Azaleas and rhododendrons are lavishly pink and purple. Lilac buds are getting ready. A great blue heron surveys its realm from the shore of the pond, standing on one leg. “Pinkletinks”, tiny frogs that inhabit the damp low places, are singing their ecstatic chirping songs. We open our car windows as we drive so we can hear their invisible presence and feel the joy. A pair of fluffy white “pillows” float on the pond - two majestic swans - their graceful heads and necks submerged, grazing the bottom for breakfast.
With spring comes the tell tale signs that our quiet winter, our time of rest and restoration and recovery from the previous summer, is gradually coming to an end. There are more visitors on the weekends. Once again bicycles share the narrow roads with auto and truck traffic. The sounds of hammers and saws and the smells of fresh paint and sawdust abound. Here and there the signs of “summer anxiety” can be seen and heard.
For more than fifteen years, a local restaurant has graciously provided an appreciation dinner for the Island Food Pantry and Habitat For Humanity volunteers. The dinner has provided a public opportunity to express gratitude for the service that volunteers provide. It has had a practical business benefit too. Each year the restaurant employs a number of temporary seasonal staff from several countries in Eastern Europe. The appreciation dinner gives the restaurant an opportunity to do a “dry run” with their new employees before opening for the season.
The dinner will not happen this year. Due to difficulties and delays in the getting visas, the staff that the restaurant depends upon may not materialize this year. Delays are forcing the restaurant to open a full month later than usual. Loss of employees and loss of income for an island business make the issue of recent government immigration policies a reality “on the ground.” The same story is told by numerous businesses around the island.
“Summer anxiety” will have an added dimension this year as business owners scramble to find enough employees to keep their businesses open and running smoothly and to meet the demands of frequently less-than-sympathetic summer visitors.
Meanwhile, our Sunday morning book discussion group is reading “Reconnecting with Nonviolence”, the 6th chapter in The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by John Phillip Newell. Newell reminds us that “There are angels of light and angels of darkness in us all. One moment we may be preaching nonviolence as the only true energy for real transformation in our world. The next moment we may be consumed by violence of heart. Sometimes this is provoked by the most trivial of disagreements and at other times by differences of real substance. But whether or not our violent feelings or actions ever feel justified, that is never the place from which we can effect real change if we are seeking world peace.”
These are thoughts that our small community grapples with as we prepare to thread our way through another summer replete with heretofore unknown stresses created by forces and by decisions made in places far beyond the reach of our own control and influence. In our microcosm we encounter, on a much smaller scale, the same issues that affect pretty much every aspect of life in communities and nations around the globe where economic and immigration policies are determined by those who will be least affected by the outcome of their decision making.
So - our summer challenge is to stay connected with one another, to support each other in our determination to give the greatest power to our angels of light, to maintain patience in the face of the frustrating encounters with immigration bureaucracies, to offer gracious hospitality and kindness, to stay conscious of the fact that we are all living under the stress of the unpredictable whims of power, to offer unconditional love to one another - - and to roll down the car windows and listen for the sheer joy of the pinkletinks.
Vicky Hanjian April 28, 2017
Vicky Hanjian April 28, 2017