in spite of all the talented screamers out there, this disability prevents me from appreciating them.

I like rap music, but during the rapping part, I’m always secretly wondering if the artist can sing. It feels like cheating if they can’t. The notion that rhythmically chanting poetry is an easy thing to do is obviously wrong. I can recite a poem or two…maybe even write one. But I truly don’t know how these artists squeeze all the words together, convey a message and still make me want to dance. And yet in spite of my growing appreciation, I feel comforted when the rapping stops and the crooning starts. “Ah, okay. They deserve to be famous, because they have a really nice voice.” Silly, I know. And probably an age thing.

I’ve always loved gospel, which is different from the usual ‘hymn sing’ type music you hear in your average mainstream protestant church. Because we’re not allowed to sing during Covid, my minister has been playing taped music. This last Sunday, he took a real chance and played a gospel version of a hymn we’ve sung many times. It got off to a good start and then quickly went off the rails. It was fine until one of the singers started screeching, ‘Can I get a witness!’ about thirty times in a row. First, let me set the stage. No. In the United Church of Canada, you cannot get a witness. Not the kind that will jump to their feet and shout, Amen, sisters and brothers! Preach it!’ We do say Amen, though. After someone has prayed, or maybe after a hymn we really enjoyed, you can hear some muttered Amens. To give Steve credit, he’s really trying to mix it up and have some fun, because we’re all just sitting there, not able to pray out loud or sing, or even stand. I myself plan on trying out a gospel song when I do a service in a few weeks. However, thanks to Steve, lesson learned. I will not ask for any witnesses. Especially ones with loud, high voices. 

I grew up listening to two kinds of jazz. The stinky kind (Stan Kenton, Miles Davis) which had my mother repeating the phrase about dying and going to hell. Then there was the other kind… a light, loungy jazz like my sisters sing. Dad played big band music, with guys like Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. I also love any kind of World War II era songs, like White Cliffs of Dover or I’ll Be Seeing You. (Billie Holiday!) It’s good they don’t play these in grocery stores anymore. I’d be found in the produce section weeping into the bananas. It gets me, that music. 

Everyone loves pop. I know there are many of you out there climbing up on your high horses and saying, ‘No way! I’m too good for that crap!’ No you’re not. We know you secretly listen to Lady Gaga or Shawn Mendes. But don’t worry. It can be our secret. I remember lying to a friend about liking Donny Osmond, because it wasn’t cool to admit it back then. But I loved his voice, and wished only that he had better material. 

I learned to like classical music in university when I shared our dormitory bathroom with a music major, Shari. She scoffed at my small Strauss collection, who I considered the pop star equivalent of his day, and introduced me to Prokofiev and Debussy and some others that I can’t remember. When I joined our community choir, I fell in love with Mozart and Beethoven and all the guys who wrote really great requiems or symphonic pieces. 

And then there’s Country Music, which wasn’t allowed in our house when I was growing up. I think this was the greatest barrier between Clarence’s parents and mine when they first met. My mother liked Julie Andrews and Harry Belafonte. His mom loved Loretta Lynn and Hank Snow. I remember the first time we all gathered in his parent’s rec room and had a drink while listening to Vic’s favourites, ‘The Moms and Dads.’ My parents looked shell shocked when we got home, muttering to themselves and asking me if I was really sure about this guy. 

I learned to enjoy some country music, even Tammy Wynette, famous for the D.I.V.O.R.C.E song. Although, who did those parents think they were fooling? You can spell things out all you want, but you can be sure little J.O.E knew about it already. Country music is like a Hallmark movie that’s been twisted a bit. It seems pleasant and melodic, but the siding keeps falling off all the houses in town. That’s Country. 

My all time favourite music, besides the gold standards like the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel, is emo. Give a whiny guy or girl a guitar and set them loose. There is not a sad, slow song that I won’t listen to on repeat, unless I’m with one of my sisters. ‘Shut it!’ is their usual response. Anyway. 

