April 2021: covid, library, memories, determination, Talmud, freedom, poems

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11th COVID-19 Post April 2021

Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues:

It seems implausible that our world is still suffering deeply in this long pandemic. Many events have been cancelled, arts organizations of all kinds have been struggling to support the many communities which become more successful and content because of what artists of all genres do. Many charities are in ‘crisis mode’, and many millions of people throughout the world have been diagnosed. Many have overcome the disease, but many have also died. Those of us who are in our senior years have, for the most part, kept up our ‘spirits’ by taking walks, reading good books, watching good TV and choosing to click onto websites which are constructive, positive and helpful. We have been phoning, writing, ‘zooming’ and sometimes able to meet in person. These activities really help.

This past year, I was appointed the official ‘librarian’ of our apartment complex library. I’ve been very fortunate to have two helpers: one who was a professional librarian and another woman like me. We are also fortunate that each of our husbands has offered to help us with labelling, lifting cartons of books and taking books not chosen to S.A. branches and other places where good books are needed. Our love of reading books of all kinds and sharing these books has enabled us to help other residents to find the books the enjoy reading. I am so happy that we have this facility. When we three are working together, other residents who are waling by often stop in to donate books, choose books, and chat with us. They often have their dogs with them, (and the occasional cat). They begin talking about their favorite authors, themes and plots. Friendships are struck and new perspectives open within each of us. Libraries are magical places!

I’ve been collecting great articles on many topics, some of which I’ve sent already to fellow writers, musicians, and community activists. I’m including a couple in this post.

Above is a picture of a sheet of poetry by Unitarian Youth in a Unitarian Youth Magazine Summer 1998. My son, Malcolm Herbert Stevenson wrote one of these poems which you will see. He died from the severe effects of asthma May 14, (then Mother’s Day), 1989. He was a social activist, president of his local U-U Youth group, attended many conferences and meetings. He wanted to become an actor and director. He was a very good actor already and had been taking acting lessons for over 5 years at that point.

Janet Vickers is a writer in BC. Her work demonstrates her determination and strength. She is also a poet. This is one of her earliest blogs: Beyond Optimism and pessimism

Neoliberalism, Climate Change, Migration: George Monbiot in conversation
Posted: 01 Jan 2020 01:00 PM PST

Predicting the Future
Posted: 01 Jan 2020 01:00 AM PST

What I am learning from the airwaves of media, government and business is that greed and spite have won over humanity's survival on this planet. It has shut down public discourse, the engagement of free minds in policy making for the future. Media is ubiquitous. It's voice overules the voice of individuals and small communities. It reels off violence all over the world like an endless shopping list. Journalists who write with conscience are killed, imprisoned or shut out of the conversation entirely.

George Monbiot who writes a column for the Guardian, reports: "It is not just governments that have failed to respond, though they have failed spectacularly. Public sector broadcasters have systematically shut down environmental coverage, while allowing the opaquely funded lobbyists that masquerade as thinktanks to shape public discourse and deny what we face. Academics, afraid to upset their funders and colleagues, have bitten their lips."

But this is such a bleak platform from which to plan a future. It seems I must prepare myself to witness terrible events just to support an absolute guarantee to imprison and oppress everything on this planet as though all of life's history and culture was established for the entertainment of oligarchs. It is nothing short of nihilism for me to carry on entertaining myself as though things will work out. The only way the world can be saved is when we stop being cowed by statistics, trends, wars, injustice and hate — to challenge these trends, to create new trends and to respect life by listening to those who suffer and support them by lobbying for a fix. Humans have created community since the beginning of agriculture 7,000 years ago. Domesticating plants and animals allowed us to observe how things grow and thrive. It also created social responsibility.

How can young minds thrive if all they faced with is tales of wars, colonialism and capitalism? How can we be fully human if any conversation that examines and supports social health is labelled and dismissed as sentimental? How can we not see how capitalism has become a new religion when the economy is fixated on the stock market which doesn't mention the health and well being of societies?

