Ash Wednesday morning started out in a rather rousing fashion for me. I had to get up and go in to work a bit early, at which point I discovered that we had “ice fog”. The melted snow had all frozen again, and condensation had settled on every surface as a thin sheet of ice. Slippery was not the word.
I was very glad that I walk to work. I could pick my way across the terrain in areas which maximized traction. The cars couldn’t, and I saw two of them glide helplessly into snowbanks during my short trip. Apparently the highways and most surface roads were a nightmare, and even the salt didn’t help much. Three of the men at work spent the early morning helping women to walk across the parking lot or climb our slippery steps. (You really didn’t want to use the ramp yesterday.)
Then it was time for our Black History Month event, which is always a lot of fun. (Yes, I know, you don’t usually associate “Black History Month” and fun, but then, you don’t work where I do. We all enjoy it because it is a break from the routine, and because the whole thing is arranged to promote true diversity, not just talk about it.) I was in our corporate choir, which magically comes into being every year for this event only. There’s a lady in HR who is also a very talented jazz and gospel singer, and she begs and borrows everybody she can get. I missed the last couple of years of the choir due to sickness or being too busy to breathe, so I was delighted to be in on it this year.
Here is part of the fun: we sing gospel songs. Oh, yes. We actually say ‘God’ and everything. This adds the outlaw joy of getting away with something to the normal amusements of corporate activity. I love it. This year, we sang one song about worshipping God, and another about the Communion of Saints and interceding for each other. Mwahaha!
This being the city it is, we also have the annual recitations of Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry. Our Toastmasters chapter handled the duty this year, and did a good job. The only weird moment was one lady’s recitation of “The Haunted Oak”. It’s a poem about a lynching by the Klan, told in a rather oblique style; and it wasn’t entirely clear from her vocal expression that the reciter understood everything that was going on. However, it was clear that the audience understood entirely. We have a lot of employees with Southern and Appalachian family backgrounds, and they seemed particularly impressed. You could have heard a pin drop.
(Of course, nothing can quite equal the time a few years back when our choir director sang “Strange Fruit”, the Billie Holliday song about lynching. But Dunbar’s obviously still got it.)
We also watched a video, which fit in with the Ash Wednesday theme because it was about “The Civil Rights Martyrs”. One weird moment — they kept referring to Viola Lee Liuzzo as a “white woman” and a housewife.
Not a Catholic woman, which it was obvious she was from the picture of her at her daughter’s First Communion, and not a woman active in politics beyond the civil rights movement and married to a labor leader, which various online biographies mention. All the ministers had religious backgrounds, but “the only white woman killed in the civil rights movement” didn’t. (Also, you kept seeing priests and even sisters in the footage, but nobody mentioned priests. Just ministers. Odd.) Otherwise, it was a good video.
UPDATE: One of Mrs. Liuzzo’s daughters reports that her mother was a Unitarian convert from Catholicism. Please see the comments below for her story.
The best thing was that, this year, they finally realized beforehand that they’d scheduled the thing on a day of fasting and abstinence for a good chunk of the employee base. (There’s nothing like holding a barbecue potluck on a Friday in Lent.) So we had meatless breakfast sandwiches as well as the bacon, ham, and sausage kind, and yogurt cups with berries, too. It was all catered from Tim Horton’s. I went online afterward and figured out my calories, and it turned out that I’d pretty much taken care of the day’s calories with the one regular-sized Lenten meal. Well, that was hardly what I’d planned, but it worked out okay. I had a ton of work on my desk, and really didn’t have time to eat. I did listen to a Scott Hahn show about salvation history, but that was about it for Lenten thoughts.
After work, I finally figured out where the weird smell in my apartment was. My mom kept complaining to me on Monday that she’d smelled something bad, but I couldn’t smell anything odd. It turned out that one of my vacuum packs of red beans and rice had un-vacuumed. Not obviously — there must have been a pinprick-sized hole somewhere for me to be able to smell it, but I never found the hole. Anyway, I was keeping the vacuum packs inside a plastic bag. My mom had smelled this smell despite the layers of plastic; I didn’t smell it until I opened the bag. Then I saw that the rice was all moldy and nasty inside the vacuum pack.
I’ve never heard of that happening before, and I hope it never happens again. Yuck.
After that, I had to scurry to get ready for church for Ash Wednesday and go to choir practice after. The place was crammed, and most of the choir slid in a little late because of the difficulty in finding a parking space. We sounded a little ragged, but we lived.
It was a pretty full day. Honestly, I was glad that I’d done a lot of Ash Wednesday thinking yesterday while recording the podcast, because I was pretty distracted on the actual day.