It seems that for many, 2021 was a bit of a weird year. Not the least of the weirdness being the weather, with a hotter-than-ever summer followed by a wetter-than-ever fall*. Many farms in our region suffered, but mine was one of the fortunate ones to get by without too much damage.
Speaking of farms, my interest in gardening revived. It happened early in the year, when I started planting rhubarb from seed. I have no idea what variety, since the seeds came from a plant so old that no-one remembers the name. It was fun to watch my young rhubarbs grow from spinach-like sprouts to the iconic stalk and heart-shaped rippling leaf. I still couldn’t grow my own chia seeds, and I still need to find a way to keep slugs and worms out of my cabbages, but at least I can consider my rhubarbs a success. I look forward to reaping my first harvest this year, and being able to have a second shot at getting rhubarb custard pie just right. This has also been a great year for experiments in the kitchen. I broke away from the traditional Christmas baking, and found a new favourite cookie recipe, as well as a gingerbread loaf that finally suits my fancy. I learned how to make various buns, including bao and fleisch perishky, which were both fun and filling. But I still burn my kielke, and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.
As for my regular hobbies, art and writing, 2021 was an uneventful year. Which was just how I wanted it. I needed a break. The fun had gone out of the craft, mainly because I was starting to push my creativity into meanings and moulds that didn’t feel right. My sabbatical was part burn-out and part strike—I wouldn’t let myself do anything until I was sure it was my own once again. I did, however, break my break for a small Christmas commission. But other than that, the energy I usually put into art and writing instead went into my interest in History—of being an amateur Shennachie. I collected the notes I gathered from books and podcasts, and made myself a sort of timeline for Church History. I still sometimes forget who lived in what era, but now I have a handy tool to look back on. I also bought myself a Newspapers.com subscription, as a birthday treat. It’s been a lot of fun, looking through firsthand account of historical events. My favourite topics, so far, have been the newsboy revolt that inspired Newsies, Canadian history, ‘forgotten’ figures, and cults.
Cults may be a morbid field of study, but I’d say it’s necessary. Being aware of cults, as well as the people, ideas, and methods behind the cults, is a good way to protect oneself from harmful theology. Bad theology doesn’t always come with a compound and strict dress code, as I had to learn the hard way. In 2021 I finally considered myself free of certain teachings that had warped my understanding of God and the gospel. Now I can sing Amazing Grace, and mean every verse, knowing that I don’t have to worry over my salvation because I didn’t measure up to someone else’s standards. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. Yet the influence of the twisted teaching has still left some residue emotionally. Last year I learned so much, but was afraid to talk about it or voice concerns, for fear of being seen as the ‘doubter’ or ‘pharisee’ I had so often been warned against. So it seems my mind isn’t as free as I had hoped, but at least my soul is.
I’ve never been one to have official New Year’s resolutions. But I hope to continue this course, of mucking about in both the garden and kitchen; maybe getting back into art, but being at peace if I don’t; of guarding myself against falsehood, increasing in my understanding and appreciation of God and his gospel, and perhaps even growing a spiritual spine. And I hope that I will be stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing my course… in a relaxed, meandering fashion**.
*In my own experience, in my own region. ** Paraphrase from Herodotus’ Histories, book 8, paragraph 98.