Above my desk is a shelf full of go-to books, selected from the thousand or so volumes scattered throughout my house. That shelf holds my essentials: prayer books, spiritual commentaries, lives of the saints, and my current favorites among life-issue books (think Gosnell). I can pick up any of them and come across something about challenges and sufferings and how they are part of the Christian pilgrimage on earth.

Academic stuff, that. No emotional impact. I have been blessed with good health all my life. Not having it is something that happens to Other People. Flannery O’Connor’s MS, St. Faustina’s tuberculosis, the lifelong disabilities endured by nearby author Christina Chase: how admirable to put one’s sufferings at the feet of the Cross as they did.

I now feel like a patronizing fool.

Covid hit me a few months ago, as it has hit nearly everyone I know. A few lousy days and it was over, or so I thought. I waited for the fatigue and loss of strength to ease. I waited for my cognitive skills to get back up to speed; for awhile I couldn’t read or write for more than a few minutes at a time. I kept waiting. I kept needing extra help and physical support. After a few weeks it dawned on me: this is what post-Covid syndrome feels like.

Put it at the feet of the Cross? Only if you count my constant prayer to God to take that particular cup from me. After months, the cup is being withdrawn. I have the uneasy feeling that I didn’t handle this well. I know now that health is a gift rather than an entitlement – I’m one illness or injury away from being right back to helplessness – and I ponder how I’ll do next time. Sure, I’ll offer up whatever burdens come my way. But right in there will be a plea that I’ll no longer have burdens to bear.

That’s humbling. Those books on my shelf seem to reproach me silently. I must say that I wish some of the authors would come visit me; I think we could laugh and commiserate and praise God and encourage each other. They’d give me good-natured teasing for thinking that I’m somehow different from the rest of humanity. (After all, I eat my vegetables, usually; I get my checkups; I exercise; surely I shouldn’t get sick.)

My energy and stamina are returning, gradually. I’m re-emerging. Improvement is by fits and starts, but it’s trending in the right direction. I know that many people suffering post-Covid problems aren’t so lucky. I’m being blessed with recovery. If there’s a limit to it, at least I’m functioning. My gratitude knows no bounds.

And at the same time, I have the uneasy feeling – more than that; the certain knowledge – that the time of illness was a kind of blessing as well. A divine invitation, if you will, to explore places known to God that I had never imagined. I didn’t recognize that invitation, I wasn’t ready for it, and I fought it every step of the way.

Gratitude fills my days. So does humility. The divine invitation might be repeated. I truly don’t know how I’ll respond.

A milestone in my emergence from post-Covid problems was a recent walk, a short one, up a mountain not too far away. I’ve seldom rejoiced so much in such a modest hike. I wrote about it at Granite State Walker, with a couple of photos from the summit.

Boston’s Christmas Tree

Soul-soothing stories have been hard to come by in recent days. I’m happy to see this one, from boston.com: “Why Nova Scotia Gives Boston Its Christmas Tree for Free Every Year.” It’s a story about gratitude and being a good neighbor.

Although I live not too far from Boston, I hadn’t heard about the wonderful Christmas tree tradition until a visit to Halifax about fifteen years ago. I was a tourist, heading up to incomparable Cape Breton Island. I stopped enroute in Halifax, where my cousin and his family gave me a quick tour of their tidy, friendly city. They showed me a memorial to the Halifax explosion. The what?

That’s when I learned about the terrible explosion of a munitions ship in Halifax harbor in December 1917. The explosion killed two thousand people, injured 9000, and leveled part of the city. A catastrophe, by any measure.

First city to send relief: Boston. Say what you will about Mayor Curley, but he and the people of Boston rose to this occasion.

The people of Halifax sent Boston a Christmas tree the following year as a gesture of gratitude. In the 1970s, they made it an annual gift. When you go to Boston Common at Christmastime, that’s a Nova Scotia tree all decked out for you.

The boston.com story clued me in to the @TreeforBoston Twitter account, filled with photos of the tree as it’s being delivered and welcomed. Best set of tweets you’ll see all day, I’ll wager. You’re welcome.