On the Passing of the Queen

As I watched the Queen’s funeral ceremonies this morning, my eyes were drawn to Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Beautifully dressed, right down to Charlotte’s precious little black hat, they stood quietly beside their parents. They didn’t squirm or fidget or need a video game to keep them occupied. They were being taught that there are times when we need to put up with a little discomfort and set aside our own agendas and things we’d rather be doing in order to show respect and honor for another person. Their great-grandmother did that every day of her life.

I was up at 5:30 this morning to watch the funeral. As a cradle Episcopalian who prefers her faith with a healthy dose of pomp and pageantry, (not to mention sublime music) this was must-see TV. I know there is a sense that the monarchy has outlived its usefulness, that’s it’s a relic from another time and no longer relevant in today’s world. But I would counter that by suggesting there is something to be said for an institution that still represents deep commitment and service to its people. That for all its over-the-top ceremonial trappings, is, at its heart, a class act. Queen Elizabeth personified those qualities with grace and dignity right up to welcoming the new prime minister two days before she died.

Like us, the UK has more than its share of problems right now from political division to economic uncertainty. But for the last ten days, the people of Great Britain managed to lay aside their differences and political angst in order to honor the woman who has served as their Queen for 70 years. They were able to step outside themselves and pause for a time to honor the only Queen most of them have ever known.  We’ve seen the footage—David Beckham standing in line with his fellow countrymen and the elderly gentleman dressed in a Union Jack suit who struggled out of his wheelchair for one final good-by to his Queen. I don’t know that there is any past or present leader in this country who would be afforded such unified respect and gratitude upon his or her passing. I find that sad as well as deeply disturbing.

I was awe-struck watching the nearly hour-long procession after the funeral. The entire royal family walked out in the open behind the casket as it passed thousands of people who were quiet and bowed their heads or saluted. No one heckled or held up signs that said “Let’s go, Charlie” or God forbid, crouched behind a monument with a high-powered rifle. I don’t know–the Brits don’t mess around, so maybe they had all the potential troublemakers locked up in some ancient dungeon. One of the news commentators remarked that the security people around President Biden worry about every moment he is out in the open and vulnerable in a crowded public setting.  

The Queen has been laid to rest, and in a few months, a new King Charles will be crowned. I hope the monarchy survives although, admittedly, it needs to change to better meet the needs of the world we’re living in now. I think it will. If nothing else, King Charles is an environmental and climate change activist. And Prince William and Princess Kate appear to be raising wonderful children who know how to behave in public. Who are learning what it means to be grateful to those who have gone before them. To those who have done the hard work, fought the good fight and given their all for the good of their beloved country and its people, often at great personal cost.

Rest in Peace, Queen Elizabeth.

Some Days I Feel Like Ruth Langmore

I got called out this week for what was perceived as an over-reaction to a recurring problem in our neighborhood. Point taken. There’s probably some validity to the comments. And yet, for those of us who keep trying to put up, shut up, and allow for what is flat-out unacceptable because of this or that extenuating circumstance—we’re reaching our limit. A constant grind of recent annoyances made we want to go all Ruth Langmore from Ozark and spew obscenities at the top of my lungs. Ruth’s character is feisty white trash with a heart of gold and barrels through life with an arsenal of spectacular profanity. Most of the people on the receiving end of Ruth’s F-word-laced tirades deserve them.

I don’t know—maybe it’s the heat or the constant barrage of depressing news or simply being officially old, but I keep looking out at the world and wondering how we managed to reach this point. (This  interminable virus doesn’t help matters, either.) Has the lack of responsibility, the rudeness, and the entitlement always been here but social media makes it more obvious? Why is it so hard to say I was wrong and accept that there are going to be consequences for our words and behavior? We don’t accept consequences anymore. Instead, we make excuses, lie, and file lawsuits.

Ok, Boomer alert, but I didn’t grow up this way. If I did something wrong, I was punished. Period. No one looked at me and said, “Let’s talk about your choices.” I learned to apologize when I said or did something to hurt another person, and woe unto me if I said or did anything disrespectful to an adult. I was fortunate to have good parents and a stable home life, and sadly, I know that’s no longer the case for a significant number of young people. But the guardrails of common sense, respect, and decency that most of us managed to stay within, have all but disappeared, and that’s scary. People who work in jobs that involve dealing with the public are at their absolute breaking point.

Most times, I suck it up and keep my mouth shut. You can only wander into the weeds in so many places. But constantly trying to take the high road is hard, and holding back too many times can have a toxic cumulative effect resulting in potential Ruth Langmore-like implosions. Sooner or later, those of us who try not to over-react eventually do, and that just adds to the chaos.  My former teaching colleague used to say to particularly annoying students, “You have just plucked my last nerve,” and that’s where I find myself right now.

I wish I had answers. I’ve found that singing helps. So do long lunches with old friends and swimming laps in the pool. For me, simply putting my frustration and anger into words is cathartic. I try to find ways to send a little something positive back into the world, whether it’s texting a friend who needs some support or letting a car go ahead of me in a stopped line of traffic. I’ve always followed the simple advice given in a long-ago teaching seminar about discipline. In a bad situation, you’ve got two choices. You can make it better or make it worse. But these days it’s getting  harder to figure out how to make it better.