My least favourite music is really about the performer. I should not throw anyone under the bus, because God knows, my voice would not soothe anyone’s soul. But there is something about the artist, Daniel O’Donnell. Every song he sings sounds the same. Irish lullaby’s, hymns, dramatic songs like ‘The Impossible Dream.’ They’re all very…pleasant. If you’ve ever watched one of his concerts on PBS, you’ll notice that his audience is white haired and elderly. (And now it seems like I’m throwing seniors under the bus. I’m not! I know that many of you are at home right now listening to your Black Sabbath albums!) Daniel O’Donnell fans definitely offer a different kind of witness. “Wasn’t that lovely, dear?” 

Thank goodness there’s something out there for everybody. If only politics was so easy to navigate. Come November, we’ll finally know the results of the US election.  We all get to be witnesses for that momentous event, and even if we can take the tension of the next six weeks, we’ll all feel the fall out, whoever we’re cheering for. If things continue on the way they have for the last four years, I’ll probably find myself in the mood for something like this. 

A Loon Walks Into a Bar

Well, not really. More like I met it out on the lake, shortly after dropping my butt into my kayak. That’s how you do it…you put in a leg and then drop your bottom. It doesn’t matter what your other leg does, because you’re already secure. Anyway, I was paddling merrily along the shore, staring at the rocks and belting out the Christian standard, ‘How Great Though Art.” For those who love to sing, there is no better place during Covid than being alone on the water. First came the hymn…I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder…and then I met the loon.

Immediately, the lake, rocks and forest around me were transformed into a smoky lounge. Think Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Grabbing a barstool, I silently wondered if the loon came here often, but since I’m writer, I try to avoid such clichés. “Did you come here alone?” I said, knowing they like to travel in pairs. 

“Did you?” it replied with a languid but lonely look. 

Pointing to the spot where I’d scattered my husband’s ashes a month before, I took a second look at the bird. It seemed melancholy, and gave a forlorn wail as proof. “Did you get left behind?” I asked. It nodded. “Yeah?” I said. “Me too. You’ll be okay.” We chatted about the lake, how empty it seemed and how all the beavers had disappeared. I’d gotten used to the steady sound of their slapping tails. It seemed eerily quiet without them. 

“Beavers are just so bitchy,’ the loon said in a low voice. “Always in a bad mood. Like, no one else is allowed to swim around? I raised my glass, saluting its bitter sarcasm. 

“Here’s to those who love us, and bugger all the rest.” We toasted and sipped. I must mention that while we were deeply engaged in this conversation, the lounge was growing darker and more intimate. As we leaned our elbows on the counter, I tilted my fedora…(okay, Clarence’s Tilly hat) and said, ‘Of all the gin joints in all the world…”

“You had to walk into mine,’ the loon finished with a heavy sigh, just before we heard a booming sound. We looked up. Dark clouds crowded the sky, and in the distance, thunder rolled across the heavens. Oh, the irony. I’d just been singing, “I hear the rolling thunder,” before I met the loon. Sadly, its meaning had not registered. 

Quickly the loon flew upward and the lounge disappeared, leaving me to desperately paddle back to my car. As lightning teased the sky, I asked myself this. Would my rubber soled Keene’s ground me? Was my paddle just a lightning rod in disguise?

There are different kinds of prayer. Singing is one type; a celebration of being alive and able to breathe freely. Ordinarily when paddling, I sing a lot, gazing at the fallen trees, (compliments of the beavers) lying beneath the waves like ship wrecks and the gray boulders resting on the bottom like sleeping dinosaurs. As I paddled swiftly, the loon disappeared from sight and I practiced the desperate person’s prayer. (Many of us know it.) ‘Please don’t let me die here. My kids will kill me.’  

Life holds all kinds of lessons for us. Like, remembering to put a foot in your kayak before dropping your bum. Like understanding that time spent with Mother Nature is like applying lip balm to a chapped soul. And then there’s this. If you meet a loon in a bar, don’t be seduced by its pretty feathers or lonely wails. Just doff your Fedora, wish it well, and leave. But feel free to call over your shoulder like I did before paddling away. “Loony, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” 

A tremulous answer came from somewhere far above me. I took it as a yes.

Dear Clarence, Who Art in Heaven

It’s been a month since I’ve written a blog post. And in case you didn’t know it yet, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. You’d laugh if you could see me heading into Walmart or the Co-op. I adjust my mask…yes, I said mask…looking like I’m about to rob the place. This is the new normal here in 2020. 

