Response to Just Wondering

Thank you to my friend Meghan for sharing this with me in response to my previous post questioning whether we really can see and feel what others see and feel.

We Are Not In The Same Boat

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, or re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.

Realize that and be kind.

Unknown Author.

“It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Realize that and be kind.”

Big Bad Wolf In The Mirror

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.

For The Unsuspecting

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 Couple Of Things They Don’t Tell You

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.

Nothing by David O’Meara

I wanted to write something profound. Something uplifting and fun to help lift our focus… I’m sorry it just isn’t there tonight. So I offer you this poem written by Canadian poet, David O’Meara. However, what I do want to add is that we do have the perfect opportunity at hand to have those deep conversations that we may not otherwise share. Take care, everyone.

Nothing

"Nothing," he said, "it's nothing."
Then nothing was said.  Silence; nothing.

What she asked had come from nothing.
Sweet nothing, really, was all he said.

They cut their links like little wires, said
nothing about it afterward, nothing.

All over nothing.
So never to talk of what they said

until all that was ever said
was nothing, and so nothing was ever said.

Help Others To Tell A Different Story

(internet photo)

A doctor after a 12 hour shift in a New York hospital with only Covid-19 patients stated, “I’m going to change my clothing and get back into my street clothes, after taking a shower and scrubbing any part of the virus from my body, if not my soul.”

None of us believed we would be faced with a situation like this but here we are. Here are our front-line workers, fighting on our behalf. Here we are with more “free time” than we know what to do with.

Maybe we can use some of that spare time to find ways to express our gratitude, although it may never be enough, to those working tirelessly on our behalf to care for our sick, loved ones; for those who are working to keep us safe; for those who are behind the scenes coordinating our front-line workers; for those who are scrambling to find a vaccination or a cure.

Maybe we can use some of our free time to find ways that will lead to the telling of a different story than before. A story where we do not sleep walk through life. A story where we really see and acknowledge each other. A story where we know beyond any doubt, and embody, the essence of the African term, Ubuntu, “I am because we all are.” We don’t have to live in fear. Together we will pass through an exit even if we have to hobble.

Be patient. Be kind, to each other and ourselves. We will persevere.

Social Isolation

(internet photo)

Today it’s difficult for me to remain optimistic. It’s our granddaughter’s birthday and to add insult to injury, the gift we ordered online to be delivered before this special day, has not yet arrived. I don’t want to have the day pass empty handed from us so I have written her a humble story and illustrated it to the best of my ability. Singing “Happy Birthday” over the phone with her triggered my tears… I guess it’s a small price to pay if we can remain healthy.

I wish everyone strength and fortitude to get through this. May we all remain healthy!

Reading some poetry by Jimmy Pappas, a New Hampshire poet, inspired the following:

Social Isolation

We cannot
tell

if it is time
for

Friday night wine
or

Sunday
prayers.

Let us
bow our heads.

Rest Is In My Breath

One of my favourite things is the scent of fresh laundered sheets with a hint of bleach and outdoor sunshine lingering on the threads. One of my least favourite things to do is crawl out of a cozy bed to a dark, cold morning. Especially since lately I have been having trouble sleeping.

I love to cradle a hot cup of tea between both hands, savoring a rich blend of Chai spices flaring my nostrils. But I hate hot liquid burning my tongue. Often I choose to guzzle the tepid drink later because it sat forgotten beside my computer screen.

This morning I sat in quiet but not stillness. My body didn’t move, I didn’t fidget, and my hands remained relaxed in my lap. But my mind refused to settle. Thoughts galloped behind my eyes. Before the apocalypse many small bookstores struggled. Since social distancing became mainstream, they have gone silent. I hope they will last until after. After. After we are allowed to be close to one another again. After the locks are opened and we can breathe a little easier. After we can go to the dentist, the hair dresser, the post office, linger with a fresh off the press new book in hand.

These thoughts defy the will to rest, to simply be. They demand attention, they want to be seen and heard. So for thirty minutes I do battle. When it’s over I realize I had thirty minutes of tending to passing thoughts. I’m not sure if that would qualify as meditation but it meant thirty minutes without really thinking about Covid-19 and the corona virus. I didn’t solve the issue of what will happen to my beloved independent bookstores, but the distractions and outside “noise” did provide thirty minutes of welcome rest.