a double haiku:
even in the midst
of coronavirus fear
this earth speaks to me.
dirt beneath our feet
embraced by walls of red rock.
it’s beating my heart.
the little red schoolhouse on cuba hill road was the place i went to kindergarten. built in 1903 it was a place of important early learnings – the stuff you learn at five and six – things this back-in-the-day first teacher, who you fall desperately in love with, would impart to you through kind, objective, steady lessons. it wasn’t that my sweet momma or poppo weren’t teaching me kindergarten-level-rules, but learning them in a place where i was surrounded by other children and could practice them immediately in-real-life i would guess had more impact. lasting lessons are often those that come through experience, through feeling and doing rather than simply hearing.
share your toys. take your turn. say please and thank you. wash your hands. do your own work. hold the door for others. keep your hands to yourself. be kind. help others. listen when others speak. be respectful of your elders. follow the rules.
i don’t specifically remember days in kindergarten but i know that i have always been a rule-follower in school and would not imperil another’s playground time by not paying attention, by disobeying, by being impervious to an adult’s directions for work that needed to be done or instructions for safe practices. i would not have ignored the be-absolutely-quiet rule during fire or duck-and-cover drills. i would not have continued talking or wreaking havoc were my teacher – or any other teacher, for that matter – to have asked for silence.
the rules seemed simple at five. we were each individually and as a group asked to follow them. those easy rules were designed to preclude chaos and our freedom to learn and have fun was never sacrificed in the process of following them. the consequences of disregarding them seemed dire – staying in during playtime. one child’s misbehavior often led to the whole class missing playground. to be THAT child was not a sought-after title. instead, we would work together – in our five-year-old beehive fashion – to clean up the classroom and desks and chairs so that we were all ready – together – to go play.
it’s the way i feel about masks. it hasn’t been recommended to us by medical and science professionals to wear masks as a lark. this recommendation comes with passionate imploring. it is a simple rule. if this, then that. conditional. if we wear masks, we will dramatically lower the transmission of this global pandemic raging through our country. it is a proven fact and other countries have shown their adherence to mask-wearing has flattened the curve of the disease. pretty simple, yes. a mask.
instead, there are those people who flagrantly ignore this simple if-this-then-that. we see them everywhere. it’s breathtaking. and their display of arrogant individualism at a time of an intense need to care-for-community means one thing: we will not get to go out to play.
it was but a mere second – nigh unto 4:30 in the morning – when my sweet poppo was on this planet and then wasn’t.
i said a wee-hours-goodnight to him, propped in a hospital bed at home in their house. he whispered back to me. i tried desperately to memorize his face, the love in his eyes.
and before the birds woke up in the morning, that morning eight years ago yesterday, i went from with to without.
three years later, we left my sweet momma sitting on the edge of her assisted-living-bed, grasping onto the blue-notebook-that-documented-their-moments-in-europe, her expression dancing with excitement, waving to us. i tried desperately to memorize her face, the love in her eyes.
it wasn’t but a couple weeks later, on the road back again to florida, around the time the sun is highest in the sky, i went from with to without.
suddenly, i was orphaned. suddenly i was without the two people who gave me life. suddenly i was without the two people who could answer any question i had about my growing up. suddenly – in a split second – nothing was the same.
100,000 families. in the past few months, due to the global pandemic decimating our country, 100,000 families have desperately tried to memorize a loved one’s face. they have held tightly to the memory of love shining in their beloved’s eyes. they have moved from one split second into the next. with to without.
and last night, on the solemn occasion of this number passing from 99,999 to over 100,000 – that one second – one person- one life – one with to without – i expected, foolishly, that something would change. that there would be gut-wrenching acknowledgement. that there would be communal nation-wide mourning led by the person in the highest seat in the land. that there would be kind, generous, thoughtful words spoken, grief-filled heart-soaked empathy for all that the withs-to-withouts have gone through.
we need remember. all of it. these are our split seconds.
”…in a split second, our lives can turn around…”
they have. they continue to.
this is real.
