Black Letter Days

On Thu, Sept 29th, I lost my job.  I was notified that my job was eliminated in a wave of layoffs at Baystate Health.  A blow.  I had sense enough to know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am not going to lose my home.  I will not be destitute.  But, I will take a financial hit as Baystate Health is a generous employer.


I worked for another five weeks, alternating between sadness and boredom.  Much of my work involved making contacts and planning events.  Without those tasks, I did not have much to engage my mind while I sat at my computer.  I took short walks 2-3 times during the work day.  I watched the brilliance of October dim toward the rusty colors of November.  My thoughts turned to St. Martin, whose feast day is November 11.  Dropping myself into the rabbit hole of Google, I found this passage in Sermons on the Black Letter Days Or Minor Festivals of the Church of England, by John Mason Neale.

The days are getting short, and the wind cold, and the leaves have nearly all fallen; and everything reminds us that the year is very near its end…

There is but one thing that I know of that can comfort you now, and keep you safe when [your own] end really comes. It is the same thing which made Martin able to do his mighty works,–Faith. Faith, we are told in Holy Scripture, is the gift of GOD; and of Him therefore we are to ask it. So, if when your hour is come to depart out of the world, Satan should try to vex and distress you, as he did of old time to Martin, you will be able, like Martin, to say, “What dost thou here, cruel beast? Thou hast no portion in me: I am going, to Abraham’s bosom.”

I thought to myself, what would it mean to me to rest in Abraham’s bosom in my hour of need?  This is Hades, or the resting place where the righteous await judgement.  A place of comfort and fellowship.  Raised Catholic in the 60’s and 70’s, the Bosom of Abraham is no place I’ve given much thought to.  A place of comfort.  I have memories of laying against my grandmother’s bosom, her red painted fingernails scratching my scalp as we watched Lawrence Welk on black-and-white TV.  I have rested my head against my husband’s chest listening to his heartbeat.  A more intimate fellowship.

In the days following the notice of my job loss, I discovered fellowship among my colleagues near and far.  Condolences, handshakes, hugs.  Offers to put in a good word.  I tapped into the teachings of my favorite Buddhists and mindfulness teachers. I found myself steadying in this time of passage.

I listen to the water filling the tea kettle in the morning.  I watch my hand measuring oatmeal into the saucepan, as if I were watching an indie film.  I inhale the scent of decaying leaves as I gather kindling for the woodstove.  I catch hold of the warm towels tumbling out of the drier.  And, I taste… I taste… gingerbread.

On my first Monday home, I pulled out one of my favorite recipes.

Boston Gingerbread ~Fanny Farmer

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup molasses
1 stick butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Mix dry ingredients together. Melt butter and stir in molasses. Beat egg into the buttermilk. Blend all ingredients together and beat until smooth. Pour into greased square pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

The best gingerbread in the world.


Author: Margot M

I make my home in Western Massachusetts with my husband Ed. We are natives of Massachusetts with allegiances to North Carolina, where we spent the first four years of our marriage. We have four grown children (two are his, two are mine) and a young grandson. We are excited to see what adventures await us all.

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