The end of the most crazy, bizarre, strange, frustrating, uncertain, exasperating year in anyone’s memory is almost here.  We are but a few hours away from turning the calendar page to 2021.  I don’t know if there is any year that more people were so eager to see come to an end than 2020.

But 2020 had its good moments, too.  The folks who joined us this evening for our New Year’s Eve Retreat experienced Fr. Tom Zelinski live (not Memorex) from Capuchin Retreat in Washington, MI.  While the plan for most of the year was to have him join us in person, that just did not seem prudent, so we put technology to work.  As he reminded us, it was not so long ago that we would have needed satellite trucks to pull off what we did tonight with pretty simple equipment.  He encouraged us to reflect back on this past year and see not just the bad, but to also find the good, the surprising, the hopeful things that this year brought to us.

This week brought several small snowstorms through Marathon – one on Christmas Eve eve, then Sunday, then again on Tuesday.  Snow storms are not always a good thing, but this year no one here was traveling any great distance;  in fact, Marge and Tracy were warm and cozy in the Residents’ Community Room enjoying the fire inside and watching the snow outside.  By the time the storms were all said and done, we had several inches on the ground, at least enough white to finally cover the brown grass.  More importantly, we had enough snow on the paved surfaces for JustBob to go out and play in the snow, with his JustBobcat.  So play he did, most of the day on Wednesday.

The snow makes it easier to see the critters visiting the menagerie of critter feeders surrounding the gingko tree – eleven in all now.  Tracy continues to experiment with various seeds, types of feeders, and varieties of suet cakes and logs, all to see which ones please the critters’ palates.   What he has discovered is squirrels will eat almost anything, except safflower seeds and millet.  And what they don’t eat, they kick over the side of the feeder and on to the ground.   They do not seem the least intimidated by slick poles, quite boldly climbing up to one feeder then hopping between feeders.  Tracy has finally surrendered and stopped trying to shoo them off of the bird feeders.   After all, as Marge regularly reminds him, squirrels are people, too!

The snow arrived ahead of our weekend guests, too; far enough ahead that the roads were clear and safe for travel, for which our guests were appropriately grateful.  The blanket of white also makes a beautiful setting for JustBob’s special project.   He has been busily working the past several days (weeks?) making ice luminaries to line our driveway.  This afternoon, he set them in place and after sunset, he lit the candles.  They are sure to provide a beautiful glow throughout the evening.

For all the struggles that this year has brought to so many, it has also brought a slower pace to our lives here, which has yielded some unexpected blessings.  Folks generally seem more relaxed, more patient, more grateful for things that perhaps were taken for granted before.   This year has brought all of us here at St. Anthony’s closer as a community because we have not been as overwhelmed with work and found more time to socialize at meals.  It has given us more time to observe and delight in God’s creatures – the deer, turkeys, assorted birds, and yes, even the squirrels.  Once you get past their seed-snitching ways, they can be quite entertaining to watch.   These have been but a few of the lights in this somewhat dark year.

For all the ways that God continues to illuminate our darkness, support us in our struggles, comfort us in our grief, and amuse, entertain and delight us in ordinary, every day ways in our ordinary, every day lives, we say Deo Gratias!