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a sign, a story and a stay-at-home time

I guess you could call it a sign of the times.

It all started with sidewalk chalk, well actually not. But that was the idea we had. Hopscotch and curlicues drawn along the sidewalk, encouraging passersby to kick up their heels and play.

But this wasn’t what was in the package when our order arrived. Our new chalk was not of the sidewalk variety, it was of the chalkboard variety. “Dustless chalk!” it proclaimed, being of the modern day kind. One box: rainbow, one box: white; perfect for restaurants announcing daily specials to hungry would-be customers strolling on by.

Well, why not? I thought as I ordered such a sign. Not too big — didn’t want to trip people up — but big enough for people to read as they happen by. A few words. Just for fun. As we all take to the streets for our daily amble, pedal, jog or dog-walking excursion.

As all of us stuck in stay-at-home were having trouble keeping track of which day it was, the first sign idea was born. I wrote, “It’s Monday, you’re welcome” and set it on the small table in the front mulch bed. Please excuse the poor chalksmanship and drab color. We had low expectations.

But, wouldn’t you know? When I shared it on Facebook, folks liked it. (Apparently, others were having trouble deciding what day it was, too!) So, inspired and emboldened by Monday, I erased Monday’s for Tuesday’s. And Tuesday’s for Wednesday’s.

And that’s when it became a group effort. Our daughter (who is corona-stranded here with us) suggested “No whining Wednesday, but wining is okay.” And, she suggested, I might illustrate with a little wine glass by the wining, for those who might not be up on their homonyms.

So now this writer started ILLUSTRATING her words. Thankfully, chalk is a VERY forgiving medium. Passersby, being neighborly, kindly tolerated — heck, they even seemed to approve of my kindergarten drawing skills!

So “No Whining Wednesday” became “Thoughtful Thursday.” It was, after all, Maundy Thursday, the day we sit at table for the Last Supper with the one bound to save us. And then we were on to “Good Friday, neighbors.” That day we even received appreciative fan mail on an index card left by the sign.

This was getting serious. The bar was raising as increasing appreciation meant greater expectation. Sober Saturday, though it felt that way to me, didn’t seem encouraging enough, so now I had reached the second stage of sign-making: editing. I drew a line through Sober and wrote Silly, leaving the reader free to decide which their Saturday was. Who, really, was I to say?

But then came Sunday. Easter Sunday. “Serene Sunday,” the sign said. But was it? Certainly like no other Easter ever. All of us separated, one from the other, listening, watching, wishing, sending… Everywhere people were piping in Easter, but it didn’t feel like one.

But the sign proclaimed it anyway; this blank slate of an accidental chalk ordering had actually come to communal life. People riding slowed to catch today’s message. People doubled back to be sure they hadn’t missed it. One neighbor told me she drove out of her way on the way to work just to be encouraged by it.

What in the world? Well, yes, we did have some fanfare for Earth Day. One person even crossed the street to snap a photo of that one.

And Froggie Friday, that was a request. Wouldn’t you know we had frog visitors at the house that day?

Funny, it is only a sign propped up daily; a few chalked words and occasional amateur illustrations, then erased every evening to welcome the new day. It’s an original work of art with a 24 hour time limit. Who’d have thought something so temporary could stand the test of these times? Yet, day by day, it’s the gift we receive; the opportunity to write our way into each new day.

Last Sunday was “Sandhill Sunday! You say, Sandhill. We say, Sunday.” (Our community is called Sandhill Preserve, so there was a certain team spirit invested in that one.) Passersby waved and thanked, cars and bikes slowed to fist pump and smile and the curious circled extra wide to come looking.

There’s just something about an encouraging word or two and a community who needs one. I’m betting you live in such a community and you, my reader, are just such a writer.

We’ve been at this since April the 6th when it was “Monday, you’re welcome.” Expectations remain low and appreciation, high. Suggestions keep rolling in. There’s never been a better time to use your words well.

Suddenly gone: a season of loss without losing

Something was taken without your permission. Stolen while you weren’t looking. Nipped in the bud. Just as it was blooming, coming together, looking up, coming to fruition. So much hope. So much potential. So much.

Without asking, they shut down your season, closed your show, before you even had a chance to take the stage. It was over before it began. Cancelled until further notice. All you were looking forward to is now not even a memory. Not even a loss or a defeat or a failure. It just … isn’t.

Absence. Without consummation. Missing In Action. Gone without a trace. Oh my, closure. Lotta folks gonna need closure. Because what might have been is no longer. Lives. Livelihood. Hope. Gone missing. In an instant.

There’s a house down the street I’ve often noticed — even though I try not to — where a black and grey flag has been flying for quite some time now. Years really. Decades actually. P.O.W. MIA. Wonder if they’d talk to me. Share their wisdom and resolve. Help me get through this.

My loss is really quite nothing compared to theirs. Maybe we could talk about it. About how it feels to lose something, Someone … what it does to you, how you get by, how you go on, day to day.

Holy Redeemer, comfort us in our losing. Sustain us in our hardship. Create in us a heart that reaches, that holds, that loves. Till the soil of that garden you’ve been planting, even the one born of despair, for you know the plans you have for us, to give us hope and a future. Us, not I.

In the days’ dimness, let there be light.

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