The other day more than 3,000 people in the United States died from COVID-19. A pandemic rages through our country. The president, displaying in his usual lack of empathy, said nothing. Millions of the powerless, including me, prayed for better leadership and for the families of the deceased with equal sincerity. Next year will be better. For now, I focus on the small joys folded into every day.
Red roses at the supermarket were a dollar each. I purchased a dozen. The bright flowers accented with snowy baby’s breath decorate our table. As we eat or work, we are reminded that beauty exists, even in the darkest December.
Through the window, our dog watches squirrels scamper to bury hickory and walnuts. They detour across the deck in front of the sliding glass door where the dog sits or naps on sunny days. The energetic creatures chatter constantly, as if plotting to annoy the dog. It always gets her attention. I suppose she thinks squirrels pose a great threat to the bird feeder. She barks at the intruders until they clear the area. Though it happens daily, the birds, squirrels and protective dog never fail to entertain us.
Another welcome pleasure arrives every morning in the first cup of coffee. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans and brewing coffee fill the kitchen with a familiar comfort. Sunrise paints the horizon in spring pastels, reminding us even the bleakest winters will one day exist only in memory. I’m always grateful for the silent sunrise, the fragrant coffee and moments for quiet reflection to plan ways to savor the gift of another day.
In August, Midwesterners learned the word, “derecho.” The electricity was off for a week. I’m grateful for my cleanest refrigerator ever and plenty of firewood. We discussed replacing some trees in the windbreak for a few years. If there is a silver lining to the derecho, it may be the urgent motivation to plant replacement trees and a few extra. Perhaps it is possible to plant too many trees, but in the aftermath of clearing so many broken limbs, it does not seem possible.
These December days feature more dark hours than sunlit. Instead of floundering in darkness, let’s decorate with strings of lights to cheer the night. Contemplation by candlelight can also brighten a mood. Feeling alone does not mean you really are alone. When sadness sneaks in, as it often does this time of year, donate to others. A kind word or smile elevates the one who give and the one who receives. Remember to be grateful if we have enough to share, and grateful that others are willing to share with us.
The first vaccines were approved and given this month. We need to continue wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing to keep ourself and others as safe as possible. Nothing we do will make this virus go away, but in the future, it will be less of a problem. Strive for control of things we can control now, and keep faith that next year will be better.
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Maxine Carlson of Iowa City is a retired CPA, a writer and poet who enjoys the simple pleasures in life.