September 18, 2020

On the River in the time of COVID

 I try to get to the River at least once a day.  Usually it is when I venture out to buy my lunch.  I'm not much of a cook nor do I care to be.  Low on the "to learn, do or moan over not doing" list.

Now, in the fall, is the time I come alive.  I am largely Scandinavian and find the hot weather totally intolerable. Ask my favorite horse trainer about the ice water bucket when she would unglue me from my horse at a show in the heat of the summer.  So the cool weather, cloudy, breezy day and brilliant fall colors attract me like a 1000 pound magnet to the Water Street parking lot where I can sit in the parking lot just a few yards from the South Branch where it joins the mill pond and think.

I am also not a morning person.  NOT NOT NOT.  But today I was up early, so early that I thought Shop Rite might not have my salad bar open.  It was.  I pulled in to a perfect spot in time to eat brunch and watch a heron freezing stock still out near the edge, looking for her morning repast.

If I come here on weekends it is a never ending parade of masked parents and children getting in and out of cars, walking in the park by the river, and coping with the various life shattering disasters that befall children (dumped ice cream cones, "I wanna go home" and "Why can't I hold the dog's leash").

This morning was different.  

A car pulled up beside mine with the obligatory kayak tied down on top.  I expected the usual guy, flexing his muscles and, well, being guy.

Instead a late middle aged woman pulled the kayak off, checked her paddles, put on her hat and mask, and slipped into her flotation device.  Without words and in a semblance of an orchestrated ballet, cars pulled in one by one and disgorged late middle aged and older women who silently equipped themselves and slid their brightly colored water vehicles into the river.

It was such a refreshing sight.

I might even get up early to see it again sometime.  Maybe not.

April 21, 2020

Being a Christian in the time of labeling

I recently responded in this way to a post on a friends page that implied that all of these people protesting the lock down were sociopaths: “Granted it could be just sociopaths but I think it goes deeper than that. Are we raising generations of people who do not believe in caring for each other? Are we emphasizing to our children individual liberty without tempering that with social responsibility? There just can’t be that many sociopaths. They must be “carefully taught.”” (Okay so now I’ve taken to quoting myself.)

I have thought about this a lot lately and want to expand on what I said.

As a Christian it behooveth me to look at all people as God’s children.  Now granted, many of God’s children suffer from mental illness but are we becoming to quick to label people as having mental problems?  Is that becoming the easy way out for us? 

It is my belief that we, as a nation, have, for far too long been deficient in two areas of our process of educating our youth. 

First we tell them that this is a country of individual liberty without telling them that that liberty requires certain things of them.  We frequently ignore what it takes to implement the phrase in the Constitution when it states that it was ordained to “promote the general Welfare”. Promoting the general welfare often requires at times that we surrender part of our liberties so that others may have equal liberties to those that we enjoy.  In the past this happened, for instance, when men were drafted to fight in WWII. In this time of pandemic it is happening when first responders daily put their lives on the line for their fellow human beings.

Secondly we fail to educate them in the love of their fellow human beings.  We might call some of these lock down protesters “sociopaths” but can we honestly say that we, in this country, have done all that we could to help them to understand, no matter what their religion or even if they have none at all, that we are in this for the love of each other?  We are one body as a country.  Countries that live under democratic socialism of some kind recognize that their citizens are not rugged individuals living only for themselves but that everything they do is for the good of the body of people that make up their country. Perhaps we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and our country’s ethos before we take the easy way out and label people as being mentally ill.  As a Christian I am required to do this.

April 13, 2020

What they did for love...

Writing about these incidents to a friend today I thought I might share them here too. They are examples from the past of the self sacrificing mindset of those who care for us now, during this pandemic.
In 1910 there was a minor diphtheria epidemic in Jersey City. Despite the fact that she had a newborn boy (my father), two girls 2 and 6 and a 7 year old boy at home, my grandmother, a community nurse, went out to care for others who were coming down with the disease. One night she got home to find a quarantine sign on her door. Her two year old and six year old girls were down with the disease. The other children were closeted in her bedroom. Despite her care both of the girls died. I believe that, even though she had two children after that (one named for the six year old who had died) it haunted her the rest of her life, yet she continued on.
When I was planning on going to nursing school my grandmother sent me to visit a younger nurse friend of hers. Her friend had been in her nursing school's class of 1919. She had two pictures on her mantel. One was of 20 girls in their striped dresses with leg of mutton sleeves and aprons on the day they entered nursing school. The second was her graduation picture two years later in her white graduate nurse's uniform holding a single rose. When I asked her if she had a picture of her graduating class she said "that's it". She was the only one left, the rest having died nursing in the 1918 flu pandemic.
This is by way of saying, I think, that these things happen. We can't control them however much in this day and age we think science is able to, and we simply must live through them as best we can and pray that things might get better someday the way it did for my grandmother and her friend.

March 19, 2020

Lotte Ohlenberg-Booth 2020

I know I haven't written in a while.  But I can't hold back Elizabeth much longer.

This won't be in the book so you get a taste of an epilogue.

Lotte Ohlenberg-Booth 2020

Grey and dismal day.  From her desk at the back of the Estate office, Lotte Ohlenberg-Booth stared out the window at the clouds passing by.  Keep a distance.  Huh.  In an English Village of this size that would be an impossible feat.  But still.  Her daughter, in the front desk was heavily into some accounting program on her laptop.   The phone, which today her daughter had delegated to Lotte to be answered, had been silent for hours. 

The fir trees hissed a bit in the strong March winds.  She needed to be outside.  Outside had been her refuge ever since she, her mother and father had journeyed on foot from western Germany, across France and then ventured in a small boat, just the three of them across the English Channel .  Jews fleeing Germany in 1936. It had been a windy day like this when the boat had caught her father as he was trying to beach it.  It had been a windy day like this when her mother had taken his battered head in her arms there in the surf as he died. It had been a windy day like this when her mother had carried Lotte off the beach and they began their furtive 150 mile journey across England on foot again to find some relatives in Wales.

They had almost made it too.  It had been a windy day too when her mother, coughing up blood, sat down beside a tree to rest and could no longer rise.  When Lotte, her six year old body so cold and thin that she looked as a four year old, ran for help and encountered the woman who would change her life.

Lady Elizabeth.

Yes, she would escape the bounds of the office today.  Viruses didn’t scare her.  After all, she was 90 years old and had lasted this long.  She pulled on her wool coat and picked up her walking stick, her only concession to her age.

“Where are you going mum?  You know we are supposed to be sheltering in place.”

“At my age my place will soon be the cemetery so I am going over there to have a chat with Lady Elizabeth.”

“Wear your scarf, it’s only the first day of spring.”

Hanna Booth-Furman knew her mother was selectively deaf and wouldn’t put the scarf on if she didn’t want to.  Hanna wasn’t sure why she even wasted her breath but she guessed it was worth a try.  It didn’t work.

Lotte straightened to descend the three steps from the building and then crossed the road.  There were no weddings scheduled at the hall and it was too early for farm equipment so she didn’t look in either direction.

Through the lychgate she saw the door to the 14th century St. Giles open with the lit candles inside promising a warmth that wasn’t there. That new woman vicar had had to cancel services at the order of the diocese but she too, here only a year or so, had already acquired the outsidedness of the village and had invited anyone in, not for a service but to pray on their own time and that suited most here.

Instead of going in, however, Lotte turned left into the church yard.  More careful now, the footing was uneven.  She reached the bench that she and Harry senior had placed in this spot almost 40 years ago to honor Elizabeth buried here with her beloved Nicholas and their tiny son.  It was becoming a time when there would be no one around to have seen them, to have remembered Elizabeth in the flesh.

Lotte had a mission this day. She came here to ask a favor of Elizabeth.  She came to ask for a bit of Elizabeth’s courage and strength to get her though this pandemic as Elizabeth had gotten the village through the 1918 flu.