IN A SPLIT SECOND from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood
we just read/watched the new york times interactive article from may 24 called ‘an incalculable loss’. tiny people on the screen of our laptop, nearly 100,000 lives were represented – deaths from march 8. the visual is mind-boggling, staggering really.
we paused at every descriptor on the screen for people who had died. a man who loved to wear suspenders. a woman who always smiled. a composer. a mother of six boys. every one of them with lives and circles – concentric circles reaching out and out and out.
of the excuses, the justifications. the inadequacy. the gross miscalculations. the ignorance. the comparisons to the flu, car accidents, natural attrition. the opening-up push-for-the-purposes-of-an-election despite the fact that whole-cities-numbers of people (PEOPLE) are dying in short order.
bone-weary. of the division, the based-on-nothing arguments, the dangerous political game-playing, the i-don’t-wanna-wear-a-mask-so-i-won’t whining, the inability of those “in charge” to focus, the heinous lack of regard for truth, the gross name-calling, disrespect and distraction from the president’s mouth, the dogged inaction of that same office to quell the spread, to actually even the playing ground for all and address the real issues, the zealousness of those who have his nationalistic vision in their rose-colored glasses of divisiveness, of inequity, of apathy.
these are lives. people who never expected in march to not be here on memorial day to recognize and honor the fallen, those who actually have protected us. oh, you say from-the-‘other-side’, that’s everyone – no one has any guarantees on life, you argue. ahh. but we can expect that we live in a place that has our best interests at heart. that we live in a country that will do all that it can, with all of its armor of knowledge and research and its vast fortunes, to protect us all – every one of us – from something like this – a mere global pandemic.
i write to both My Girl and My Boy every night to say good night. i have since the day they left for college. that’s about 4,380 times for my daughter and 3,285 times for my son. i’m quite certain that they have rolled their eyes multiple times along the way. but the idea that these 100,000 people no longer have the option of loving their child – or anyone they care about – with a nightly goodnight wish stuns and breaks my heart. this could have been different.
we passed the park down by the beach yesterday. we passed by the marina. we passed the irish pub. we passed by the bar with wide open doors, people spilling out onto sidewalk seating. we counted four masks. in all those people, all those crowds, all that bustling humanity – up-close-and-personal-no-social-distancing – only four masks. this is one of the very towns – kenosha, wisconsin – used as an example of a whole city wiped out to illustrate the number 100,000. it makes me tired.
“you keep thinking people are going to wake up, but they never do,” said a friend yesterday.
tired and disheartened. alive, wide-awake and pissed.
i woke in the middle of the night to discover i was spooning the cat. he jumps up on the bed and, pretty much like a sack of concrete, settles in for a long night’s nap, mostly because, well, clearly, the other 23 hours he slept in the day were not ample enough sleep. he snugs in and prevents movement of most sorts: there will be no blanket adjustments, no leg adjustments, little rolling over. my hot flashes necessitate much wrestling to find cooler air as he has permanently planted his sweet large body and is down for the count. and so, you must adjust. granted, his sleep-apnea-style-snoring would be cause for plucking-and-moving (to another room) but we love him and suffer his sleeping-sovereignty; the benefits outweigh the costs.
sally told me that there is a machine that duplicates the frequency of a cat’s purring vibration. i did not know that cat purring is healing and restorative – to broken or fractured bones, tendons, joints, muscles, infections. we would rent out babycat but i am trying to figure out how to make him lay on my broken-and-in-the-ridiculously-slow-process-of-healing wrists. once again, the benefits outweigh the costs.
i hadn’t ever had a cat before b-cat, but now it’s been almost eleven years. he is in some ways more of a dog than a cat, having tolerated a parent who knows dogs and was too busy at the time to read ‘kittens for idiots’ all the way through. so he sits when asked and speaks when asked and does dog-like things. however, he rides the fence and takes advantage of cat-like things at will, like claws. and he is fickle as fickle can be. jen explained that cats will patiently ‘allow’ you to stroke them and pet them and fondle them, all seemingly appreciated, until the doll flips and it suddenly reaches out with both front paws and pulls your hand up to its razor teeth. ahh, but those moments preceding the bite…the benefits outweigh the costs.
in this time of other-worldliness and alternate-reality these creatures of ours – dogdog and babycat – are companions unlike any other. they will not argue politics or policy. they don’t strategize or scheme. they are not semantics-nuts or particularly immersed in propaganda-hunts. they will not roll their eyes at our rants nor will they feed them or egg us on. instead, they comfort when they suspect we need it. they are quiet when there’s been too much noise. they are entertaining when we need funny. they are warm in the cold pandemic plane.
and they curl up with us in solidarity. benefits always outweighing the costs.