When the most powerful nation in our world parades sociopathic behaviour and beliefs by investing most of their tax dollars on the military and wars in other countries, it follows that racism, misogyny, inequality,greed and fear - are instruments of nihilism. The art and sensibilities of human nature become unnecessary frills while cruelty and violence is the main currency. Caring for community is done by going to meetings that talk of solving problems, helping those who need help, supporting programs and initiatives with your time and money. Celebrating life.

In 2018 we moved to this great apartment complex! I subscribe to several newsletters, one of which is from a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation which meets in First Unitarian in Ottawa. This little insert is from a Talmudic ‘poem’. It really helped me to accept the changes which we had to make. It might help you also. I replied to the Rabbi, (who is a woman) soon after I read this very short statement.

From: Diane & Peter Schmolka [dandp5219@gmail.com]
Sent: July 1, 2018 7:43 PM
To: Daunted a Talmudic quote & My Comment.

Do not be daunted
by the enormity
of the world's grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated
to complete the work,
but neither are you free
to abandon it.
The Talmud

Diane Schmolka 1 July 2018 at 16:00

Thank you for this wonderful timely quote from the Talmud. For what I and my husband, Peter, are doing now, this quote has 'hit the spot'. We are moving to a nearby apartment complex, because of my severe arthritis and Peter's being fed -up with home ownership. We obtained a good price for our home, and are moving into the apartment progressively, before the closing date. Downsizing is a real challenge. Along with the decision-making processes are the memories which resurface from all the photos and mementos. We have been able to give much away to those who need it. I've been able to rid myself of old 'baggage' from my university days-over 50 years ago! Former students have helped me do this. They've given feedback when I held onto an item too long, with their pertinent questions about that item or research paper. Much better perspectives on my part emerged. What a relief to be rid of material which was of no longer use to the meaning for my life! I think that the decision to engage and help those who ask for it comes from being able to rid oneself of old patterns, old items, which have lost their significance. It is a freedom I've been learning to give myself, incrementally, for several years. Yes, moving and downsizing is somewhat traumatic, tense and 'dramatic', but the feeling of freedom and renewed strength to try to make our communities better is thrilling! It is not just moving into a new home, it is moving onward to newer and deeper wisdom!

Now for a poem:

New Harmonies for Old Scores


this concert which almost did not happen became more than a dream given in the Grand Hotel instead it was for those who would envison the sea from windows on both sides whether now or in memory later

 synchronized clusters of chords
 aligned to make us at home

we were lulled and bathed in runic waves which rose and collapsed on our breasts


even privateers have halleluya moments the end of a pier can begin a peaceful journey a victory march echoes in us in our one only life multifaceted roles which might have remained divided are re-assembled into synthesized harmonies because we listen-stretched into our true selves we know everything possible depends on our lifelong lullaby for others


when we sing to make power love each special chord glistens into new life when it is left behind let go to make each new harmony spark into bloom

yes, there is momentary grief as notes petal into thin air but it is only then you hear both sides now in the gloaming of serenity


when friends shake to hear you speak it is because they have not heard true voices before they have always gathered sounds in cheap hotels nasal voices amplified in dead rooms but new clusters reveal ah-ha visions


if we could read each other's mind we'd become the circus girls jumping through hoops needing sisters of mercy to become helpless

where we must never err is assuming we know how Eleanor Rigby survives even now there is a virtual choral community a reef of music spun by singers alone in their silent rooms


each new chord within us seeds many new diverse gardens we will not age into death as lonely people there is too much left to sing too many chords to twine fling into the air to form new harmonic motions

when it is time to call all the angels we can leave silently all power -added chords, Petruchka clusters we, Elektra, Demeter and Persephone will merge with the ocean to hear forever belugas and flying dolphins in the wind.

© Diane Stevenson Schmolka

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Page last modified on April 11, 2021, at 11:19 PM