I read a collection of modern haiku the other day, and the words that stayed with me were Quarantine! Finding comfort! Coronavirus! Butterfly! Moon! Breeze!
It was a good reflection of how my bouncing mind felt as Portland and the rest of the country continue to tremble and quake, where there is no turning aside from the crazy human tragi-comedy that seems to only bring more suffering.
At the same time I watched the waxing gibbous moon, the tender purple beet shoots, the peapods dangling on vines surrounded by yellow and orange nasturtiums. There’s the delight of grandchildren singing in the hammock, or emerging from the house arrayed in dress up clothes, a beret perched dashingly on the eight year old’s head. They have come to this country, they tell me with a slight accent, to visit the people.
Ezra at 5 years old, is a precise child, a careful explainer of his world. He recently used the word “specifically,” pronouncing it carefully to get all the consonants in the right place.
We asked him to consider what we’d like to say later in a video chat with GG, his great-grandmother, whom he hasn’t seen in 3 months. Her signature phrase (one said to my own children when they were young) is, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” They tell her, you always say that, but I think they take the message to heart. Ezra suggested with delight that he use the phrase on her before she gets a chance to. Then he wandered off to the sandbox, immersing himself in the delicious texture of wet grains, forming the mountains and streams of an unambiguous world where he is in charge.
Later, when we thought he’d forgotten all about the approaching phone call, he said, very carefully, precisely, “I’m going to tell her, have you told me lately that you love me?”
At times it feels like the Eden before the fall: a beautiful garden in the company of two delightful children, where nothing is worse than not getting your way, waiting to get your needs met, or getting a bump on the head.
Just outside the garden gate lies a world of suffering, virus and hate. I struggle to hold it all as one thought and one world, seeing “the whole moon and the entire sky reflected in one dewdrop” (Zen master Dogen). But mostly I’m in a battle with evil and good, laughing and crying, confused and clear.
A young friend is dealing with a stream of challenges over several years: violence, her mother dying young, evacuating and moving repeatedly with a newborn during the worst fires of our times, mold illness, liver failure, cancer treatment and back surgery. She is a loving soul and I wonder how all this can land on one person? Her photos show her illness-ravaged but still gorgeous face, and the same eyes I knew when she was a child, and I’m thunderstruck by how any one person can withstand so much chaos and pain.
But she does, pushing through for her now two year old. And the Black Lives Matter protesters do, pushing through for a life worth living. And we do, we keep pushing, holding it all. I try to write through it, listen more carefully, laugh and cry, walk and dig in the dirt, take care of the children, and keep moving, one step, one breath, and then another.
Thanks for walking with me.