MY LOVES ©️ 2020 david robinson
“deliriously oblivious,” i thought as we passed the bees buzzing the dandelions on the trail. with no real idea of the state of the pandemic-battered world, these bees were just going about their bee-life. in some silly way, i was jealous.
much of the time right now i feel as if we are living in an alternate reality than others. we shop with masks; many wander about fresh-faced and seemingly unaware. we distance from others; we pass gatherings of people, clearly not related, all not even a smidge apart from each other. we walk in single file on the side of the trail as we approach others; groups of people swarm the trail, passing right by us, unmasked, unconcerned. we yearn to travel a bit, see our children, our families; others post about their gatherings or even trips. we patiently work by videoconference, technology reigns supreme these days waiting for a time when it is safer to venture out; crowds protest and push for heedless immediate re-opening. our hearts break for families losing loved ones to this dangerous virus; deaths are reported as cold numbers sans empathy. the weighing of losing more lives vs ‘opening up’ is posed as an actual question. it feels like we are on another plane of existence watching the world, abiding by different rules. truly.
and right here, in the middle of it all, the bees buzz from dandelion to dandelion, and soon flower to flower, seeking nectar. migratory birds return to the skies above and animals return to prowl about in warmer temperatures. in other parts of the country and the world, wildlife is enjoying a reprieve from people. in what must be a breath of fresh air for them, animals are freer to roam, freer to linger. their curiosity is taking them off the beaten path, out of their norm. i wonder if there is some kind of intuition that informs them; i wonder if they are somehow conscious of this looming threat to humanity. i wonder what they are thinking as they watch this play out, the impact of a pandemic on health, relationships, mindfulness, neighborliness, working in community together. i wonder how they, in the infinite wisdom of instinct, would decide if someone placed the words ‘health’ and ‘economy’ in front of them and made them choose just one.
there are moments i am convinced that dogdog and babycat know. i’m sure that they can feel the anxiety we hold. dogga, in particular, watches our faces for cues, his gaze is eye-to-eye-contact riveting. they hover about us, close by. perhaps unmindful of the pandemic, but certainly conscious of our emotions.
and as bumblebees begin to buzz in our backyard, the dog chases them. the birds begin to discover there is water in the pond again. the squirrels dance across the wires. the turkey lands on the roof. the sun rises earlier. the lettuce starts to grow.
CONFUSED. CONFUSING. CONFUSION.
we don’t go into any store without a mask on. the way we understand this – is that this is essential. in an effort to curb the spread of this pandemic, protect others and do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ we need to follow simple protocol.
at the risk of redundancy, which i have been accused of before, we have been appalled at the lack of people wearing masks. it’s not like you are being asked to undergo a colonoscopy before entering the grocery store (or worse yet, the prep for one); it is a simple request: wear a mask. yet, there we are, in the store and we can feel the now-familiar tightness-in-our-chest-anxiety rising as we attempt to move away from people who seem to care little about distancing or breathing their aerosols our way. what-on-earth-is-so-hard-about-this??
david went to a small grocery the other day. he had his mask and he had brought disinfecting wipes with him. neither of these were burdensome to him. he walked into a somewhat crowded store and found that he was the only one wearing a mask. what?!
wwmrd? (what would mr. rogers do?): be a good neighbor. (i’m betting he’d wear a mask.)
we live in wisconsin so it would seem prudent to look up what the department of health services has to say about this:
When should I wear a cloth face cover?
Wearing a cloth face cover may be beneficial as it may help to protect others from germs you may be spreading without knowing it. (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm)
that seems relatively clear. embracing redundancy once again: “you should wear a cloth face cover when you are outside the home conducting essential activities such as going to work, to the grocery store, pharmacy, banking and enjoying outdoor activities while maintaining physical distancing.”
down the street the state of illinois is requiring face masks. ahhh, you say with a cavalier smirk unhidden by a face mask. that state has a democratic governor, you point out as you enumerate the many ways that the government is taking over your personal life by issuing coronavirus guidelines. i’m not a biologist or an epidemiologist but i suspect that this pandemic is not stopping to discern the difference between democrats and republicans. and a face mask, worn by you or the people you encounter in a day, just might protect you, your family members, your friends, your colleagues, the people-who-you-don’t-know-at-the-grocery-store-but-who-count-anyway.
so why are the vast majority of people not wearing masks? why are so many folks not social distancing? why are people announcing vacations on facebook? vacations? are we even encouraged to do that right now? (because who wouldn’t love to go merrily on a vacation for a while?) one sweet person, who lives in another state, replying to a text of mine that bemoaned missing my children asked me if we were on “house arrest”. everything is confusing.
