Of holidays and hope

Somehow, Christmas is here.  In the midst of one of the most fraught years in recent memory, the holidays have come. There is a lot of comfort in that. 

There have been many moments when I have felt (as have most of us) as though I’ve been standing in a bowl full of Jell-O that’s on a constant wobble. Not only can my feet not find stable hold, but the very ground tilts first one way, then the other. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all our lives.

Paula Brewer

You always hear the advice to write what you know. So, here’s what I know in this holiday season.

Collectively, we’ve been enmeshed in fear of the virus and its consequences, and experienced the upheaval of life as we knew it with events canceled, businesses closed, jobs lost or altered, empty shelves of necessities, a continuously growing count of those with the virus and those who have succumbed. 

I know that I have learned to see more than ever that the present moment is a gift. I’ve found moments to simply stop, and breathe, and be grateful.

I know that I have renewed my bonds with nature. When spring opened up the rivers and woods and gardens, people took to the land like those freed from prison. At last there were fresh air, sun, rain, wind, birds and growing things to observe firsthand. Despite the drought this year, fall nevertheless clothed trees in glorious color; then snow came to blanket the land’s barrenness with sparkling white. Squirrels scamper, birds flit about. Nature is awesome.

I know that I shop with greater gratitude. As supply chains began to recover, small things like bread and toilet paper took on new significance. When local stores opened again, albeit in altered capacity, it was wonderful to see our shopkeepers and fellow customers again. Wearing masks and keeping each other at a distance were small prices to pay. I realized I focused not on the purchase itself, but on the interaction and conversation. These are what restore spirits.

I know that I treasure people more than ever. Going for walks outside with someone is like a reunion. Sharing a meal has become possible in a new way. You might be in separate vehicles, communicating through windows and sharing a take-out meal, but that doesn’t matter. What matters isn’t the food, but the sharing of it. 

I know that I’ve found humor, which always helps buoy the psyche. Ate broccoli for lunch? No need to worry, nobody can see green florets in your teeth behind the mask. Overslept? Never mind, nobody can see your PJs on Zoom. Braving long lines at the meat counter and there are only hot dogs left? So have tube steak enrobed in a yeasty blanket and topped with sweet cucumber puree — it’s all in the wording. 

 I know that I’ve tried new things. I read a bread recipe that used three ingredients and it sounded so improbable I had to try it. Did you know that mixing melted ice cream, flour and baking powder bakes up into deliciousness? We bought a new Ninja appliance and I — yes, the one who regards raw meat with fear, unsure what to do with it — I have grilled steaks and pork chops and burgers that were not only edible, but really good.

And above all, I know that by faith and family and friends and co-workers, I have held on to hope. Hope is one entity that nothing on Earth can destroy. Hope has come in people’s small acts of kindness toward one another, in medical staff caring for patients no matter what, in drivers bringing freight, in small conversations with neighbors, in nature showing her whimsy and beauty, in science racing for a vaccine and the first deliveries of such just this past week … and countless other small, real things we often take for granted.

I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for a long, long time, and am cautiously looking toward the day when I can exhale. 

Yes, the holidays are indeed here, and for many they represent hope. In the midst of turmoil, grief, exhaustion and despair, light shines in darkness. 

Whatever you celebrate, may you find light that brings you hope. From my heart to yours, a very happy holiday and a truly bright new year.

Paula Brewer is assistant editor for The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times and St. John Valley Times, plus websites TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com. She can be reached at 207-764-4471 or via email at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com.

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