When I go inside a store, I say hello to random people in case I know them. It’s very hard to tell. We’ve been isolating from each other since March. Happily, summer finally came along and saved us all. It’s been thrilling just working in the yard and kayaking every day. Remember last summer, when I thought you were the dragon fly I saved from the water? I didn’t know for sure. But you’ll be glad to know I’ve been a little less nutty this year. I think.

Our daughter Michelle got married on August 15th. Thankfully, you met her fiancé, John. The day was lovely in every way, but small because of the whole Covid 19 thing. The wedding party was large: six bridesmaids, six groomsmen, but the guest list was tiny. Just family, with a couple extra people. I performed the ceremony and you’ll be relieved to know I stayed dry eyed. I’m not sure how I did it, and I worried about sobbing through my Welcome to the Family speech, later. Fortunately John’s best man Dave cried during the wedding, and this saved me. I felt completely calm speaking because I mentioned his teary face about five times. 

John’s parents, Gerry and Pat, offered their back yard for the celebration. They’d worked so hard on it, and it was stunning… like something out of a movie. Think Meet Joe Black, but on a smaller scale and nobody dying at the end. (Not even of covid… we’re all okay!)

Michelle placed one of your Hawaiian shirts on a chair during the ceremony. After it was over,  everyone toasted you with a tot of Irish whiskey while John, his parents and our family sang The Wild Rover. I might have cried a bit during that part. It felt like you were there.

I’ve had vertigo again this summer, and not the light kind, either. It’s the tougher variety, where I lift my head to look at the sky and the earth tilts. I had to paint the pillars in front of our house, they were long overdue. I stood on the ladder, weaving like a drunken sailor and gripping an overhead nail to steady myself. I also, ahem, cleaned the front eavestroughs, which used to seem so scary. There were three small trees growing inside them. All maples. They’re gone now, and the water definitely flows better.

Because of the vertigo I didn’t have a drink until after Michelle’s wedding. During supper I had some wine, which might be why I mentioned Dave in my speech, referencing his sweet tearstained face. I talked to him about it later. He didn’t seem to mind. Some of the bridesmaids were tearing up, too. Just more quietly. (Sorry again, Dave.) 

Fall is definitely here, but friends and neighbors are all still out and about, boating and doing yardwork. But as they say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Fortunately, Michelle is already married, so there’ll be no Red Wedding. (Another G.O.T. reference. I can’t help myself.) 

Our former neighbors Rick and Pat paddled with me onto one of the many lakes around Flin Flon and together, we scattered your ashes. It was time. We sipped Amaretto from tiny plastic bridal shower glasses, told stories about you and sang the Hockey song in memory of all the things we used to do together. You’d love the location. I plan on joining you there someday.

So, that’s me, done for now. I’ll catch you up again someday, but I want you to know that in spite of this strange pandemic down here on Earth, I’m living the best life I can. And I love you forever, honey. I’ll see you in my dreams. Now here’s a few photos of of my summer life.

Bug City

According to the Dalai Lama, or any Buddhist worth their salt, I have become the moral equivalent of Hannibal Lecter. In my previous life (ie: last summer) I was in total agreement with the dharma of interdependence and compassion regarding all beings. For example.

I have a bug catcher from Lee Valley and it has been invaluable. I trap as many insects as I can inside my house and let them fly free outside. Partly because, why kill them when I don’t have to? Also it saves me from squishing things against my windows, walls and ceiling. Whenever I open the door to let a housefly/spider/weird unidentifiable bug outside, there’s a pleasing sense of being one with the universe. That ended this year.

 