one of the funniest, albeit a tad off-color, clarifications of the what-would-mr-rogers-do approach i read said: “having some states locked down and some states not locked down is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.” no exponential brainpower needed there. i would think that swimming-pool-water-rule applies to most all the guidelines. seems pretty clear to me.
i guess i’m just saying i don’t understand. this is a global pandemic. despite a plethora of conspiracy theories distorting reality, there is medicine and there is science. i, for one, would rather place my trust in the people immersed in those than in self-aggrandizing politicians or propaganda-pushers, each ignoring medical science in their own creative ways. there is a difference. “america strong” reads the flag we pass on 7th avenue. strength and resilience are found in unity, not division, in working together, not apart, in being neighborly.
as the country begins to prematurely open up and disregard the CDC’s guidelines as “overly restrictive” we will likely download that multi-page guide. we would like to see more specifically how we can do our part . thinking they might actually protect us, we want to see the ‘overly restrictive’ restrictions. we want to participate in a responsible way. we will follow these guidelines as best we can. we will social distance. we will cough into our elbow. we will not gather. we will not pee in the pool.
and we will freaking wear masks, even if we are the only ones.
delayed gratification. it’s something we are growing used to in these days of days. anticipatory glee. it’s all an exponential wait-for-it. as relatively impatient people, these are mostly new learnings. there is no date on which we can hang our all-will-be-normal hats. we must vamp until we know.
a long, long time ago, in the end of march, there was an opinion written by a woman with two teenage daughters who had a new appreciation for the way her grandparents lived. she expressed that these grandparents owned a tiny home and had simple furnishings. they took pleasure in the most basic of things: dancing in the living room, watching a bare minimum on tv, sitting on the porch, crossword puzzles, having conversation, walking the familiar sidewalks of their tiny town over and over again, handwashing the dishes. in the midst of this pandemic she could see their shining appreciation of the smallness, the stillness. she could see the brilliance.
it occurs to me that we are living elements of her grandparents’ lives; i hope the same wisdoms will be bestowed upon us. in the time after we have finished our work, we dance on the patio, watch little on tv, converse together, in texts, on the phone, on videoconferences, across driveways. we sit on the deck or in the sunroom and watch spring chuggingly arrive. we walk the same sidewalks we have walked together for years, noticing small changes: the heaved concrete or the bloomed daffodils, new mulch in gardens or new sturdy fencing. we cook dinner; we do the dishes. we are both quiet as we wait for what will come and we are just a little noisy in the moment.
to everything there is a season. a time to plan. where we will go, what we will do, who we will visit. gratification, yes, delayed, but sage learnings in the moment.
one of the memorable texts of this waiting-place was one from a friend. after some really serious life conversation, back and forth texting, she wrote, “let’s go out and have a drink.” before i could wonder when we could do that, her next text arrived, “next year,” she added.
in the meanwhile we’ll do the dishes by hand and walk the sidewalks, waiting and planning, yearning, vamping till the song starts.
the contagion is not merely the virus, although that is more than enough for this tenuous world to handle. the contagion is seeping into relationship, into communities, into cities and states. it exhibits as an inability for people to have conversation about this pandemic. it is a pestilence that hovers over the virtual aisle between us, waiting to swarm in locust fashion. it is pervasive. it is contention.
we took the helm of a performing arts center last year. when we started, we sat with the board of directors at our first official board meeting and told them that, in all things, we would be wearing our ‘what’s best for TPAC?’ hats. we would ask questions: what is best for the whole? what is best to move the organization in a progressive way? what is best to open the organization’s heart to embrace ideas in an equitable way, in a forward-thinking way, in a way that will keep the organization safe from harm and pushing toward better health. we have worn the ‘what’s best for TPAC?’ hats proudly, through thick and thin, for it is in the organization-as-a-whole that we are invested. we haven’t always been popular, and in fact at times have been shunned in silence by this same board, but we have stayed steady in our quest to keep the performing arts center and its needs central and not to get lost in self-serving contention that exhibits as peripheral arguments or sidelined motives. the possibilities of grand health and as a wildly successful place artists wish to be are all within reach for TPAC; all personal agenda need be left at the door and the wooden stage of this beautiful performing arts center will be filled with creating, performing, reaching audiences of all manner, flourishing, as the mission statement tagline reads.
