For the first time in a very long time, I participated yesterday in a “live” Sunday event with the Unitarian Universalist Village Church. “Live” via Zoom. The production took considerable effort by several people to coordinate and orchestrate the program; it showed. I am not quite sure what I was expecting, but what I saw surpassed my expectations by a significant amount. It was stellar in many ways; the pre-sermon conversation, the well-organized series of presentations, and the music/video elements incorporated into the event. Perhaps the most gratifying element was the opportunity to see and hear about 80 members and friends of the church who joined by Zoom.

The theme was the “2-cookie communion,” which used ritual to encourage congregants to mentally discard the negative behaviors and circumstances from the year just ended and to commit to taking action to guide the coming year into the positive experience we are capable of molding and expressing. Though I have always disliked church ritual (as I remember it from my childhood), since getting involved with UUVC I have come to appreciate ritual as symbolic expression, not as voodoo; that’s how I perceived it in other church traditions.

Despite the artifice of ritual, though, it caused me to feel strong emotions about the loss I have just endured; I am glad, during much of the service, my image and my sound were both muted/invisible. Even now, as I think about yesterday’s emotions, they return in all their power. All in all, I was very pleased to have been a member of the audience who participated. And the minister’s guidance and his words were both inspirational and healing.


My afternoon yesterday included a too-short Zoom conversation with my oldest brother and his wife, another brother, and my sister. Another brother cannot get his computer to cooperate with Zoom, so he cannot participate in the conversations. I did not realize how very long it had been since we’ve had a video gathering. My oldest brother’s hair is quite long, courtesy of admonitions about avoiding close proximity to strangers due to COVID-19. He and his wife are behaving intelligently, unlike too many others in their community in Mexico (and so many here). Our chat was a welcome departure from my normal Sunday afternoon routine of…doing nothing. I may invest in a Zoom paid membership so we can have longer conversations. And I may develop a pre-chat questionnaire so everyone involved can have at the ready tidbits to address for those occasions when empty air lasts a bit too long. Or I may not. It’s an idea. But it sounds a bit contrived and superficial. I’m quickly turning on myself, berating me for offering such a strange structural response to natural pauses in conversation. Hmm. Thinking through my fingers. I like that description; always have.


Last night, I chose to microwave frozen potstickers from Trader Joe’s for dinner.  I made my own dipping sauce, using only soy sauce and Sambal Ooleek. Though the meal was not especially nutritious, I suspect, it was tasty. And I augmented it with a salad and some hummus & crackers (and chips), some of which boosted the nutritional value of the meal. While I ate, I watched Season 1, Episode 1 of The Queen’s Gambit. I started watching that with my wife the last morning she was at home, before going back into the hospital for the last time. She decided, after watching only a short while, she wanted to go back to sleep and had no real interest in watching anything; no film, no series, nothing. She had just finished watching a Christmas movie the home health aid had suggested to her; she watched that whole film and was not really ready to watch something else. Later that day, she went to the hospital. I promised her she would come back home. I did not keep that promise; she went into inpatient hospice, instead. My mind could not stay focused on The Queen’s Gambit last night; I kept returning to my wife, who will never see it. It shocks me how seemingly little things can land such powerful blows on me, as if I’m an inept boxer almost knocked unconscious by a much stronger and forceful adversary.


This morning, as I peered into the darkness behind my house, I thought to myself sunrise would begin before long and how it would be nice to sit and watch it with someone, someone interested in conversing about the rapidly-changing skyline and the colors arising from it. It’s not that I miss those conversations with my wife; she was rarely awake for sunrise. But I often talked to her about the sunrise and described to her what she was missing by sleeping in. She appreciated the word picture, but it was not enough to spur her to get up earlier. She liked her sleep. And I’m glad I didn’t try to change that.

The sunrise has begun, now. The southeast horizon is bright orange and pink, streaked with grey and salmon and ochre ribbons. By the time I finish this paragraph, the colors will have begun to merge into a pale watercolor tapestry. No matter what takes place in the sky, it’s beautiful this time of day.


I have personal business to address today. I’ve never been very good at personal business. My wife took care of almost all of it, from banking to taxes to scheduling HVAC service and on and on. I am not sure whether she liked it, but she certainly tolerated it far better than I ever did. It’s time I grow up and tolerate it for myself now. I’m not sure whether I have the discipline just yet, though. Soon, I will find out.


A few years ago, I wrote “thoughts for the day” every single day for two years running (2014-2015). Here’s one: “There is a point at which even the most even-tempered person will snap. I have no personal experience with this, though, as I am not even-tempered.”



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Even-Tempered

  1. Meg Koziar says:

    So glad you joined us yesterday morning and found it to be a good experience, John.

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