The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

05 May 2021


 It's very difficult to write an observational sort of entry when you aren't observing very much. My days are spent at home with my person, our cat, and the fish.

This is what I saw today:

This is Maggie, soon to feature in a series of stories titled "The misadventures of Maggie the Cat".  She looks cute enough, but boy, she does manage to get into some trouble.

It is May 5.  If we were to celebrate Cinqo de Mayo, our costumes would include parkas, hats, and gloves.   It is also liberation day in Holland. Excellent cause for rejoicing, but again, we would be celebrating freedom attired in boots and scarves. It is co-o-o-old here today!

19 April 2021

In the breaking of bread

One of my favourite Gospel readings is from the end of Luke. Jesus had been crucified, and the apostles reacted as we would; they were afraid, wary, confused, grief-stricken.

This story tells of two of them walking to a village some miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, "conversing about all the things that had occurred." (Luke 24:14) A man joined them, asking what they were talking about. Naturally they were astonished that he seemed unaware of what had happened, and filled him in... or so they thought. 

They were so silly, because of course that man was Jesus and of course he knew what had happened, but they were not yet able to recognize him. Even when he explained all the prophecies in scripture referring to himself and how what had happened, had to happen, they still did not recognize him. (This sounds so much like me) When they reached the village, they encouraged him to stay the night there, rather than go on further.  This is the best bit: "And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him..." (Luke 24: 30-31)

Have you ever heard or read something you just couldn't stop chewing on?  I've been pondering on this since it was read at Mass: they recognized Jesus when he broke bread with them.  I love the imagery of these two men walking along with Jesus, listening to him teach and thinking he's a pretty cool guy. But then he picks up a loaf of bread, and #ohmygoshit'sTheLord!! (Oh to Instagram that supper!)  There's something to be gleaned from them not knowing Jesus until they broke bread together. They sat and had a meal. 

We can share all the book learning. Teach all the theology. Most of the time, though, meeting a person where they're at, offering hospitality, feeding them, is the way to really reveal Christ  to them. (All the 'learning' means more later on, after they've been introduced).  It's also how we come to know and recognize each other: spend time together. Have conversations. Linger over a meal. Be present in a moment of each other's life.

How sad it is, that for much of a year we haven't been able to spend time together. How many people are walking alone on that road to Emmaus? How many people have not been able to share in the breaking of bread - in the Church sense, but also in the hospitality sense. Because of that, how many people do not know the Lord?  How many people are unknown in their own lives?

Let us all resolve that, when this is over - or at least when we are allowed to - we share as many meals with others as we can.  Not fancy, planned out, stressy 'dinner parties', but 'come into my home and share my meal'.  We need to break bread together.

16 April 2021

Of things in pockets

One of the nicest things about having someone else around all the time is that I'm never stuck for something to do. Waiting our turn to go in the grocery store, extra long ad breaks on tv, or when I visit in his shop and he tells me long (ie. technical) descriptions of what he's doing... no need to fear boredom! There is always something interesting to do: go through his pockets.

He's an electronics technician, with a special interest in repairing vintage things. You know those old handheld games? Or Atari consoles? Even typewriters!  That's his jam. I was never into video games so I don't get excited about all of that, but the very cool thing is the tools and gadgets he has laying around for repairing and building. (I just love any activity that allows for a whole new collection of accessories.) Many of them are small, which makes them even more interesting. Tiny screwdrivers, small snips and cutters, wee little pliers. Then there's a thing that heats and melts plastic, another nifty tool for soldering, something else that looks like a heart monitor. 

The soldering gun is too big to carry around, of course, but I bet you'd be surprised at what he considers important enough to tuck into a pocket 'just in case' (I suspect sometimes he just forgets he put it there, and then we end up at Costco and he has a full-sized wrench in his pocket)

I have found:

Elastics, screwdriver, tiny screws, telescoping flashlight with magnetic end, two-way radio, electronic handheld games, zip ties, bulb from string lights, batteries, fork, transistor radio, manuals to old things, rosary, St. Jude prayer card, mechanical pencils, wrappers, cat lazer pointer thing, kolbasa, way expired gift cards and credit cards, pine cones

We went through airport security a couple of years ago. I was pulled aside because my hand lotion was 5 ml over the limit, and I dared to pack the tablet and keyboard in the same bag.  Meanwhile, he sails through with a full-sized laptop in his carry on, and walked through the x-ray machine with a pocket full of several lengths of wire, bits of cables, and several mini tools! Airline staff were probably reassured having someone on board who obviously would be able to rebuild the engine should it be necessary.

My own MacGyver.

04 April 2021

Near and far

Do you remember that Sesame Street skit from ages ago? One of the characters runs up to the camera to demonstrate "Near!" then runs into the distance to demonstrate "Far!" over and over again.