Since Covid 19 arrived, my temper is not as easily calmed. Little things get me down more readily than usual. Also, it rained for the last three months and the bugs are now the size of cars. All of the bugs. When walking outside in sunshine or gloom, I Am Legend in a land of vampires. I must keep my eyes rolling around in my head at all times because those suckers are everywhere. The tiny black ones are the worst. The smallest come through the screens, and all of them seem to head for the back of my neck, or my scalp. Obviously my hair is like a forest to these tiny creatures, and each strand is like a well spaced tree. They just zoom inside and make themselves at home. For all I know, they’re building nests and planning to take over the world. Before Covid 19, I would have laughed at myself for having these thoughts. For writing about the craziness that has taken me over.
But let’s face it. All bets are off. The world as we know it is undergoing some unthinkable changes. President Putin has his hand so far up Donald Trumps rear end that he can wave at the world through the guy’s mouth. He’s busy running Facebook, too, by the sounds of some of the crazy memes that a lot of folks buy into, and for all I know, the Chinese are working their hands up Mark Zuckerberg’s butt even as I sit here, slapping at the vampires lurking around the room.
I will still protect the insects that help the world. Bees and wasps and all who pollinate. Good for you. You are untouchable in my yard. Spiders, my friends, remember when you take over the world that I was always on your side. My Lee Valley bug catcher is a testament to that. But mosquitoes and all flies of the biting kind, prepare to be flayed and have your livers eaten for dinner.
My Christianity is veering toward the Spanish inquisitor variety. See things my way or take a gander at my heated metal pincers. This is only regarding the biting variety of bugs. And yet, right before I swat, slap, pinch, scream or smack a bug, I tend to holler, ‘That better not be you, Uncle Walter!’ (And I’m not even Buddhist.) But it wouldn’t be him, because he would never bite anyone. Although my favourite bachelor uncle did have a thing for blondes, come to think of it. Anyway.
If you drive by my yard and see me whirling like a Sufi Dervish, please realize that I have not changed religions. And I am not dancing ecstatically. I am in the process of:
a. Fleeing
b. Avoiding
c. Trying to trap bugs.
Feel free to stop and say hello. I’ll be friendly, I promise. But if all my whirling is accompanied by maniacal laughter, just run.

If It’s Wednesday, I’m in Albuquerque

I’m not really in Albuquerque. By the time I post this, it might not even be Wednesday. I wouldn’t really know, because I am losing track of the days. At the beginning of the pandemic I should have started scratching them out on the wall of my cave like Tom Hanks did in the movie, Cast Away. I have an iPhone and a computer, but in the early morning when I’m making breakfast, it does not occur to me to check the date.

In these pandemic times, maybe it’s only the retired, unemployed or childless who feel like their brain is in resting mode. Previously, we’ve had events in our lives that let us know what day of the week it was. For me, that was gym class. I always knew that leg day was Tuesday because I would wake up filled with dread. And now, I never know it’s Tuesday. Not until Wednesday, at the very least. And my legs are getting very fussy at the lack of attention. Come fall, I’m going to have to do something. No, really.

For now, I’m like a vacant lot with no building prospects. No fence, no tools to indicate that creation is about to take place. I work in my yard and garden every day, but I’m getting to the point where I would like someone to come over and boss me around. (This is conjecture. Don’t any of you do this.) But I obviously need direction of some kind. I am so tired of my own pep talks. Some mornings while I brush my teeth, I’ll stare at myself in the mirror and say something like, ‘Today is going to be special!’ Spit. Rinse. And then I’ll say, ‘You know you’re full of crap, right?’

To emphasize the feeling that we’re truly in a pandemic, the bugs are in the middle of a full speed ahead, evolutionary process. They’re bigger, faster, sneakier and they bite like they want you to remember them for the next month. People meet on the street and compare battle scars. ‘I made the mistake of gardening in the morning,’ they’ll say, throwing their hands in the air sheepishly. And really, what are any of us thinking? Never mind Covid 19, we need full body suits to combat the mosquitoes and all the tiny variations of black fly that seem suspiciously new to northern Manitoba.

I know, I know. We’ve always had them. But like everything else, even the bug world is freaking out. And like a two year old trying to be the boss of everything, I want everyone, including mother nature, to stop doing things I don’t like. Yes, some of the world’s craziness has been brought on by ourselves…we’re not guilt free… but the toddler in me doesn’t care about that. Like a contestant doing badly on a reality television show, I want to ring a bell and quit the game. Get off the island. Tell the bachelor/bachelorette that frankly, I just don’t give a damn.
On the other hand, the sun is shining and my kayak awaits. I have bug spray in my bag, and a bottle of water that I could exchange for gin at a moment’s notice. Maybe the toddler in me just needs a time out. (I’m stomping one foot, now.) Ahhhh. It’s lovely outside, with the sunshine and the gin…er, the water. Today is going to be special! (Oh, shut up.)

