Can we see what other see? Feel what others feel?
It’s impossible to not feel something watching the marches and protests that are continuing throughout the United States, Canada and around the world. Some of the feelings are difficult to name and sit with. As a white, middle class female I have lived a relatively privileged life. It’s difficult to face how insidious racism is in our society and accept how unconsciously I may have been contributing to it. George Floyd’s death has ripped open a scar that will never be the same. The bleeding may stop but the wound can either heal or the infection become worse. I am asking myself, how can I, right now, look deeply at any way I can add love and compassion to question long held beliefs so that I may contribute to healing.
When did we become our own worst enemy. Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes - they're practically Canadian. A border and a name is not enough to claim we are any different. When did we buy into the lie our leaders would have us believe that they are looking out for our best interest. An egg placed in hot water becomes soft cooked after three minutes, hard boiled after twelve, after that shells may crack. Gunshot explosions when the pot boils dry have us diving for cover. Yolk sticks to the stipple like only something contained and under pressure, can. The world placed in a cell phone lens becomes agitated in eight seconds, the time it takes to form a first impression. After eight minutes and forty-six seconds it boils over, multiple "moments of truth" crack a two-hundred year old shell, a police car, a parking space, a man's face on the asphalt When did a plea for mercy become something to taunt, a knee on a neck, an eye turned away I have to remind myself to not look away, to feel the discomfort, to see the obstacles, see how we use our language, the toys we give our children, the messages in their spaces of learning, Barbie and Ken in their Malibu home, masculine control of naming and explaining. What can we learn from Black Americans, from people of color, how they inhabit their bodies how they live in the world. I have to remind myself to not look away. The message sticks like only something contained and under pressure, can.
Dear Readers, with Mother’s Day this past weekend I had planned to write a poem to my mom thanking her for all she has done raising myself and my siblings. But the poem that arrived on the page is very different. My stepfather, of seventeen years, passed away a year ago on May 9th. I have definitely been thinking of him as the anniversary approached and that inspired the following poem.
For The Unsuspecting
This poem can’t make the snow stop falling or take away the cold. It won’t warm your bed at night or make breakfast for you in the morning. This poem can’t change a tire, change the oil or replace a spark plug. It can’t find a new lover for you even if you stand under the Flower Moon and recite it three times backward. This poem cannot make the bed, wash your hair, sweep the floor or stir the soup. It won’t make the clouds cross the sky any faster or the night feel less dark.
This poem is a small engine that fails to start. It is broken, rusty, a piece of metal without any use. It doesn’t haul water. It doesn’t cut grass. What it does do, is shred itself beneath the yellow roses. It blends with the soil and rots away. When you think it has completely disappeared and left your life, it blooms on a sunny day in June.
A poem by Susan Glickman One Hand Clapping Some questions have no answers. These are the ones we must ask. How finds the way. Why builds the road. One travels light in darkness; Two, both lighter and darker. We are what the light makes when it stops moving.
Here are a couple of things they don’t tell you about sheltering in place. They don’t tell you how one day will blend into another, how you will have to look at your phone or computer calendar to know exactly what day of the week it is. You might rise earlier to catch the sun coming up or sleep later and wake with a dream chasing you into your day. They don’t tell you when you shelter in place how much you will miss your grown children – the ones you only saw once a week anyway but with the virus senses are heightened and each moment has an urgency to it. It feels like all the love you have must be funneled into this moment in case it passes and the opportunity isn’t here again.
When you shelter in place they don’t tell you how filled with emotion you will be when an ad hoc parade rolls down your street. How hearing horns honking will lift your head from the trowel in your flowerbed. How you will move to the front yard in time to see banners with the names of teachers, proclaiming how much they are loved and missed. Your hand will automatically go up to wave and tears will automatically fall for people you don’t know and for a mascot you don’t recognize but the outpouring of heartfelt sentiment is real and palpable. You see your neighbors, who have also come out onto the street, put their arms around each others shoulders. As the parade disappears everyone lingers, looks in the direction the parade has just gone, holding on to the love just a little longer. With a little wave, or half smile, people slowly walk back to what they were doing. They don’t tell you that when you are sheltering in place you will feel alone even among your neighbors.
Or how spending twenty-four/seven with your husband, the man you love, can feel like a little too much time together. How you have no doubt you want to be together but even in this time of sheltering and craving time with others, you still need time to be alone, to be still with your thoughts, to just breathe.
They don’t tell you how the joy and beauty of seeing your friends on Zoom can quickly swing to heartbreak when you realize how long it has been since you’ve hugged any of them. No one tells you how difficult it is to perform for your friends, cello notes ringing loud and clear… you see their faces but can’t make eye contact, and you see their hands are clapping but you can’t hear the applause. No one tells you when you shelter in place how much you will miss the subtleties of human contact, the shift in posture you read in a conversation, the slight inflections in one’s speech, the things lost with the delay of video links. No one tells you that playing bridge, a game you love, will become just a game. What you really loved was the analysis of the play of the hand afterward, the laughter, the teasing, the small talk. Typing in a chat box doesn’t compare. Nothing can replace the feeling of security and realness of gathering in the same room – even if all you do is smile and let the energy of their being wash over you. I can’t wait to be drenched.
The landscape painter at the artist colony in the country noted for its messianic light, its sparse, hard-to-capture beauty, complains she's come all this way to paint al fresco but the mosquitoes have driven her inside, no matter the netting on her hat, her cuffed sleeves and pants, a heavy does of Deet. They bite through everything. And when she tries to snap a picture, a breathy handkerchief of mosquitoes flutters over the lens. What can I do? she moans, trapped in a dull and narrow room, thinking of booking a ticket back to her studio in Vancouver. Paint the mosquitoes, god replies. Lorna Crozier from God Of Shadows 2018 McClelland & Stewart (image credit: Trichy Insights)
The past few days, just when I thought that I am adjusting to this strange new world where everything is familiar but unknown at the same time, I have been thrown “off course” again by the senseless killing that has taken place on Canada’s east coast. I am filled with a sense of time that feels like I’m in a fun house with the crazy mirrors that reflect altered images, a warped me. My words are held in a lump in my throat so instead I share with you the words of Joseph Campbell:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
(photo credit: Sebastien Gabriel)
As spring rain washes away winter remnants during this time of Covid our hearts turn toward the sun. Somehow the tilt of the earth is a little different. If we aren't careful we may lean too far and fall off.
As we continue to settle into accepting that we will be dealing with the corona virus for some time I came across this little piece of advice. Unfortunately I don’t have a name to give credit to. (The Batman image credit goes to Clipart Pin by Liran S)
Whatever you’re doing today, do it with all the confidence of a four-year-old in a Batman t-shirt.
Have a great day. Continue to be kind, to others and yourself.
“See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… we need silence to be able to touch the souls.”Mother Teresa