In Honor of the Queen

One person has been a responsible adult with a warm hearth throughout most of our lives: Queen Elizabeth II. Hearing of her death made the world feel partially unmoored.

For some of us she looked like our moms or grandmas wearing hats, purses, gloves, glasses and curled hair through the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Then customs changed and women dropped most of those signs of feminine civility while the Queen carried on. That was comfort in her colorful ensembles. She wasn’t a perfect human, but that didn’t matter when she appeared or spoke. 

The British have been fortunate to have a person who committed herself to national service be part of their tradition without needing to be part of the fray. She carried knowledge of world leaders and traditions from studying and influencing behind the scenes. Everyone could look to her to be calm and strong during the worst of times. She adapted through war and peace, civil unrest, financial disruption, cultural changes. When she missed the right step, she accepted counsel and spoke to her fellow Brits about what she had learned. Around the world we all felt as if there was one adult in the room. 

God rest Queen Elizabeth II. There are probably many beyond England’s shores who wish it was possible to pop over the ocean to set a thank you note at the castle gate.

August Travel

During the drive from home to being away, my mind travels extra time merging memories of past trips with plans for the next weeks. The years that pacifier inventory and gentle shampoo were critical has slowly morphed into double checking the packing of face creams, medications and comfortable shoes. Very slowly, but with determined forward motion, until time starts happening instead of moving. 

Corn grows as far as the eye can see along the highway. Rivers and ponds look high for a second or third year. Construction has moved about twenty miles further south than the prior trip, but large trucks are still annoying in the cone-formed single lane. Too early for lunch, breakfast’s beverage wanting out, the discussion changes from the morning news and towards where to stop for a comfort break or whether to push on for an early burger. 

August has always been vacation month for our family. What started out of necessity because of participation in post-season youth ball tournaments grew into tradition. Kids would get new sneakers and fresh summer clothes to avoid back-to-school shopping after returning home. Vacation in September is sweeter once untangled from kid schedules, but some places close Labor Day weekend making it hard to rent a kayak or find a soft-serve cone after time on the beach.

Weighted down by sun screen and sun prevention clothing, watching birds swoop into the water for food and parents with preschoolers playing in the shallow spots, I remember a skinny teenager in a two piece subconsciously flirting with a boy, an older teen stranded with a car breakdown near a forbidden quarry, a honeymooning young woman and all the years leading to this person in this moment. Feet resting in shoreline water, a comfy chair, an umbrella and a book. Storing up another year.

Simple Peace

Sixty-six degrees at eight in the morning on July 4 in Door County. My hands smell of lavender from making bouquets and the harvest piles up in an old, rusty green Suburban Garden wagon. The cold spring delayed sprigs maturing, but the first varieties are now ready. These mornings of working at a table with a sweeping view of blooming lavender rows, friends bent over the bushy plants, and collies running offer a respite from news and worries.

Yes, the world is dipping and swaying for huge reasons, and it is hard to be proud of the state of our nation. I couldn’t get into the goofy happiness of a small town 4th of July parade and snapping pictures of kids on decorated tractor wagons and the grocery store staff pushing decorated shopping carts. I haven’t absorbed the sickening news of another mass shooter at a different parade. National discord and gun violence keep Americans in an uncomfortable state of anxiety so I’m looking for moments of simple pleasure to build personal peace of mind. I’m talking really simple pleasures:

Fresh peas, shelled by someone else.

Sunshine and cool air this morning.

Birdsong.

Two fawns playing in a neighbors’ yard.

Straight from the field strawberries.

Farmers market greens and cherry tomatoes.

Giggles of a happy infant granddaughter.

Our eight-year-old granddaughter singing.

Music while working.

A short pile of books.

Family and good friends a call or text away.

Some days you must restore your own core to keep pushing through your role in the bigger world. Here’s hoping you can create a list of simple pleasures to support minutes of personal peace.

National Day of Mourning

Is it time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun violence victims?

Think about that.

Memorial Day I wrote a piece about how children’s funerals create memories that cannot be forgotten and my difficulty in finding peace in my relationship with God. Sitting in a neighborhood church the evening of September 11, 2001, feels like the last time the ritual of praying and singing in community brought calm. The day the world changed, and innocent people became the hunted of those with evil in their plans.

 My final paragraph of the original work was my main message: If there is a way to create calm or comfort for those mourning in Uvalde, please let that happen. For the near future, lets put guns in the safes and do gun related political theater in backrooms. These are days to stand with the grieving and honor the children and their teachers. 

Tuesday stats about gun violence across the country over Memorial Weekend were published. Wednesday a lone gunman took lives in Tulsa. And local schools cancelled their last days of school because of shooter threats. Babies being buried in one state and grieving beginning in others. The circle doesn’t close. Violent gun carriers, particularly those with assault guns, don’t give us a day off.

Perhaps it is time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun victims. Place the day somewhere in a quiet month like March where it won’t morph into a cookout festival. And make it a Wednesday so the travel industry won’t advertise three-day weekends in happy places. Mark the day as special by pairing it with a mandatory national service initiative. Support those who grieve and remember the potential our nation lost in each of those unnatural deaths. If there is no way to control the killing, let us at least honor our dead and remember their names.

Wishing and Hoping

We know better. Outdoor party plans don’t guarantee sunshine and soft breezes. We can hope for the best, but best be prepared for rain and thunder. We can wish that just this one time, the weather gods will spin the right number so our guests can enjoy walking and talking in the gardens.

Feels like wishing and hoping might be what’s left as what regular people can do about more and more truly large decisions or actions that impact their lives. With masks and vaccinations, many hope to escape sneaky Covid variations.  Powerful men chose to scrape other people from the face of the earth although everyone hoped the threat was just that. Partisan hatred locks decision making amidst the people we elected hoping they might work together. They tie up the executive branch where folks are wishing things would start improving. Then what was once the most solemn of our nation’s institutions spits out a hateful decision on all those who hoped the laws of the land would be upheld or wished for a miracle from the stacked bench.

Sure seems like miracles have followed the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to fantasy land. Appeals for contributions to protect the environment, protect freedom of speech, protect women’s health, or many other threatened values mostly keep people employed in the gigantic rat race called the great democratic experiment with no guarantee of positive results. 

So many groups stand outside, disenchanted and disenfranchised, hoping for a sunny day in Washington, D.C. when the politicians and policy makers might come out of their buildings, shake off whatever protects them from the stuff normal folks deal with and breathe in some real air. 

I’m wishing they would come live with regular people for a couple of months, sit in a public school classroom for a full day, plan two weeks of meals before grocery shopping on a budget, deal with the endless impersonal bureaucracy everywhere from making a doctor appointment to asking about a bill. That’s just a start. And hope they could walk city streets safely among those tired of disappointment in government and feel the strength and anger of their action. 

Not hoping for daily sunshine and soft breezes or wishing for more than our fair share. Just reminding those who govern that it is at the will of the people who expect some respect for what we hold as truth.