our country sits smack in the middle of a global pandemic that demands we put on our ‘what’s best for ALL of us?’ hats. we are seeking health. and, though we as a world have not garnered all the information about this specific covid-19 disease that we need, it seems that the brilliant scientists and doctors, epidemiologists, researchers and public health experts have asked an abundance of questions and given us some guidelines. these guidelines, put in place and central, are not the stuff of popularity contests. they are the stuff of those ‘what’s best?’ hats, the stuff of steady leadership, the stuff of keeping people safe from harm and pushing toward bettering health. through thick and thin, and with sacrifice, it doesn’t seem too much to adhere to these guidelines as a means to an end.
but cavalier complaint, unrest and protest are rampant. and contention ensues. ‘we’ll have to agree to disagree’ we hear time and again. i wonder what it is we are disagreeing on? can we ask questions: is it the wish for all people to be well? is it cooperation with each other to that end? is it communal responsibility? is it adhering to recommended guidelines, among others: to stay home, maintain social distancing, wear a mask? these are not difficult asks and have proven to be effective at flattening the curve of this disease, a disease whose myriad symptoms exhibit in so many ways, in which dying is devastatingly painful and lonely, and one is suffocated with the pansy words ‘agree to disagree’, tentacles of irony and shameful smugness killing any chance of conversation. misinformation begets misinformation. it encourages loud dissension, infighting, uprisings bearing arms, people basing decisions on erroneous reports; it misguides. instead, misinformation guides people down paths of complacency, lazy inaction, self-serving-disregard-for-others the hat of choice.
we are living in a state of ‘agree to disagree’ and where has it gotten us? agree to disagree. at what cost? over 1.1 million americans have already contracted this virus and over 65,000 have died.
is there a chance we could agree to agree? can we ask questions: that perhaps over 64,000 in two months is too many deaths? that humanity – each of us – is not dispensable? that we cannot move anything forward without health, without living and breathing people, including an economy of any value to humankind?
what’s really ‘best for ALL of us’? can we ask questions: in this country touting that it is helping each of us, might it be possible to actually help each of us, instead of the not-so-hidden inequity sorely apparent even in the structure of stimulus bills and tax packages? might it be possible to recognize that goading people into angry protest is not a responsible re-election campaign strategy? might it be possible that angrily and aggressively bearing automatic weapons in public venues is unacceptable? might it be possible that bullying should not be seen as a substitute for incompetent leadership? that division is not a cure; it will neither heal or stimulate. division will further divide this indivisible-one-nation-under-God. “the ‘invisible enemy’, as the so-called leader of this country refers to coronavirus, is not the pandemic, but, rather, the malignancy in this current administration. in this country of hats, can we please wear the ‘what’s best for ALL of us?’ hats?
the wooden stage waits ad nauseam for all of us to have conversation, to ask questions, to work together, to agree to agree; it waits while we heal, while we ensure people can be well, while we take steps forward-thinking, while we leave personal agenda at the door, escape from the grasp of this viral pandemic and, maybe even more, from this corrupt nation-destructing contagion.
and then, bathed in a spotlight aimed at our ‘what’s best for ALL?’ hats, we will flourish.
and as yesterday passed into today and i drifted off to sleep i knew, despite that she is on a different plane of existence, my sweet momma was holding me close to her. it was bracing to think of the five year mark that has just passed now since she has been gone and the every-day-missing-her that goes along with that. no different with my dad. in a month it will be eight years and i can hear his “hi brat” in my heart. i have no doubt that he is right there, holding on tightly. both of them. forever and ever.
it is a fact. this parenthood thing is mind-bogglingly paramount. ever forward from the day they are born. it is all-consuming. in every good and every daunting way. every most-jubilant and every brutally-difficult way. every securely-confident and every tumultuously-distressing way. every way.
in this pandemic time of chaos we pine for a sense of normal which escapes us. anxiety barges in and replaces our regular routines; peace escapes us. we long to see each other. we feel tired; we feel restless. we sleep more; we cannot sleep. we are astounded by the surrealness of this; we are crushed by how real this is. and we worry. it is hard to be away from those whom we love and knowing that right now we cannot go to them compounds it. my heart needs to hug My Girl and My Boy and see that all is well. we feel anxious. our wishes go unfulfilled.
and yet as today passes into tomorrow and they drift off to sleep i know, despite how busy they may be or where they are in the world, that i am holding them close. that no doubt can exist – i am right there, holding on tightly.
and i hope, like you with your beloved children, that they can feel it. forever and ever.
I WILL HOLD YOU FOREVER AND EVER ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood