October from Ellen's Corner

We have enjoyed a beautiful late Summer, early Fall weather these past weeks. And now in early October I look out my windows at the hills around me and I see a picture of changing colours, - yellow, gold, red and bronze. And they are becoming more vibrant each day. But that will sadly come to an end far too soon. We have moved from Winter to Spring and Summer and now Fall and we are still living in this strange COVID-19 time, with no end in sight. Questions now abound - are we in Phase 2? The number of cases are on the rise.

I know that you have been hearing that the situation has led to depression, boredom, anxiety, fear, laziness, lack of motivation and more. I don’t know if I fit into that spectrum, but I do wonder what did I do with all that time in isolation? Then I heard comedian and satirist Rick Mercer talk about this. He said that his first task was to clear out all the clutter in his garage, but he hadn’t accomplished anything. He had just been “poking around”. Having heard that I now had an answer when my daughter calls and asks “What did you do today, Mom?” My ready answer is, “I was just poking around!”

Keeping the Covid blues away by keeping busy poking around

However, I did do more than that the past couple of weeks. I went back to my years of helping 4-H members “learn to do by doing” when I learned how to navigate a virtual meeting. The wonders of technology, and the lessons I received in advance, made it possible for me to attend the Annual Meetings of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada and the Women’s Institutes of Nova Scotia. Both events went very well, with just a few minor glitches. Appreciation goes to those who developed the protocols and procedures for our “Zooming”.

It was good to see some familiar faces and hear familiar voices. It was interesting to attend sitting in front of my computer with a mug of coffee and some dark chocolate within easy reach. Then my thoughts went back to the first FWIC Biennial Board Meeting I attended. Around the table were the Executive, a Junior and a Senior Representative from each province, six Conveners of Standing Committees and some provincial Counsellors, and the Meeting lasted three days. Quite a difference from the amount of time it took for us to hear reports on the past year’s activities and to plan for the coming year when we “zoomed” on September 17th.

Boosting efficiency virtually but missing in-person connection

So, does that mean we are so much more efficient, or does it mean that we are perhaps not always remembering our purposes, “To provide a united voice for Women’s Institutes, To initiate programs and to provide resource materials, and To provide a medium of intercommunication among the units of the Federation”? The provincial reports gave a very good insight into their many and carried projects.

Certainly, the format of this Annual Meeting was a very new experience for many of us. A very important fact is that I would not have travelled as far away as Ontario to attend the Annual Meeting, but having it virtually made this possible, and I am sure there are many members who feel the same. “Zooming” was great but it leaves us without the human contact, and the friendliness and sociability we always enjoy. Hopefully, conditions will be such that this will be possible when we attend next year’s National Convention in St.John’s Newfoundland.

Ellen McLean has been an active WI member for close to seventy years. Throughout those years, she served in many roles including President of the Women's Institutes of Nova Scotia, President of the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada (FWIC) and President of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). Testimony to her excellent leadership and service, Ellen received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Francis Xavier University, been inducted to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, received the Order of Canada as well as being the first recipient of the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Women of the Year Award.