Keeping despair at bay (part three)

The snow is gently falling outside my window this morning, and I am cheered by the light it casts on this otherwise grey, cloudy day. Of course, there is a gloomier side to winter precipitation: a weather travel advisory has been issued and the last bit of clearing leaves out of the eavestroughs still remains to be done, but those are not my concerns today. I am just enjoying the snow from the comfort of my office.

Week three of my ongoing fight despair campaign has proven more successful than week two. While not officially part of my campaign, my work figures significantly in how I feel. Over the course of the fall, in addition to doing all my regular work online, I have made a number of presentations at conferences and other events on Zoom and have conducted several virtual capacity-building sessions with Boards of Directors and staff of small women’s organizations across Ontario and beyond. It’s exhausting, and I am old-school enough that I remain unconvinced that online is always as good as in person.

Without the pandemic, I would have been sitting around tables with women in their communities, while we hashed out governance models, approaches to decision making and strategic plans. What we would also have been doing, that’s a critical part of this work, is sharing food, chatting informally during breaks and before and after work sessions and learning more about one another and our lives.

I love this work, but I struggle to do it in this strange way we now live. Last week brought an end to these sessions until 2021, and knowing I had a six-week break pushed my general despair into the background.

Keeping busy

I went back to yoga a second and then third time. In the second class, I didn’t notice the time until almost half an hour had gone by. I brought my partner’s kneeling cushion to my third class, and what a difference it made! The downward dog pose is not in my foreseeable future, but at least my knees were not screaming and my dignity was intact when I left the gym. I wouldn’t say I am looking forward to my next class, but I’m not dreading it.


After my disastrous foray into art classes, I decided to take a DIM (do it myself) approach and have turned our sunroom into a bit of an art/craft studio. I don’t have high aspirations for what might happen there, but so far I have spent some happy time making various pretty things: suncatchers, clay bowls and driftwood mobiles.

 My partner and I went to a charcuterie board making workshop last week. We both had a lot of fun shaping, sanding and oiling our boards. Future dinner parties – if we can even imagine a time when we will be able to host such events – will feature dishes that can show off our woodworking skills to good advantage.

Our front door is now graced by a festive season wreath, which I made at a virtual workshop. Materials and a zoom class were provided by the greenhouse, and participants worked in the comfort and pandemic safety of our own homes. I added a few of my own touches, including tiny battery-operated lights, just to give the wreath a little more sparkle.

Culinary arts

Because cooking and baking are skills I already have, creating tasty treats in the kitchen is a calming activity for me. One dessert-less evening last week, we deemed the fruitcake I made several weeks ago to have aged sufficiently to be tasted. It to be the best ever (but we might say that every year). My kitchen list for this year includes a number of long-time favourites such as ginger snaps, fig bars and mincemeat tarts, but there are some new additions: cinnamon sugar pecans, salted caramel sauce, herbed oils and, because cocktails have been at the heart of my pandemic coping strategies, homemade orange bitters.

The bitters are just five days into a 25-day ageing process, with a requirement for daily shaking, so the refrigerator door holds a “Shake bitters” reminder in large print. As a friend pointed out upon seeing it, that could serve as a bit of an inspirational message to all of us during these challenging times.

Scaring away the dark

Music occupies a large place in my partner’s and my lives. Pre-pandemic, we tried to fit in at least a couple of music festivals every summer, went to as many concerts as our calendars and wallets would allow and listened to music at home. During the pandemic, our enjoyment of music has been limited to in-house events. The good news is that there are plenty of options, all reasonably priced, never sell out and offer front row couch seats every time.

Last weekend, we watched a beautiful acoustic performance by Steve Earle at New York’s City Winery as well as Carsie Blanton’s monthly joy-filled “pay the rent” concert. While I can hardly wait to get back to in-person musical performances (our Jason Isbell tickets for a June 2020 concert were first bumped to December and now to June – dare we hope?), one advantage of at-home concert viewing is that, when the spirit strikes, we can sing along or get up and dance without fear of annoying another concert-goer.

As Passenger writes in his song “Scare away the dark:”

“Well, sing, sing at the top of your voice

Love without fear in your heart

Feel, feel like you still have a choice

If we all light up we can scare away the dark.”

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