Everyone Shut the Hell Up

Some people find their gardens restful. In the summer I feel the same way, but in spring, I find my plants to be very whiny. Think kindergarteners crossed with junior high kids, with a few immature high schoolers thrown in for good measure.

It starts with the potted plants. I’m planting petunias with a couple dahlias, zinnias, some trailing ivy’s and a few pansies for good measure. Then, it starts.

‘George. George? Where are you, honey?’

‘On the other side of the petunias! I tell you, Jane, this woman doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

“The petunias! Don’t pay them any attention, George. You know how they are. Such posers. Everyone knows they’re very high maintenance.” Jane sniffs loudly and George grunts in agreement.

As I sit there, spade in hand, bugs nipping at my neck while I push in more plants, add some soil and stick in something else, I find myself agreeing with Jane’s point of view. There’s no doubt that a bunch of cascading petunias are beautiful, but really. All they want is your constant attention. ‘Dead head me, please,’ they say to George and me in a sultry voice. ‘Cmon. Just lightly massage these dying buds of mine.’

‘Don’t listen to them, George!’ Jane shouts from her side of the plant pot. ‘Once you start, they’ll bother you constantly. Stick with the pansies.’ George looks around, but the pansies have already fainted in the mild spring sun. He gives a scornful grunt, wondering what on earth possessed this gardener to put pansies in the same pot as Dahlias, petunias, and marigolds. I later admit my mistake aloud, which satisfies George immensely.

And then, the begonias. They’re quite content spending most of the day in the shade. But lately, with no sun at all, they’ve been complaining and turning slightly brown around the edges.
‘Why is it so gloomy out?’ the showy pink one says. ‘Where is the sun? I just want a few minutes of it. No, I want it lurking in the sky, somewhere around the corner of the house. This is so depressing.’ I find myself agreeing with her.

The other begonias chime in, their voices droning softly like rich people at a boring party. They’re showier than the petunias, and they know it. They don’t usually spend much energy talking to the other plants, other than offering the occasional ‘hush up, now,’ to George and Jane, who are the most vocal dahlias I’ve ever planted. George always listens. Unbeknownst to Jane, he has a secret crush on the pink begonia in the large bowl to his left.

Then there’s the grass. It whispers faintly all day long, filling me with guilt as I survey the patches of clover and dandelions dotting its surface. ‘I think I’ll move over there,” I hear the grass saying, and soon enough, it has infested a flower bed. There are large bare patches on the front lawn, but fresh, green blades grow happily in every other area.

I survey the unconscious pansies, the petunias begging for attention, the snooty begonias, and as I wipe the sweat from my brow, I drop a choice word or two. They don’t care. As I slink back into the house, I can hear them all laughing at me. Even the weeds, who sound like Russian mobsters. Sometimes I really hate my garden.

Assembly Line at the Ninth Gate

A few years ago, after a fraught experience putting furniture together, I wrote an essay titled, The Devil is Swedish, His Name is Ikea. This past week I realized that in the world of furniture assembly, the lord of Hell is still running the show. It’s the same manuals with badly drawn diagrams and tiny Allen wrenches that leave you with either hand cramps or permanent paralysis.

Like childbirth, my last painful assembly experience had been dulled by time’s passage. In fact, as I lugged home a huge box of patio furniture, I pictured myself pulling out two chairs, a love seat and a coffee table and displaying them on the deck. Alas, it was not to be. But laying out nine thousand screws and multiple chair pieces did not discourage me, because this is how the devil works. He lures you in with pretty pictures of a life filled with leisure and plants and good weather. And then you open the instruction manual. After a panicked search for actual directions comes the sinking realization that the indecipherable drawings are it.

With the first two pieces, I discovered another stark truth. The drawings were backwards. I hunched over the furniture like Quasimodo, sweating and turning the Allen wrench four thousand times. That was the first screw. I did a headstand, reaching and twisting in a feat worthy of Cirque de Soleil. But this show was Hell’s Deck, and I, its indentured servant.

After several days of assembly purgatory, my patio furniture was finally done. Next, due to local shortages amidst the pandemic, I bought a sofa bed in a box. Though still experiencing hand spasms and night terrors from my previous experience, I began again.

