Thursday, April 30, 2020

Resilience in a Challenging Time . . . (Smith)

This is the title of a series of talks on Sounds True network, and it’s been key to my watching myself, family, others, and the whole world in our response to this Covid-19 Virus. Like all of us, I’ve been deeply saddened by the numbers of persons suffering and dying, and with this comes my fears.  

At the same time, I’ve been amazed and moved by how people have cooperated, sacrificed, and adapted to this change in their life patterns. And so, when Sounds True host Tami asked author Danielle LaPorte her overall response, I felt confirmed that she shares that same sadness and excitement for making real change in the world. She exclaims how we have experienced a “360 degrees change in consciousness.” She speaks of feeling awake and aware and excited with what is possible for human society. “Yes,” I exclaimed… “we have done what is necessary as individuals in society.” We are staying at home, wearing masks, practicing safe hygiene, and caring for ourselves but also for others.” I felt blessed by this.

Okay, now here’s the rub. When I shared this with a men’s breakfast group on Zoom, I was struck by a friend’s saying he was not excited about such social change. I didn’t have time to ask him further, and his view has stayed with me. I later wrote to him that I was not talking about “political” change, but moral, spiritual, and real personal and social change that makes us all more human. I know my friend is an arch conservative and that, he voted for Trump in 2016, but he is also a fine, caring person. I’m perplexed by this in another way than I am by the crowds of angry people gathering to protest what I view as essential healthy practices of this safe isolation. 

My wish for him and for us all is that this old practice of ignorance and fear will no longer rule the land, but caring will awaken us to a new day.  In peace, Larry Smith

Larry Smith is a writer and editor of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio. He is also co-founder with his wife Ann of Converging Paths Meditation Center.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Earth Day 50: Pandemic Soundtrack (Camino)

Aghast at those not listening to science.
My bandanna covers my mouth and nose
But not my eyes that have seen no glory of late.
Still, in the grocery store eyeing the rainbow Swiss chard

I think of you and the songs you’d play 
On your guitar that of course would gently weep
But you did not, and I did not, for I’d tell you
Hope’s the thing with feathers and we were its mighty birds.

But hope is no longer a strategy:
The end of ice, this coronavirus.
And though there are thirteen ways of looking at it
The blackbird flies into the light of a dark black night

And the songbirds keep singing like they know the score.
No more: Serve the earth, I dare you.
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before.

Marcia Camino holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She is author of  Crayzee Aayzee: A Poetry Abecedarian; Oomee Boomee, Space Yogi; and The Pink Lotus Yoga Professional and Yoga Teacher Training Program Manual. She operates a yoga studio in Lakewood, Ohio.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dispatch from The Distance, Day 37 (Thayer)

I began a journal on Distance Day 3.

On that day I also upped our internet connection to 1000, and I sent a cool simulation of viral diffusion to my colleagues (we were on spring break then). For breakfast, I had cherry pie, which I had made two days before on March 14 (3.14 -- Pi Day). That was the day I designated as Distance Day 1. It was the day that the ban on gatherings of more than 100 people took effect. It was the day the theaters went dark.

On Distance Day 2, my family’s bar -- owned now by my sister and brother since our dad died in 2017, where you can stop for a beer any day, even on your Christmas morning battery run  -- closed for the first time in 9,697 days. I know this because my sister asked Google. On Day 2, I also voted, which was fortuitous, as Distance Day 4 was supposed to be election day, only it wasn’t. That was moved to June, and then to April.

It’s all very confusing.

I started the journal because I needed a way to sort out the time soup we all find ourselves floating in now. I don’t write every day, but I try to record something for each one, so I can untangle it all, eventually.

On Day 7 I wrote a tiny play about life in quarantine, about having the doors open to spring weather, about feeling lost. At the end one character asks “What are we going to do?” The other character offers to read a poem. I might not be dealing with this like most people are.

On Day 9, we finished watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a family, I coached my son through an emotional crisis about recording music for school, and a two-week stay-at-home order was issued.

I woke up in a terrible funk on Day 11, angry and sad and scared, but my daughter played some beautiful music on the violin. The next day I saw what I think was a Cayuga duck, I had a nice talk from six feet away with the flower lady at the grocery store, and I learned my aunt was sick with Covid symptoms. Day 13, I was excited to see a pileated woodpecker, and the day after that I made a pesto of kale, arugula, and basil, but only after having a meltdown because I thought we’d run out of cheese.

There are people dying. Cheese is a stand-in, I think.

On Day 18, it was announced that schools will be closed at least until May 1, and on Day 19 I started teaching students again, remotely. Of my students, I wrote, “They are so aware of this bizarre historic moment. They are trying to be positive, They are scared. They are curious. I’m reminded all over again why I like teaching them.”

I went for a walk and saw more woodpeckers, ducks, geese, blackbirds, a heron, and a little brown bat.

I went to a wine tasting in Portugal on Day 21, remotely of course, the same day the stay at home order was extended to May 1. My teenage kids sat in our laps after dinner and we all told silly jokes. The following day, I saw a lot of turtles on my walk, and I wore a mask to the grocery store for the first time.

On Day 24 I baked the best chocolate cake ever.

On Day 27, our neighbor finally lost her temper with the noise of my son’s drumming. Her message was long, emphatic, and apologetic. I found out my aunt is OK. She’s back to babysitting her grandson. We are lucky. She fit the profile of someone likely to die from the virus.

On Day 29, I lost it because a celebrity wondered on Twitter what we were all hoping to get from  this time of introspection. People are dying. I also found a stray dog and wrote that dresses and jewelry look like quaint relics of a bygone era.

There are four blank lines in my journal for each of the seven days since.

My chest hurts with sadness and anxiety as I look at them.

I’ve been busy with work, and I’ve settled into a featureless time porridge. This is the week I stopped wearing real pants. Nice shirts, but pajama bottoms. Why not?

And here we are. Day 37. I’m wearing real pants. The Distance continues. There are protesters demanding the world be returned to normal. I fear things will be opened too soon. There is no normal. I saw another woodpecker yesterday. Today, I read Wordsworth to people on Zoom.

Toni Thayer has received two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards -- in 2020 for fiction and in 2016 for playwriting. Her work has been published and produced in small venues locally and nationally. She has taught at Cleveland State, Hathaway Brown School, and the old Lit Cleveland.