Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca


Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

We are more than our masks

Thursday December 9, 2021


The woman standing in line looked vaguely familiar. But because she was wearing a Covid mask, I could see only her eyes and forehead. 

            “Holly?” I asked, tentatively. 

            Her eyebrows shot up. Her eyes crinkled. “Jim!” she exclaimed, flinging her arms around me. (Take that, Covid!)

            I find it hard to recognize people with half their face hidden. 

            In the old days, people used masks to cover other parts of their faces. The Lone Ranger and Batman wore masks over the upper half. (It occurs to me, now, those masks must have severely limited their peripheral vision.)

            Presumably, if people couldn’t see your eyes, they couldn’t recognize you. 

            Now it’s the opposite. We can see each other’s eyes. We can see if they crinkle in pleasure, or wrinkle in disgust. But we can’t see their mouths. Their cheeks. Only when we add a voice can we fully connect a real person with those disembodied eyes. 

            On Zoom, I do get to see a whole face. But only in postage-stamp size. With none of their body language. 


Whole-body people

            I would never claim any expertise in reading body language. Indeed, sometimes I have been remarkably obtuse about it. In one meeting, I didn’t sense the daggers being flung across the room until the person sitting next to me, the one who felt under attack, sought emotional support by clutching my hand. She almost crushed it!

            A clergy friend, Dr. Bob Wallace, used to offer training in public-speaking. A popular theme was the message you convey with your hands while your mouth utters speech.

            Arms across your chest implies that you fear of getting the wind knocked out of your sails. Folding your hands together in front, you’re defending your genitals. Behind your back, you’re covering your ass (as the saying goes). And so on. 

            So what should you do with your hands?

            Long ago, I took speaking courses from a teacher who insisted on a proper posture: one foot planted slightly in front of the other, hips straight, one hand free to gesture, the other tucked securely into a jacket pocket. (Old school; he couldn’t imagine that a speaker might not wear a jacket.) 

            He scorned speakers who slouched, shifting weight from one leg to the other. “You look as if you’re struggling with an ill-fitting girdle,” he’d snap.


More than just spiritual

            We are whole-body people, you see. We are never just our words or ideas.. 

            Nor are we, as some like to believe, immortal souls temporarily housed in human bodies.

            In this Christmas season, preachers frequently speak of “Incarnation.” It’s a fancy way of declaring that God lived here on earth in Jesus of Nazareth. 

            That message sometimes gets lost in the tinkle and tinsel – Jesus was a whole-body person.

            As a baby, he sucked Mary’s nipple. He had his bum wiped. He probably had acne in his teens.

            And at the other end of life, he knew pain. Betrayal. Abandonment. And real death.

            He was not just some kind of spiritual entity, wearing a human mask. 

            The Christmas story should  remind us that we too are whole-body people. Our aches and pains, our joys and insights, all weave together in the holy fabric of life. 


Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

            To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca





Last week’s column, about the hummingbird who shouldn’t still be hanging around my house in winter, brought out the bird-watcher in a number of you. 


Betty Robbins wrote, “I enjoyed your account of the hummingbird's untimely visit. I'd call such an occasion a ‘God nudge’ so I hope the little bird's visit continues to provide you with warm, fuzzy feelings in this Advent and Christmas season.”


Tom Watson called it “A very touching column. Ah, the beauty and diversity, and often unpredictability, of the natural world around us. Your story reminds me of Guelph author Nick Ruddock's latest book, Last Hummingbird West of Chile. In the story, one lone hummingbird survives the circumstances that decimate the rest.”


My cousin Michael Parmenter is a serious bird-watcher himself:  “Looking into field guides, I've found that Anna's Hummingbird is the only hummingbird wintering north of Mexico. One guide indicates southern British Columbia as a winter location as well but other guides don't show that. There's a possibility that this is what you had and also that it didn't have to go too far to find a place to stay till spring.”

            JT: I’ve managed to get some closer looks at my hummingbird’s underparts, and I’m fairly sure now that it is an Anna’s Hummingbird, possibly blown in from the coast rather than from regions farther south.


Isabel Gibson usually spends her winters in Arizona, taking wonderful pictures of hawks and roadrunners: “Being at home this past winter allowed me to get a better view of the seasonal comings-&-goings of birds, even in my backyard.

            “I would say that we don't have hummingbirds in town, but then I don't put up a feeder for them so I'm not sure how I think I know. Is this a chicken/egg situation?

            “I wish Jade well.”


Stephanie Wakelin promised prayers for Jade’s safety.


Brent Waterhouse: “My wife & I really enjoyed your article about the hummingbird. We also live in Lake Country and a few years ago noticed hummingbirds show up in January or February. We did not have a feeder out at the time, but I quickly rigged up a heater for our feeder” (JT: to keep the sugar syrup from freezing).

            “Since then, we have noticed some hummingbirds stick around (as do some mosquitos). So, we keep the feeders out with attached heaters. If you don't have a heater setup you can alternate 2 or 3 feeders, so they don't freeze, keeping one outside at all times during the day.”

            Brent also advised that the Backyard Bird Centre in Vancouver sells heated hummingbird feeders.