First, there was a detailed and fruitless search for the various parts. Finally I found the legs nestled in a hidden compartment. But not the screws. Calling the company, I got this cheerful reply.
“You didn’t check the compartment inside the hidden compartment! The large packet of screws is under the Velcro, inside the second zippered area up in the far corner. You’ll barely be able to reach it, but it’s there!” It was. After that I had to take a break because my back was seizing up.
The directions on the outside of the box said the sofa would be finished in thirty minutes. Five hours later, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I was done. Or so I thought.

Yesterday, I returned to the hardware store to buy a deck box for storage. It’s funny how things work. You can purchase a very large Rubbermaid bin that’s instantly ready for use. But if you need six more inches in length and a two more in height, you’ll have to purchase a cardboard container filled with a thousand screws and many parts, along with the words, Some Assembly Required. The box will stay in the garage until I work up my courage and get some feeling back in my hands.

The Devil may not be Swedish at all. His name might not be Ikea. But whatever he’s called, he’s sure to stock hell with millions of unassembled items. So make sure you end up in the good place. You don’t want the assembly line at the ninth gate, working beside Donald Trump (who goes by many names and descriptions) and listening to him exclaim about how he’s going to make the place great again.

Now that that’s settled, I need a favour. If you see me out and about, remind me to never do this again.

It’s a Mutant, Mutant World

Last weekend I got caught up watching a movie on TV. I’m fairly certain it will never end up on Netflix or Prime, because it was awful. A Mutant World had the following problems.

Bad acting
Terrible directing
Dreadful script
Unbelievable storyline
Accidentally hilarious special effects and costuming (The mutants looked like they were fleeing an off Broadway production of ‘Cats, the Musical.’ )

Here’s a plot summation. Some doomsday prepper’s dreams came true when a meteor hit the earth and made life above ground impossible. These people had formed a kind of army, and you could tell they’d always wanted to be soldiers but probably failed the psych exam. Still, they had the uniforms and matching high powered weapons. After shooting a lot of people trying to join them in their underground bunker (which looked far too sophisticated for these yokels) they locked themselves down. Ten years later, they climbed out and found mutants everywhere. Yes, those would be the escapees from the Cats musical.

The truly unbelievable part is, I sat through the whole thing. It was like watching a tone deaf singer belting out show tunes, or attending a really bad poetry slam where they acted out the verses. Every now and then I’d ask myself, why am I still watching this garbage? I laughed quite a bit…maybe that was part of the attraction. I also got angry. How dare someone make a movie this bad? For over ninety minutes, I bathed in a sea of mixed emotions, including rage.

When the movie was finally over, I congratulated myself for not breaking the television. And then, I had a revelation. In spite of its dreadfulness, the movie struck a nerve. Because, we are living in a mutant world. Never mind the tricky Corona virus. We’re not really feeling like ourselves anymore, and it’s not so much due to a sense of isolation…I think we’ve gotten used to it…but an overwhelming certainty that the world is struggling and we westerners might have to accept a new normal. Yes, some of us may have lost jobs in the past, or people we love, or struggled through illness or complicated family matters. But through it all, we relied on the rest of society to keep carrying on.

And in the back of our minds, we’re left wondering. What will the world look like when Covid 19 is over? And when will that be? How will we know when to duck, when to take aim, and when to start making plans for an alternate lifestyle? We have mutated into uncertainty, and of all the emotions, it’s one of the toughest. Especially for those of us who like routine. This Groundhog Day experience we’ve all been sharing isn’t so bad when compared to an unknowable future.

In the light of this, I’m going to make you all some promises. I won’t start carrying a gun, building a bunker, or hoarding food. I won’t start believing anything that isn’t science based (except for the whole Jesus thing, because that’s how I roll) and I will keep a stiff upper lip even if I have to get Botox to do it. (I won’t get Botox…we had that talk already.) Most of all, I will believe in you, my fellow earthlings. We can survive this. And who knows? Maybe we’re mutating into a newer, kinder, more thoughtful and environment loving version of ourselves.

John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” For now, let’s all imagine that.

Oh, The Void!

