In the past few days, we have marked the anniversary of VE day, and reflected on times past, as well as comparing to our present time. Celebrations were more muted than they might have been because of the Covid 19 restrictions, yet many people sat across from neighbours, ate tea and scones, hung flags and bunting, and shared songs and conversations from safe distances. My family gathered on-line for a mini party. We had a little magic show, and shared pictures, stories and demonstrations of skills like scooting, from the grandchildren. The children had all learnt something of the reason for the celebratory day with the reasons behind it. We ate cake or scones in company and raised a cup of coffee to the day.
This week is Christian Aid week, which has a very different focus, when we are encouraged to think and donate to support those who are much less fortunate than most of us. Many charities are concerned at present that they will be unable to continue their levels of support as contributions to their funds have slowed, although the needs are rising, rather than diminishing. House to house collections have stopped, so other means of fund raising are needed to replace them. They were not always something one looked forward to, [I for one will not miss walking wet street trying to manage the spare envelopes and slips with the address where to take contributions if I missed you, the bag of donations and a soggy umbrella] but they did raise significant amounts of money. There is food for thought around how best to support any of the charities, especially as we are restricted to where we can go, and may have concerns close to home concerning a reduction of income.
The future is unclear for many of us. Whatever your reaction to lockdown, and the changes to lockdown that are being broadcast, it is certain that we will have significant time at home for the foreseeable future. Positive messages, beautiful images, new words reflecting the idiosyncrasies set to old tunes, amusing poems and cartoons to make us laugh are on social media on a daily basis. They can all help to maintain a positive mood, but I suspect we can all have less than positive moments, even days.
Some years ago my husband and I spent a year in the USA. During that year we took a few trips; we visited famous sites around Philadelphia, Washington and New York and we took a bus trip west to see how far we could travel in two weeks. En-route we encountered people from a wide range of backgrounds, but amongst those who stood out were the native Indians. I particularly remember going through the Utah desert with a Navajo man who had had too much to drink [Alcoholism was a common problem amongst the Indians]. The scenery was dry and barren with an occasional shack amongst rocks where someone was living. It was hard to comprehend how they could survive in such a place with no obvious access to food or water. I became interested to know something of the Indian tribes. Their heritage respected the land and the creatures. They lived in tune with their surroundings taking only what they needed and not wasting any part of an animal or plant. However, new settlers took advantage wresting their land from them, forcing them into smaller and smaller sections of land, and often land that was poor, worth little and not fertile.
Each of the things I have commented on above have a ‘back story’ of undervaluing people, not providing them with basic commodities, ignoring their worth. At present in the USA the Navajo nation are experiencing the worst spread of the virus outside New York and New Jersey, with a death rate higher than 13 states. The government support has taken six weeks longer than promised to reach them. Again I find myself wondering…
I was struck by some of the Navajo philosophy which had been written once they learnt to read and write. I came across one of the poems last week whilst searching for something else and it seemed appropriate for the life we are living now. Here it is. I hope you like it too.
‘In beauty may I walk’
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully will I possess again
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on the trail of beauty,
Lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty,
Living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty.
Anon. [from the Navajo, translated by Jerome K Rothenberg]