January 23, 2021

thanksgiving in a year of covid

Illustration by Graham Roumieu

In Tove Jansson’s Moominland Midwinter, Moomintroll accidentally wakes from hibernation too early. Accustomed to sleeping through winter, he is shocked to find the world shrouded in snow, his garden entirely unfamiliar. “All the world has died while I slept,” he thinks. “It isn’t made for Moomins.” Feeling terribly lonely, he goes to the bedroom and pulls back his mother’s quilt: “Wake up!” he shouts. “All the world’s got lost!” His mother curls up on her bed-mat and sleeps on. This is a mirror of my own winter, or how it seems to me: everybody else is drowsing while I am wide awake and hounded by sharp fears.

• Katherine May. Wintering (p. 20)

not me, the wakeful moomin
i am more like the mother
on the bed-mat i huff
hinge to my other side
hug the pillow, hunker down

the house will smell of thanksgiving
and we’ll have a quiet dinner
looking out on the fallow garden
beneath the gray
but, just so you know,
i’ll be sleeping through it all
just like the rest of this year
so vague and tiresome

it’s my part to wait it out
i tell myself
but another voice says this is not a good waiting
this is entropy, plain and simple
lay there long enough
and it all turns to shit

the world’s got lost
right under our noses
but no matter who tries to shake me
awake i’ve not the energy
to arise right now

i know it’s not
the warmest or brightest thanksgiving thought
but senses are dulled this year
so i wish you a restful day
and the comfort of pie
and hope that the garden will become
familiar again

Comments

  1. “ Accustomed to sleeping through winter, he is shocked to find the world shrouded in snow, his garden entirely unfamiliar.”.
    I read that line and had an immediate thought. I haven’t even read the remainder of the post but felt compelled to say this: we must always remain on our toes with the Lord. At least until we die. We’ll sort out the rest from there but as long as we are on this mortal plain it is incumbent upon us to sort out what the heck is going on here. It occurs to me that this could be perceived as a very liberal, progressive way of thinking but getting comfortable with assumptions is a dangerous business. The Lord is a fountain of living water. That is the way he describes himself. The spirit, He, is not contained. While we know that he is the same yesterday today and forever it is always the case in biblical writing that exactly the opposite appears to be the case as well. A living water is an ever-changing water. The old proverb of never stepping into the same stream…We must be continuously vigilant to who God is.

    • Translated: approach with humility. I don’t know it all. I may wake up with snow all over my garden.

      • Good comment, ChrisS. And not only are we to remain on our toes, I’ve always felt that one message Jesus touched on periodically was “you have a brain, so use it!”

        Humility, reverence, thought, and faith. All intertwined somehow.

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    What is hibernation?

    As I hibernate in early Summer here in Australia, Yes it happens.

    I sit in the languid heat today waiting for next Tuesday”s surgery.
    I am counting the days as I wake from my sleep each morning.
    I do nothing but surf the internet during the day or call friends..
    And feed my cat Vanessa as she cries for food. Dear almost person. She loves me and I her.
    I agree with Dana, if I go to Heaven and my best friends aren’t with me I will put in a protest.
    My Daughter comes Monday night to be with me,

    I will tell you why I feel I am in suspension.
    I had major lung surgery 12 years ago and have COPD. I had a lung removed through cancer. I never smoked.
    I also have a faulty heart.
    I am 76 on Sunday. I am now referred to as elderly.
    Gosh, my Great Grandma lived to 99 and my Uncle to 104.
    I want a whole lot more years.
    My Psychologist says I have Dissociation, where I literally blank out for periods of time as the present overwhelms me. It s not day dreaming, just time lost and unaccounted for.
    I have been very frank here today. I have friends who help me but may not know the mental stress I have.
    John fades away with each visit. He has been in care for 5 years this weekend. I want to live longer than John so I can bid him a kind farewell and send him to Our Maker where he will be loved and cherished..
    He is the love of my life.
    So, I hibernate as best as I feel fit so I can be ready for next Tuesday and then be OK again to be with my John as he fades away.
    (Life sucks.)
    Susan

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

      So much to consider in your comment, but I will just chime in and agree that in Australia, we hibernate in summer. In most places, including Tasmania, it’s too hot and UV-intense to be out between 9am and 5pm, unless you live an entirely air-conditioned house-to-car existence. We need a traditional Spanish siesta-centred routine.

      • I didn’t ever fully understand the siesta idea until I took a trip to Mexico once during the summer. One walk through town at noon told me why the siesta existed and why everything was shut down until late afternoon!!

    • You are on a hard and thankless path, Susan. Some paths are harder than others, and yours is one of them. I have no words to comfort, however much I wish I did. I hope one day you and John and your cat and all those you love will be embraced in a new reality and condition where all this bullshit suffering will be forever over; I hope the same for all of us. Until then, it may be all we can do, it may be all you can do, to just endure. God bless you, Susan.

    • Susan, I am so sorry. Nothing more I can say, except I’ll pray for you and for John. And for your cat; I have one too, and a dog, and I thank God for them.

      • Yes, I agree with Heather about thanking God for our pets. I once told the vet that our little dog ‘took care of us’ and after we lost him to old age and sickness, I wept for a long, long time, as I would have for a child. Love is something that we don’t ‘measure out’, when it comes, it comes abundantly . . . so does the grief after loss.
        Praying for you, Susan, and for your dear little pet who loves you. (Yes, I pray for animals too.)

  3. Alan Rogers says

    I really connect with this, wonderfully put.

  4. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    I adore the Moomin books. The perfect Tolkienien “sad but not unhappy” state of mind, the recognition that sadness ultimately perfects beauty. There’s an important message there, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t take it in consciously, as long as we can glimpse it and recognise it on an instinctive level.

  5. senecagriggs says
  6. These are tough time. Hang in there CM. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and to all iMonks and everyone else as well.

  7. A number of Native American tribes and groups have, since 1970 and for the obvious historical reasons, designated what we call Thanksgiving Day as a National Day of Mourning. I never heard of that until this year, or perhaps I did but it didn’t register or stick. This Thanksgiving Day it has made an impression on me, and it resonates for me. Gratitude, or lament? It depends on perspective, position, and what version of history one finds oneself grasped by.

  8. Here in Boston we got a snowstorm in late October, and I went out for a walk while it was still snowing and the branches of all the trees were still frosted with snow. I love the way a snowstorm can transform even an urban landscape into something surreal and beautiful. And there’s something really aesthetically pleasing about trees covered in snow, a whole tangle of branches that are bright on one side and dark on the other.

    There are plenty of ways that winter is a miserable season, of course. I’m already missing the sunlight, and the ability to comfortably hang out with people outside in this time when indoor socializing is impossible. But it’s also true that the same snowstorm can mean something very different to us depending on whether or not we’re able to see beauty in it. Our ability to survive this winter will depend, in part, on our ability to press on through the darkness to discover that beauty, whether that’s in God or in nature or in other people or just in our own hearts. And that’s where churches need to rise up and be communities of hope amid this world that has given in to despair, because none of us have the strength to fight that fight alone.

    • Good comment. It seems like every generation endures some sort of “winter” like we are currently in. Some maybe even more than one. Our problem is, we were foolish enough to think we would never have to endure one. Alas.

      But that’s why, as you say, those of us who believe in the light and hope that comes only from God and Christ need to offer those around us that light and hope. I have moments of despair, yes, but I then have a choice to sit and wallow in that despair– which does me and no one else any good– or move out of it.

      • I regret that I have not often made that choice, to move out of the moments of despair, but have developed the decades-long, since-childhood habit of wallowing in them. And so I have not often offered light and hope to those around me, not even those closest to me, and even though over the last nearly three decades my wife has again and again reminded and even implored me to do just what you are describing: choose to move out of those despairing moments. And can I now make significant change? It seems to me that if I am to succeed at making such changes, it will be by learning to encounter the vicissitudes of the day one at a time as they arise, and not en masse as I imagine them arising in the future. I have a lot to learn, or perhaps to unlearn.

        • Robert F… I apologize for making the idea sound simple or (perhaps) implying someone is any lesser of a Christian for being unable to drag themselves out of a deep despair, especially one that might be a life-long sort of condition. I meant no “shame” to be associated with my comment.

          I used to wallow in despair and self-pity. I would have days-long “pity parties,” and usually (in hindsight) over insignificant things. I have no idea why I was predisposed to them, but when the wallowing in despair would begin to spiral into a pity-party, I was usually unable to stop it.

          So maybe there’s something in the brain, combined with childhood experiences, that makes it more difficult for some people to “make the choice” to move out of despair than others. I’ve been working on it myself, trying to be more cognizant of when the spiraling begins to try to lessen the length of the spiral and shorten the pity-party. It does take work, recognizing the triggers, recognizing the “beginning,” and striving to shorten the impact.

          • I did not take what you said amiss, Rick Ro. You were speaking from your own experience of yourself. My reply was from my experience of myself. Differences there are, and we each of us have our own real work to do to receive God’s grace with open hands and in gratitude.

  9. Cutaway Swank
    (a “Cutaway” poem using words/ideas from the cover story on Hilary Swank, Ladies Home Journal, January 2008, paragraphs 2 and 3)
    Rick Rosenkranz (2011)

    Settle in.
    Endure affection.
    Exit empty suffering, stress.
    Witness the amazing.
    Watch for, grasp at, things loved.

    Rescue.
    Save the grieving.
    Life is love, support.
    Connect the earnest and melancholy.
    Let loss, despair, loneliness flicker.
    Sing away blues.
    Live life.
    Change.

  10. It can be a day of all those things at once: gratitude, mourning, awaiting the outcome of the unknown, hope seeming far off, trusting in the Savior’s care, wanting to climb back into bed. Christ is with us.

    Among I am grateful for the iMonk community, and some of all the rest of it too. Christ is with us.

    Glory to God for all things.

    Dana

  11. Posting to request prayer.

    Mymelderly mother has tested positive for COVID.

    Although the nursing home where she lives was able to keep it at bay until 3 weeks ago, the exponential surge here in PA caught up with them. Many there have died.

    My mom is currently asymptomatic, but that won’t last.

    I am the only family member within over 1,000 miles.

    This county has one of the highest per capita rates of zCOVID infection, largely b/c people will not take the most basic precautions. Yesterday, there was a headline interview with the county coroner in the local paper. He flat out stated that yes, the virus *is* real, and reiterated the number of confirmed deaths from COVID this month.

    I’m feeling all kinds of things.

    Please, pray for us.

    • I will pray for you and your mom daily, numo.

      The number of COVID skeptics in south central PA is appalling. This skepticism and the recklessness that results from it is causing untold tragedy. I pray that your mom will not be one of casualties of that heedlessness.

      • Robert – thanks so much!

        My mom continues to be asymptomatic. Strangely (or not, given how little we know about this virus), 29 residents who tested positive 14+ days ago are either still asymptomatic or had mild symptoms which either have resolved or are in process.

        I can’t even begin to comprehend that, as it’s *not* what any of us have been led to expect. And any of those people still might become very ill and die from COVID.

        Not only is it frightening and difficult to grapple with an enemy we can’t see; that enemy is still an unknown quanity.

        At this point, i have no idea what will happen, as my mom is almost 97. She did have a severe bout with a COVID-19-like illness at this time last year…. and she somehow recovered. It could even have been COVID-19. We’ll never know.

        Waiting…. it’s hard.

        Thanks to all who have read my posts, for taking the time to do so.

        • My primary care physician had a 102 year old patient with diabetes who fully recovered from COVID in the Spring. I hope and pray your mom will also have full recovery.

    • 7 people in my family have had it and all have come through. Ages range from 23 to 72. It’s very scary but I pray the same success for you.

  12. Note: i have a post in mod b/c i screwed up in typing my username.

    It’s a prayer request. My elderly mom has COVID. Got test results yesterday afternoon.

    Please pray for us both.

  13. thatotherjean says

    I’m not much of a praying person, numo, but I send my best wishes for your mother’s recovery–and to you, as well. Please let us know how you both are doing.

    • I hear you – am the same, really, although i do sort of “think at” God about people and things. Am not sure why we’re sold on the idea of prayer being verbal, b/c in so many ways, it’s not. At all.

      And thank you. It means a lot.

  14. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving today with just myself and my folks. With just three of us it was the smallest Thanksgiving get together of our lives but it turned out quite nice.

    • Sounds great to me!

      My dad was often at sea over the holidays, when i was growing up, so it was my mom, me, my grandparents and (til they got married and moved away) my brothers.

      Later on it was just my mom, dad (while he was still here), my grandma and me.

      Then just my mom and i, at which point, we ate out.

      Now it’s just me.

      But IKWYM about small gatherings.

Speak Your Mind

*