Early last week we shared a family Passover service on Zoom. Typically the service happens in family dining rooms, and the focus of the service is around the dinner table. The traditional foods help to tell the story of the first Passover, and offer symbols of remembrance, of trials and deliverance. Part of the classic liturgy of the service asks four questions, and one question brought laughter as we gathered in front of our computers and were connected in a virtual envornment, “Why is this night unlike all other nights?” Why, indeed? It was for sure a night unlike any other we had experienced up till then.
In this same time Holy week for those of us who are Christians took place. As someone said, it has been the Lentiest of Lents. It has been a time of fear, anxiety, seperation from those we love, disruption of well-worn routines, and making up rules as we went. Church services were offered, with a lot of effort, on virtual platforms, but traditional practices such as foot washing on Maundy Thursday, were dispensed with. The Good Friday service, following the stations of the cross, were available virtually, but rather than walking from place to place and quietly meditating, we sat in front of our computers, taking in the liturgy, and aware that even here, this was like no other Good Friday we had ever experienced. The Easter Service itself, while available virtually, and a joy to share, was a stark reminder that for now, we are living in isolation from one another.
Each trip we take to the grocery store these days feels risky, possibly exposing our family to the virus that has overtaken our world presently. We have become more keenly aware of the precariousness of our food supply. While perhaps not a rational response, since gardens take at least a month or more to begin producing even the earliest of crops (lettuce), we finally got the motivation to complete something we have talked about for several years. My husband went to a local lumber yard, avoiding the crowds at the large home supply center, and purchased good cedar planks to build garden beds on stilts that I will be able to help care for. My right leg has little strength, and kneeling down then getting back up from typical garden beds is very difficult for me. Another day he ventured to Franklin’s Agway (again, avoiding the crowds at the large home supply center) and purchased raised garden bed soil and packets of seeds.
The raised beds are now in the only sunny spot in our yard, which is otherwise mostly surrounded by woods. We worked together to plant seeds in sections, leaving space for additional plants that are more frost tender. It is, we know, still April, and though it has been unusually warm, frost may still threaten these tender sprouts.
As we filled up the available space in our modest garden, I felt a sense of promise, the thought that it was right to be starting a garden on Easter, a reminder of new life. We have no guarantee of what may come of this garden. But it is right to hope, to plan, and to take the steps we can for the days we are given.
After planting our seeds, we took a walk in our neighborhood, choosing the path of the old trolley line through the woods, rather than walking along the lake, where more neighbors were likely to be. It turned out we still encountered a new neighbor we had never met, who was out in his yard with his dog. He called out hello to us, and so we stopped and chatted from a distance. He offered his name, and we offered ours in return. We talked of the great horned owls we hear in the woods next to his house. He smiled and said how much he enjoys the quiet, and the woodland. At other times we would have walked over, but neither he nor we made a move to step closer.
On our way back home we saw a few neighbors, who said they were doing fine, and waved. Yes, this is a time like no other we have lived in. And yet, we plant gardens. We hope, and we say hello, even if it is at a distance.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.