Pandemic, with a Side of Poetry

I want to write something hopeful. It’s Spring and object lessons abound…and we all need something hopeful. Outside, the tree branches are bursting into buds and the grass is saturating into a brighter shade of green. The garden chipmunks have emerged from their state of torpor and have been working on their dens. The possums and raccoons who shuddered through every cold night, fighting frostbite and hunger and thirst, survived.

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain and birdsong. For about 30 seconds, I breathed in uncomplicated wonder before I remembered the world is in a state of plague and panic.

I’m not ready to write a hopeful piece yet. But I can write something about what it feels like, persevering through this moment.

Like everyone else right now, I’ve got my own inventory of dread that holds me somewhere between functionally anxious and forgetting-to-breathe terrified. I’m worried about getting sick with COVID19 with a high-risk condition; about my husband, my children, my mom, and my friends getting sick. I’m worried about the economy, the country, the world; about the way this pandemic will mark all of us, in large and small ways, for years to come. I’m obsessed with making sure we have enough groceries, vitamins, medicines, toilet paper, and pet food in the house (though I am not hoarding!). I’m panicked and heartbroken about hospitals not having enough protective equipment and ventilators. I am afraid when I read the news (I can’t watch it), and I’m afraid when I don’t; I’m afraid about all I don’t know. I hit refresh, refresh, refresh to cope.

I ask my family: “How may I make your pandemic more pleasant?” And I’m not being facetious.

Because just as much as the worries above can feel unbearable, we are also living some beautiful moments. Though we homeschool anyway, without appointments or outings to go to, our days feel more expansive. We are getting through our learning faster, reading more, walking more, talking more; we are catching up on projects and movies and shows (thank you, Netflix and Hulu and Apple TV). We are practicing random acts of creativity and connectivity (thank you, FaceTime and Zoom). We are all together, all still healthy.

More lyrical (and more forgivable) than intrusive thoughts are intrusive lines of poetry. My brain pits Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise” against Nan Cohen’s “Festival of Booths.” One starts out in life and ends in death; the other starts with disaster and ends with redemption. I know them both well enough to loop (refresh, refresh, refresh).

But still, I have a favorite. Reader, I want my hope to be greater than my fear.

“Your walls will fall, are falling, have fallen.

Your roof is open to the countless stars.”

“Festival of Booths” by Nan Cohen

It may be Spring but the day for a hopeful post is not today.

Another day…the words I want to write are: the world felt it was going to end, but it bloomed again, anyway.

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