Peter Stigings lives in Vancouver: “Maybe the hummingbird that you witnessed was an Anna’s Hummingbird who flew east with the Atmospheric Rivers, formerly called Pineapple Express. In the lower mainland and the southern end of Vancouver Island Anna’s Hummingbirds are resident 12 months a year. We continue to feed them and enjoy them even in the very unsettled weather we are currently experiencing. 

            “In 2017 the City of Vancouver proclaimed the Anna’s Hummingbird as the official bird for our city. They are very discreet eaters; if a single bug or fly gets in their feeding tray they will instantly stop eating from that tray and move on to another one. Living in a Condo building we are not permitted to have ‘seed’ type feeders due to the current rodent population, but there are no restrictions on hummingbird feeders.”


Sandy Warren wrote about two subjects: “I hope that, against all odds, your little Jade survives. Your offering of a thick hiking sock was a good idea!

            “I don't know the answer to either the Islamic practice or blasphemy questions (JT: referring to last week’s Psalm paraphrase), but I appreciate this new perspective -- it surprised me how mind-stretching it felt to read it.”




Psalm paraphrase


The “Psalm” for this Sunday isn’t a psalm, but the prophet Isaiah’s song of praise (12:2-6). Isaiah plays with images of springs and wells as a source of life in the desert. But it occurs to me that arid deserts are not limited to the Sahara.


My soul has dried up.

I am a bell without a clapper, 
a well without water, 
a heart without feeling.

Where can I look for hope?

When hope swirls down the drain, how do I call it back?

I have faith that I will have faith again.

The holy mystery of life will bubble up within me again, 
like an effervescent spring rising out of the rocks, 
like the morning sun rising over the darkened horizon.

Joy shall come, even to the wilderness.

It has been so in the past; 
I believe it will be so in the future.

I can only hope…


You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.





If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

            To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

            I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

            If you’re interested in the poems I occasionally wrte, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry And If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)






To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of the web links.

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



            I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)




Comments (0)Number of views (28)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: COVID-19, Masks, whole body



"gate of the year" #MeToo 150th birthday 1950s 1954 1972 1984 215 3G 9/11 A God That Could Be Real abduction aboriginal abortion Abrams abuse achievement Adam addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix Advent affirmative action Afghanistan aging agnostics Ahriman Ahura Mazda airlines airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations allies Almighty Almighty God alone ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Gorman Amanda Todd Amazon American empire Amerika Amherst amnesia analysis Andes Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anger animals anniversaries Anthropocene antidote Ants aphrodisiac Apologies apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern Aristotle armistice Armstrong Army and Navy stores Art artifacts artists ashes Asian assisted death astronomy atheists atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits Aunt Jemima authorities authorities. Bible autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 baby Bach bad news baggage Bahai Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas Barbados barbed wire barbers barriers Bashar al Assad baton BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs bells belonging benefits Bernardo Berners-Lee berries Bible biblical sex Biden Bill C-6 billboards billionaire BioScience birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Black history Blackmore blessings blockades blood blood donations blood donors Bloomberg Blue Christmas boar boarding school body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women BOMBHEAD bombing bombings bombs books border patrol borrowing both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brain development brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken Bruce McLeod bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying burials bus driver bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras campfire Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats cancer cannibalism Canute Capitol Capp caregivers Caribbean Caribbean Conference of Churches caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cash castes cats cave caveats CBC CD Cecil the lion. Zanda CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chesterton Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking children Chile Chile. Allende China chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christiaanity Christian Christianity Christians Christina Rossetti Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas Eve Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas tree Christmas trees Christopher Plummer church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clichés cliffhanger climate change climate crisis clocks close votes clouds Coastal GasLink coastal tribes coffee coincidence cold collaboration collective work colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty comfort comic strips communication Communion community compassion complexity composers composting computer processes Computers conception conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confessions confidence Confirmation confusion Congo Congress Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent conservative Conservative Party conspiracies conspiracy constitution contraception contrasts Conversations Conversion conversion therapy COP26 copyright coral Cornwallis corona virus coronavirus corporations corruption Corrymeela Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents couple courtesy courts Covenant Coventry Cathedral COVID-19 CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes Crawford Bay creation creche credit credit cards creeds cremation crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing Crows crucifixion Cruelty crypto-currencies Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cutbacks cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damien Damocles Dan Rather dancing Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Scott David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death death survival deaths debt decision decisions decorations deficit Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy Democratic denial Denny's departure Depression Derek Chauvin Descartes Desiderata despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass dinosaurs discontinuities discussion Dishwashing dissent distancing diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Don Cherry Donald Trump donkey Donna Sinclair donor doorways Doug Ford Doug Martindale Dr. Keith Roach Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day earthquake Easter Eat Pray Love Ebola echo chambers e-cigarettes eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky ego Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or election Elizabeth Gilbert Ellithorpe email embassy emergent emotions Empire encryption Englehart English Entropy environment epiphany epitaph Erika van Oyen erosion Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy eunuchs evacuation evacuation orders Evangelical Fellowship Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played everything evil Evolution exemptions Exodus expectations experience experiment exploring explosions extinction extinctions extradition extremes extremism
Copyright 2022 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada