Reader, this has not been a typical year. As our days grow shorter and our nights colder here in the Northern Hemisphere, the twelfth month of 2020 is weighted down by twin airborne toxic events: a pandemic of renewed vigor, and a cloud of disinformation and mistrust sown in the wake of the U.S. presidential election. I am facing a season that would normally feature travel, visits with friends and family, and celebrations of gratitude and community. This strange year, I’ll be hunkered down at home, gratitude tinged with sorrow, experiencing family, friendship, and community through a phone and computer webcam. It’s hard to imagine that the darkest time of year won’t feel a little darker.
When our staff conceived of “Emerging Witnesses” as a theme to organize this issue of Friends Journal, we were deliberately open to possibility. Imposing our preconceived notions of “what’s emerging” would defeat the point! Our community of authors and artists did not disappoint us. Constraints breed creativity. Seeds germinate in the absence of light. And life goes on, each of us with the opportunity to move forward (even if “forward” requires some clever reimagining). Reading Joe McHugh’s article “East of Denver” as I ponder the season ahead gives me an approach that seems promising.
Like my ancestors might have laid in firewood and root vegetables to see them through winter, as I prepare by pulling warm blankets out of storage, this year I am making a conscious intention to dedicate some of my time this winter to engagement in what McHugh calls “growing down”: working on the roots, engaging in the interior work of the soul.
I’m also stocking up on books to keep me company on chilly nights (supporting my local bookstore as much as possible). Friends Journal’s book reviews have been a great resource in this provisioning! This month, I hope our Young Friends Bookshelf section will be of use to you if your winter traditions include gifting or cozy reading time with a young person (even if that’s over Zoom this year).
Another winter activity that warms my soul is supporting charities I care about. Charitable organizations are more important than ever in times like these, and the needs they serve have been intensified by our prolonged global crises. Since I’m not spending as much money to travel or entertain this year, I’m exercising my check-writing muscles a bit more. If you are in a position to do the same, please remember how much your giving matters. If you’d like to boost Friends Journal and QuakerSpeak in our work of communicating Quaker experience in the world, we promise to use your gifts to bring the Quaker way closer to Friends and seekers worldwide.
As I write these words, over 1.3 million people have died from COVID-19. I want to take a moment to acknowledge this tragic diminishment of our global humanity. So many of us have suffered, and even more have been touched personally by the suffering or loss of a loved one. We grieve and mourn together; we do our part to prevent and alleviate further suffering; we will emerge from this winter, with Spirit’s blessing, stronger. Be well.