There’s something strange going on with me. It has to do with prayer, but I also have some questions for my atheist friends. Like, what are your go to phrases for hard times?
I tend to cry ‘O God,’ when things get tough. Or even, ‘Help me Jesus!’ if the situation feels dire. This can happen in a variety of situations, like with bad news or flat tires. Sometimes I verge into Handmaid’s Tale territory and say things like, ‘Praise Be!’ But I mean it in a good way because unlike them, there’s no gun to my back. So it feels very authentic. But what do non believing exclaimers shout? ‘Oh, the Void?’ Or, ‘What in hell?’ I’d really like to know.

I’ve always thought of the Almighty as a she, although, does a spirit have a sexual identity? Probably not, yet we insist on giving God a pronoun, anyway. If you’ve heard the fable about the universe being built in six days, ask yourself this. Who works that hard? Is it the guy who offers up some seed, or the woman who takes it, grows a baby and then gives birth to it? Pardon me, dear male readers, but I believe that only a woman would build a universe that quickly. The male part of the God brain might add, ‘Thank ourselves that that’s over! What do you say we take the seventh day off?’

Anyway. In 2006, I said the following prayer: ‘Dear God, please help me get off the sugar wagon. I’m seriously addicted and just can’t stop.” I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but it wasn’t this.

I developed allergies and began breaking out in hives. Massive things, with maybe 400 smaller ones on the bottom of each foot. Seriously itchy situation. It started with kiwis, then apples, then every kind of fish. No one could help me. Not my doctor, or an allergy specialist, or anyone. At last, I spoke to the family guru, my cousin Susanne. She listened carefully before speaking these dire words.

‘You should give up sugar and wheat. Maybe oatmeal, too. You’ve messed up your digestion and it needs to heal. It’s just for a while.’ (She was wrong about the last part.) But I followed her advice and a week later, lost all my allergies. The brain fog I’d been carrying for many years left me. I didn’t even know I had it until it cleared up. I also got back a decent iron and B12 count, which had mysteriously gone missing.

Some people think that God watches from afar and doesn’t interfere with us. Or that there’s no one there…hence, the void. But that has not been my experience.  ‘Asked and answered,’ I pictured the Creator saying about my sugar addiction prayer. ‘Job done!’ (She high fives an angel.) It makes me wonder. Should we be careful what we pray for?

My daughter Mari has been living with me during the pandemic. I do the cooking and always end up making too much food. Not enough for leftovers, though. There’s no reason to put a cup of rice, or oven fries, or homemade soup, or chili or, you name it, in the fridge. And I can’t throw it away. That’s a waste.

So I eat it. Or I encourage Mari to eat it. And we’ve both been feeling the effects of those large meals. (I blame Clarence. His family’s motto was ‘Eat Big.’) So I prayed about it. And then one day I was out in my car listening to a broadcast about shortages in the supply chain for groceries and I pictured God thinking, “How about a temporary loss of food? That should stop her overeating.”

No, I thought. That wouldn’t happen. Humans make their own problems, and I am not the center of the universe. I brushed the worry aside, but just in case, began planning for a foodless pandemic. Storming with my fogless brain, I threw a survival idea at Mari.

“Those large birds perching in our trees aren’t very smart. If we’re desperate, I could catch one in a pillow case, smash its head against the cement driveway, pluck out all the feathers and cook it for dinner. Yeah?” She looked at me the way kids do when their parents are going around the bend.

So I pushed away the thought of no food and hedged my bets by adding prayer addendums, like, “Regarding my prayer about portion control, don’t do anything that affects anyone but me, God. And one more thing. I don’t want to end up shipwrecked or left on an island somewhere. I don’t really care  that much about overeating.” Man, the paranoia can really set in.

It’s this pandemic. I have too much time on my hands and I’m missing my friends. It’s leaving me a bit…well. Like how I sound here. Anyway, if more bad things happen, just know that my prayers are becoming very specific. And yet. Perhaps they should be vetted by a lawyer. Or by my minister, Steve. Or Father Paul. Just someone else. However it goes down, I think I’d rather shout ‘No funny stuff!’ than not believe in a Creator. But that’s me. If you disagree, comfort yourself with this. You may be an atheist shouting into the void, but at you’ll least you won’t have to give up sugar.