Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Spring Plays Peek-a-Boo" published in YCN, May 2020

Photo by Stephen Hassler, editor of Your Country Neighbor

Spring Plays Peek-a-Boo
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

The weather is a popular topic for people all over the country, but I suspect Midwesterners can one-up most weather conversations.  In the Midwest we have four distinct seasons which change not only every few months but often several times a day. I’m not sure other parts of the country have those bragging rights.  

I was born in Arizona and my weather memories there range from sunny and warm to sunny and beastly hot. I remember one December there was a trace of snow that melted immediately. Everybody in the neighborhood was outside snapping black and white photos.  

Here in the Midwest we know what to expect from three out of four of the seasons. In summer it’s hot or stormy. In fall it’s crisp and beautiful or rainy and gray. In winter it’s long, cold, and can be measured in inches.  

During winter there can be a day or two of spring-like weather, usually in February. Then the next day a blizzard strikes and people grumble because they had false hope that it would be spring soon. But spring plays games with us. All through March and April it peeks in to make an appearance… and then winter hip-bumps it off the stage. Spring doesn’t give up. It sneaks around the curtain and tries to steal the spotlight, until jealous winter notices again. The game is on!  

In spring people are excited to plant flowers and gardens, but don’t be fooled! There’s a rule that I’ve ignored too often: wait until after Mother’s Day to do the planting. I’ve thought that a few warm days in a row were the start of spring. Time to plant my geraniums and put away the parkas! Two days later, “Wrong again,” I think, making a mad dash to bring in the flowers and dig out the coats.  

I’ve seen people leave the house in shorts and flip flops in March and April after a couple nice days, thinking it would be hot by noon. Nope! At the end of the day they come home to make soup and wear fuzzy socks with flannel pj’s for a few more nights.    

Even nature gets fooled. The daffodils and crocuses rise up demanding to be the first to show off
their finery, only to get hit by frost and slump miserably to the ground. Robins return, grow round-bellied, and start to build nests. Then bam! They get slammed by a snow shower and huddle together glaring, as if to say, “Whose idea was it to come back this early?!”        

I truly feel sorry for them. Mother Nature leads them astray year after year. Birds are so gullible.

Click here to see Your Country Neighbor's May edition online

Friday, May 29, 2020

Haibun published in May 2020 issue of YCN

Images of Corona: 
A modern haibun, which blends haiku images with prose 

Janet Sobczyk,  © 2020

Photos on Facebook 
creative ways to pass time 
connect with others.

Since we have to self-isolate and quarantine, people are trying to connect any way they can. We need to pass the time in constructive ways to avoid cabin fever. Parents are trying to work and school at home, and keep kids entertained. Social media has become more important than ever. Daily posts spread hope, provide news, and share photos of creative project ideas.

Restaurants are closed 
store shelves are bare, items rare, 
uncertainty reigns.

Going to the store feels like going into a war zone one minute and perfectly normal the next. Certain items are absent from shelves or in limited supply: toilet paper, Clorox wipes, tissues, rubber gloves, face masks. But other shelves look totally normal. In some aisles people may be casually shopping, keeping distance. In others there might be a dash and struggle for the last of something. Questions hover… so far the food supply is holding up, but for how long?

People at home cook 
have more time and less fast food 
eat meals together.

For modern American families who were constantly on the go, this time of isolation is a rare opportunity to slow down and enjoy cooking again. Or simply enjoy eating dinner together again… at a table instead of in the car dashing somewhere. It’s the silver lining of this pandemic.

Images on news 
rows of caskets, no mourners, 
waiting to be moved.

The photos from Italy and China, and even around the US, are chilling. Patients lie in rows on gurneys in crowded hospitals. Freezer trucks are parked at the back doors to hold those who pass because mortuaries are overflowing. Rows of plain wooden caskets, mass produced in a hurry, are full and waiting for cremation. Services can’t be attended by groups of mourning families and friends. Funerals have become small private affairs with little closure and no comfort. Shock chokes onlookers into silence.

Turn off the TV 
gather on couches to pray 
hope death passes by.

It feels like we’re Israelites during the first Passover, trying to escape the plague. They huddled in homes with lambs blood on their doorposts, hearing the wails of Egyptian mourners, praying to be spared.

Springtime… grass greens up 
bushes bud, flowers bloom and
 sunshine gives us hope.

We can’t dwell on the fear for long without going crazy. Thank goodness corona came as winter is ending. People and pets are taking walks to enjoy spring weather and to clear dark thoughts. Evidence of new life keeps us going. Look around. People are still getting married, babies are still being born. Nature gives us hope.

Click here to view the May 2020 online edition of Your Country Neighbor