Time is like that, isn't it? Events, moments, from our past can feel like they happened just yesterday, and then the next time we look at them they seem to be very far off in history, as though they were written by someone else.

Over the course of Easter weekend, with the help of modern technology, we watched two Masses from the church I went to back in Days of Yore when I lived in Capital City. Though I could point out things that have changed in the *gulp* 12 years since I was last there it felt so immediate, surely I could step out my own front door and walk up the stairs of that church to celebrate with those dear, familiar faces I spotted in the (Covidly thin) crowd. The music included hymns I haven't sung in over a decade yet the words tumbled out of my mouth with no hesitation. 

The priest celebrating Mass told the story of an Easter Vigil more than 20 years ago, where the then Pastor, Father F, nearly set fire to the church. The Vigil, you see, begins with the church in darkness.  The priest stands outside with the unlit Easter candle. He lights a fire (usually a small one, in a hibachi, well outside the building - even if it snows, which it often does because this is Canada). Father F, however, had a dramtical flair. He wanted a Fire and he wanted it In The Church. So he lit a fire inside the main doors. A Big Fire. The flames were, by different accounts, 6, 8, or 10 feet high. It was exciting! The Easter candle was lit from the fire, then like a wave moving through the congregation row after row of us lit our tapers from it until the building glowed with golden candle light and we settled in to listen to the Old Testament readings (I think we did seven that year, some of them accompanied by drums. As I said, Father F liked it dramatic.) The church was fine, by the way. Whilst we lit our candles and our hearts thrilled to the 'Escaping Egypt' beat of the drums, the ushers dealt with the fire-code-breaking fire. I think, being quite used to Father F, they knew to be prepared for any eventuality.

I haven't thought of that night in a long time, but hearing the telling of it Saturday night, it felt like he was telling my story. I was there. I remember it. Remembering ties me to that place, those people. It bring us near to each other no matter how removed we might actually be.

Even though I've lived a lot of life in other places, and am entirely content where I now am, it doesn't take a lot of doing to pull the distant past near. Memories can be like a slinky: they  stretch further and further away, until something tugs on them and they come sproinging back to you, and in this case the sproing totally made my Easter. My hope is that you also had moments of happiness this weekend, and that there is joy aplenty ahead.  Happy Easter to  you and yours from us in The Lighthouse.


03 April 2021

Of the tomb and the crocus

As of this morning, we are in Lockdown 3.0. Or is it Lockdown #2, version 19?

I wasn't doing well leading into this, so when I heard rumblings I was a little concerned it would prove too much.  BUT WAIT! Lest you worry this is going to be another depressing post, rest easy, dear Reader! You see, a crocus has popped its charming little head above ground this morning, despite freezing temperatures overnight and snow covering the ground just hours before.

"A crocus?" you say. "What the dickens has a crocus to do with anything?"  Well, I see it as a sign of hope. It encourages me to trust that even though circumstances may seem bleak, like frozen, snow-covered ground, life truly does go on. Yes, it sometimes looks like dandelions, but now and then, when it seems most unlikely, life is a beautiful, unexpected crocus. That is a promise.

Keep hopeful, friends. In this moment (Holy Saturday, when Jesus is in the tomb), the world is silent and sorrowing. But joy comes in the morning! Watch for it...

29 March 2021

Over the road

Over the road. That's a British way of saying 'across the street', which somehow makes me feel better about peering through the curtains.  "Lots happening across the street" sounds like I'm spying on my neighbours (which I kind of am) (more on this anon), while "Such a lot going on over the road" sounds like there is something interesting happening and I perchanced to see it.

Over the road is a nondescript house of indeterminate age. Maybe built in the 40s or 50s? Smallish, two-storey with an after-thought addition on the back. It's been uninhabited in the three years we've lived here, but lately is the focus of a great deal of interesting activity.  Diggers, dozers, and dumptrucks have been taking loads and loads of house-guts out and away for months now. It's hard to imagine such a small house could contain as much as we've seen be carted away!  Trucks and vans appear at odd times, then aren't seen for days, even weeks.  Official looking people have disconnected power lines, then returned to string them back up.

The house next to it is also interesting. There have been a few different households of people living there, I think as tenants, while the owner would be there occasionally to tend the garden, which is mostly 20-foot cedars in pots. The most recent tenant would be on the front sidewalk many times a day with varying combinations of mobile phone, cigarette, and dog in hand. We nicknamed him Slow Walker because that's what he'd do: walk slowly up and down the sidewalk. This was to distinguish him from the tenant before him nicknamed Smoking Guy who smoked on the sidewalk but did not walk.

