Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Writer's Pen

A writer carries a pen.

That is the way it is.

For as long as I recall, that's how it has been. Moments have appeared, of course, where that vow failed. Where I did not have a pen to write with. Where the pen was in my hand, but it didn't write.

Moments in history are marked by the written word. Journalists know and live this truth*.... (yes, truth matters. Facts matter. Alternate versions of both do not**.) ... [the fact that we have to emphasize this in 2020-21 is ridiculous, but the reality exists].

I carry a pen. Because I'm a writer. Because the written word matters. Because facts and details matter. Context is everything. Painting a picture with my words is what I've done, professionally and personally, for so long.

Words have painted a picture, opened a portal into the heart and mind. I've read what others have written with their own pens, even if those pens aren't physical but mental and those words have materialized from digital tools. The idea of what the pen provides has been a backbone of my existence, and for so many it shapes what we know.

So when 2020 began, that was the way it was.

And then, the year became what it did. COVID-19 became a common household term, one capturing attention and headlines and passions and grief so often. Each day, it was something new. While also some of the same.

Words mattered. And yet, too often, they did not. Truth wasn't truth, facts were not facts, and reality seemed to exist on multiple planes simultaneously.

And yet, I carried a pen. As writers do. Even when they write most of their words by keyboard. By mobile device and MacBook, When signatures and the written word, actually written, aren't as important as they once were when a virtual-everything is the reality.

In 2020, my became something more.

A global pandemic arose for the first time in a century, and with it precautions and safety protocols that limited our actions. Changed our mindsets. Made us hesitate before going out, and if we did made us mull how we interacted with others and navigated this world safely. Germs might exist in everything we touch, everyone we interact with physically, every air we breath without a facemask.

Touchscreens became a hesitation, at gas stations and liquor stores and grocery hubs and beyond.

Our "new normal" manifested itself in both brutal and subtle ways, from the people around us to the "clean pen" baskets atop our local brewery counter.

And so, my writer's pen took on a new meaning.

To write, of course. But also to tab the keys on the touchscreen.

In a time when we must grapple with the simple act of human connection and what it means to "social distance," this pen of mine became so much more than it had before.

With it, I chronicle my life and the history from this corner booth of the world. But also, I protect myself and others in health.

And tell the story for my fellow humans to read. Written words, transcribed by a pen, that I hold in my hand. No matter the amount of hand sanitizer and hand washing, this pen travels with me.

To tell stories, because words matter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Look to the Stars


Human beings look to the stars. We always have, always will.

That becomes clear even more in a year like 2020, when the world is caught up in a pandemic that's reached global health crisis levels. We have what's dubbed "the great conjunction" of 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn are closer than they usually are and can be seen by the human eye. While these large planets align and near each other every 20 years, they aren't often this close and even less often are they able to be viewed by the naked human eye.

Sure, this happens every 20 years to some extent. But before 2020, the last time the two planets were this close was in 1623... and even then, that alignment wasn't visible to the human eye. It was way back in 1226 the last time this happened and could actually be seen.

Think about that for a moment... almost 800 years.

That's simply amazing.

Think back eight centuries ago, to March 4, 1226. This was during the High Middle Ages period, about a decade after the Magna Carta had been signed. The Crusades were ongoing, with the Sixth Crusade just about to start in order to recapture Jerusalem.

Hell, that's remarkable to think that before 2020 the last time we experienced a similar celestial event would've been back then, so many centuries ago...

Family History Reflections

Looking at this from a genealogical POV, my own Hoskins and Hoskyns lines weren't even born yet with those surnames. Chances are my long-ago ancestors were then known by the surname Osekin, which historical accounts note came after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when some of my ancestors were a part of that.

They went on to become the Hoskyns, were associated with Robert the Bruce of Scotland and all that good Braveheart lore. And so on into Herfordshire England, eventually leading to Bartholomew who changed the name to Hoskins in coming to the New World in the 1600s.

Roughly four centuries ago in 1623, the last time this "great conjunction" happened like this, that was before America. Pre-colonial times, just a few years after the famed Pilgrims made their way to the New World and settled here in Jamestown. My own genealogy tells of Bartholomew Hoskins, the first-ever American immigrant who came from the prominent Hoskyns line in England and was in his early 20s at the time.

Did he look up at the night sky on that July 1623, thinking about the entirety of the cosmos and how we're all connected worldwide? That despite the challenges and horrors of those early years in this new land, how he had survived and was starting a family?

Then again, the "great conjunction of 1623" wasn't even visible to the human eye... so it's not even something that could be seen, if Bartholomew had wanted to look up and had known to be looking for something special.

Who knows what ancestors from the 1220s were doing at that time, and if they happened to look up at the stars to reflect on everything larger than ourselves... it may have been cloudy that night back in 1226, for all we know.

Keep the faith

Thinking on all of this, the phrase "keep the faith" comes to mind. While the Bon Jovi tune by this name is a good one, it's not what I'm referring to here. No, instead this is based on Christian faith.

This celestial event may have been what's referred to as the "Star of Bethlehem" in the nativity story from the Book of Matthew.

In my own Bible readings, that passage has so many interpretations that it's difficult to not look at it now, in the 21st century, with a combination of both astronomical fact and human faith factored into the interpretation.

Could the "Star of Bethlehem" been in the sky on Dec. 21, 2020? Even though it was cloudy here in Southeast Michigan without any visibility, does that mean an experience 800-years in the making was ruined? Does it mean one can't find their own faith, their own beliefs, their own fears and hopes and loves and reflections, in the mind beyond those clouds?

Maybe we can see what this "Christmas Star of 2020" is guiding us toward, just like it was guiding those Three Wise Men way back when. There's endless speculation and belief on what the Bible says and whether that "Christmas Star" as a real astronomical event or a God-offered vision... but if it were up to me and my Bible reading, I'd go for a mixture of both.

That star alerted the magi to the birth of Christ, prompting them to make the long journey from the East. But whatever may have happened back then, the symbolism and guidance for our own lives now can be a deeper meaning.

Despite all we've endured in 2020 collectively, there is a cosmic light in the sky. It can guide us toward something, even if it's physically clouded in the sky and can't be seen with our own eyes. We can feel it, we can focus our heart on what it's leading us toward.

That hundreds of years after this last appeared as it does in the sky, we are connected to each other -- past and present, and the future. Our planet has lived this long, and it's our duty to ensure it lives on so that future generations can experience these astronomical events — and reflect on them, in whatever ways they choose.

It's our duty as humans, being the descendents of those in the 1600s and 1200s and before then, to continue our life on this planet. We must guard Earth, and not self-destruct.

Those are the lessons I take from this "Christmas Star of 2020," even if it was too cloudy in my corner of the world to physically see it.

I can look to the heavens, use my mind and heart, and know where it's leading me. And us. Together.