Random Thoughts on Ireland

Being immersed in another country’s culture, even briefly, is a palate-cleanser for the soul.

The Irish pronounce the “th” sound like a hard “t” making for an interesting pronunciation of “King George the Third.”

Driving a 50-passenger bus along one-lane roads overlooking a precipitous drop-off into the sea is not for the faint of heart.

Even in Ireland, Domino’s delivers when there is no food available anywhere near the hotel, and the choir is starving after a concert.

Standing inside a simple stone hut built for worship thirteen hundred years ago is as awe-inspiring as being inside the most ornate cathedral, perhaps even more so. Singing The Lord Bless You and Keep You inside that hut is sublime.

Multi-generational traveling is a good thing. We all learn from each other.

There are So.Many.Rocks including rock-fences that literally climb up the side of mountains. (How did they do that?)

The air feels cleaner, the food tastes better, and even tourist places offer fresh salads and wonderful soups. And the bread…there is nothing like hearty, dense-textured Irish bread slathered with real butter.

Ireland is ahead of us on addressing climate change. Power-generating windmills are everywhere.

Do not miss the Jameson’s tour in Dublin. Take home the “Crested” version because it’s not available here.

Businesses providing “dinner and a show” (consisting of cheesy Irish songs blasted at an ear-shattering level) to a room filled with too many tourists packed in too small a space should be banned during Covid and perhaps, permanently.

The Irish people are warm and gracious and know how to brew a good cup of tea.

The scenery, especially along the west coast is stunning, and unlike anything we have in this country.

Palm trees grow in Ireland, and it rarely snows, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.

Religion has been both a blessing and curse, but I suppose that’s true everywhere.

The Irish have the best expressions—“brilliant,” “well-done,” and “giving out a stink.” (yelling at someone or complaining about something.)

There are delightful waitresses who look and sound exactly like Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey—“Would yourself like some more tea?”

Do not eat the round black objects offered on breakfast buffets. Do not eat anything containing the words blood and pudding.

Covid is not over. Repeat, Covid is not over.

For fellow Stranger Things fans, today’s airports probably contain a portal to the Upside Down. On second thought, they may actually be in the Upside Down.

Choral music is an international language of love and beauty, and we need it now, more than ever.

Travel makes us better humans.  

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is a little different for us this year. We’re on day four of our Covid isolation. No dragging the chairs out of the basement for the long-awaited first trip to the outdoor pool. No picnic for friends and family. My husband will not leave early tomorrow morning for a parade and solemn cemetery performance with his drum corps. Instead, there were frantic phone calls and emails yesterday to plan parade logistics, since several leaders of the corps are also Covid positive.

It’s not so bad, really. Thanks to the miracle of vaccines, our symptoms are mild, almost non-existent. The downside is that it’s so easy to shrug off a sneeze or two or a slightly hoarse voice. We were business as usual until those two lines showed up on the test I took almost as an after-thought on Thursday morning. And then there’s the guilt—contacting the hairstylist and the choir director and the other people we may have unknowingly infected. My friends in the medical profession tell me Covid’s like wildfire right now, partly because people just don’t realize they have it, assuming it’s allergies or a minor cold.

But we’re comfortable at home where there are always chores to do, and Giant Direct brought me exactly what I ordered at the exact time promised. We sit on our porch and enjoy the birds in the backyard and the antics of our dogs in hot pursuit of squirrels and chipmunks and marvel at the gigantic snapping turtle that has taken up residence on a bed of grass clippings behind our shed. We have been forced to slow down and stop the madness, at least briefly, and yes, even for us retired folks, there is still plenty of madness.

I think about the Memorial Days I experienced growing up. Small town parades were a Big Deal. The grown-ups wore little red poppies sold by the veterans’ organizations, and we stood along the sidewalks to honor those who had fought in two World Wars, Korea, and Viet Nam. We could finally wear our flip-flops again, and the snowball man and Mr. Softee returned, clanging their bells in the summer evening twilight. Decoration Day meant the re-opening of my grandparents’ “verandah”–the covered porch where we spent many an evening eating produce from my grandfather’s garden and watching the lightning bugs dance or reading books on rainy afternoons.

But this year Memorial Day takes on an even deeper meaning after the horror and tragedy of this past week. This morning we streamed the service from the National Cathedral which became our virtual church home during the pandemic. The Dean of the Cathedral, Randy Hollerith, preached, and as always, connected scripture to the reality in which we live. As he listed the statistics from recent mass shootings, a child began to cry somewhere out in the congregation. This was serious wailing, not just a disgruntled sniffle or two. His or her sobs reverberated throughout the massive vault of the cathedral, as piercing as the solemn notes of taps sounding over a silent cemetery on Memorial Day. And all I could think of were the tears and screams of those nineteen children and their devastated families. That child cried for all of us.