Slow Walker recently got a car. It was very loud, which is how I know he'd drive away at 6:15 every morning, returning about 10 minutes later. I figure this was to buy cigarettes.  Then a few weeks ago he was gone! I feel bad because if he moved out I didn't see it happen, and I have no idea how long it took me to realize he wasn't there anymore. He pulls up to the house now and then (in a much quieter car) but doesn't stay in the house for long. There were other people living in the house at the same time as him and they seem to still be there, though we don't see much of them.

Anyway.  There is a steady parade of pickup trucks on our street today. One is parked in front of our house with safety pylons around it. One guy has been carrying very long bits of timber from the Flipper House to that truck.  Another truck pulled up in front of Slow Walker's house, and four guys got out, one is a safety vest.  He knocked on the door of SW's house, while the other three went to the backyard. I assumed they were heading to the Flipper House, and maybe Safety Vest was wanting to let the neighbours know they were going to be working outside.  Or maybe to borrow a hammer, who knows?  Yet another pickup pulled up, and the four guys come along to pull out two cabinets crammed into the cabin of the truck and they brought it into SW's house! I know that doesn't sound so exciting but I am very curious.  What's going on in that house?  Why is there a ladder propped against the side facing the Flipper House?  Why are the same men going back and forth between the two houses?

And while I was so distracted by all this mysterious activity, I completely missed the fact that the rest of the crew was taking down the back extension of the Flipper House. I saw it leaning a little but, and then it was gone. No fuss, no fanfare.

This is probably not at all interesting to anyone else, but what's happening over the road is the highlight of my day.

26 March 2021

Not fine

I'm not fine. Not at all fine.

Nothing about this is fine. Global pandemic. Lockdown. Isolation. Uncertainty. 53 weeks and counting.

We often compare ourselves to those who lived through WWII. "How resilient they were," we say, "So capable. Isn't it lovely how they all pulled together?" Yes it was. They did pull together. And they were resilient. And capable. They lived through extraordinary times in an extraordinary manner. It's quite possible they were stronger than us, more capable than us.

I'll wager though, that more than one person, at some point, said "I don't care about the blackout! I've been in the dark for FOUR YEARS and I'm opening the curtains!"

I tell you, I'm about to rip the curtains open.

I found a photo from last April. In it, my car sits in the driveway, hood up, jumper cables connecting it to the neighbour's car. I'd tried to get out of the house for a few hours by taking a little drive but car and I were grounded. Darn all dead batteries!  This was only a few weeks in, and I was thinking escape.  I came across an email conversation a few weeks further on, between me and a colleague in which we share what we'd been up to: decluttering, walking, baking, cooking, painting... and hoping this wouldn't go on too much longer because we'd done all the things. This was a year ago.

Yes, life has slowed down. It's been stripped back and simplified in many ways (but so complicated in others. Have you tried buying eyeglasses in the past year?)  I enjoy the clean conveyor belt at the grocery store. I like that people have embraced board games, puzzles, crafts, cooking, baking, and so on. I like this larger bubble of personal space and will find it difficult to give up 'when this is all over'. Even this cloud has a silver lining.

There was a period of time last year when the interior workings of thinking, deciding, focusing stopped functioning for me. I tried an online counseling session, but the remedy offered was to read 80 pages a week on depression. Not helpful, considering the major symptoms I'd given were "inability to focus, unable to read, and feeling overwhelmed by the smallest tasks." Daylight grew stronger, and so did I, which is often the remedy for me: sunshine, nature... these are excellent mood elevators. So it surprises me that now, just when Spring is busy springing all over the place, I am feeling so low.

I've experienced anxiety and depression in the past, for which I went to counseling and received excellent help. I learned coping mechanisms, cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, and was fascinated by how the mind can work for you instead of against you by shifting how you think. Finding that counselor was an answer to desperate prayer, let me tell you!

Strategies aren't a magic bullet though. Or maybe I mean that you have to be able to pull the trigger... except that sounds rather grim, doesn't it? What I mean to say is that right now I'm finding it really hard to kick start the strategies or get the ball rolling toward mental wellbeing. I'm tired. Tired of not seeing whole faces rather than just eyes. I'm tired of being afraid to be close to people. The struggle between wanting to leave the house and being reluctant to leave the house is exhausting. I'm tired of missing family celebrations. I miss hugging my friends and family.  I'm worn out from being tired.

What else is there to say except that none of this is fine?

PS - I'd like to encourage you to not hesitate if you are feeling worn out, tired, anxious, overwhelmed to find someone to talk to about it, whether it's a counselling service or a friend. Just saying the words to another person does a lot to lighten the load. Don't even think that what you're going through isn't as tough as what someone else has on their plate. There's enough compassion for everyone.