By D’vorah Kost
An urban dweller all my life, I have longed, since childhood, to experience country living. As a child, I was dismayed and often bored by the monotonous manicured suburbia where I grew up. I fantasized about living where I could wander winding dirt roads and forests, find rocks and trees to climb and have adventures! After 68 years, I have joyfully arrived in such a place, thanks to this 2020 pandemic urban lockdown, all Seattle obligations cancelled, and my (previously long-distance) partner residing here. It's quite perfect, because when one tends a lot of land, you don't go out much anyway, and now we don't go out even more.
Being here day after day is as awesome as I imagined, nestled in the Chuckanut Mountains, with the expanse of land, lake and endless trees that surround us, with no houses or people in view. Lots of birds, squirrels, snakes in the straw, and an occasional bunny or lizard appear instead. I never knew I would find such comfort in being isolated. When we are told that the most helpful thing we can do for our community is to stay home as much as possible we have complete permission, if not encouragement, to embrace our oft-neglected inner introvert. Insider's Introverts out there, stand up and be counted!
Dramatic shifts in the movement of sun and clouds change the lighting of the landscape throughout the day. From morning through evening, looking out our western windows, I unwittingly fall into a reverie, which can easily turn into an almost-trance, and then the pull to tend to a garden bed, or the horse that resides on our pasture. That's the magic of Nature--she is a seductress, offering blue-green serenity and simplicity. A real luxury, I NEVER thought i would feel so at ease with this. Rather, I would expect my long-standing guilt about my privilege to rear its ugly head, declaring "That is not the REAL WORLD. What about the suffering masses, the individual stories, the horrors of the daily news?" But honestly, it is true that Nature is also the real world. What better place for me to be, tending land and birds and horse, in deepest gratitude, and learning to live in intimate partnership, after 25 years of deliberate independence? I sheepishly admit that I could live like this for months, coronavirus or no.
That said, I still do mentally wrestle, as did e.e. Cummings, who wrote, “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult.”
It's not surprising that savoring is far easier for me. As for saving the world, I am reminded, again, of a childhood longing: to end poverty, hunger and injustice. Now, in my "mature wisdom", I just embrace my feelings of overwhelm and helplessness and deep disappointment that human evolution hasn't arrived there YET.
For many years now, I have been intermittently nursing a philosophical anticipation that some MAJOR disruption to life-as-we-know-it, is going to occur in my lifetime. Usually this vision would feature either a gradual (obviously begun decades ago) or sudden, cataclysmic catastrophe related to our climate emergency. We in Seattle have been fearing The Big One—an earthquake--which, per geological predictions, is overdue.
I didn't foresee a pandemic, but I'm not surprised. Bewildered yes, surprised no.
At the same time, all my life, i have been engaging in moments of magical thinking. As a child, i fantasized BEING magic. Since adulthood the vision usually involves a belief that, in my lifetime, Global Transformation shall be upon us, like the arrival of Messiah. (maybe it's too late for me to be discovered as such, but could it be my granddaughter?) Or perhaps the '100th Monkey' phenomenon would occur, in which just one more person learning/doing what is right and good provides the tipping point for real change to happen. Then there is Joanna Macy, environmental activist, teacher, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory and deep ecology. She coined the term THE GREAT TURNING, referring to the belief that we are in the throes of the third revolution, (the first being the era of the agricultural revolution, the second the era of the industrial revolution, and this one being the environmental revolution). She points to the choice facing us: we can participate in actions toward healing and sustainability, or continue to promote the 'industrial growth society' which will likely lead to human demise.
I desperately want to believe that the majority of human beings prefer cooperation over competition, kindness over brutality, truth over lies, and is willing to make sacrifices for climate justice. Why wouldn't we want equality, freedom, peace and justice for all instead of the violence, abuse of power, and tragic disparity that exists? Am I fooling myself?
Because the world is now being shaken up in a way that we've never seen before, doesn't that suggest big change opportunity? How about an economy not based on money, competition, greed and exploitation, but rather a give and take in which no one is a have-not? How about a bottom line not tied to the "holy dollar" but based on the common good?
Can we PLEASE not return to the former normal, a system in which it is acceptable that Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, has a net worth of $36 billion while his workers are being laid off with two week's lousy pay? Don't get me started on listing how much is unacceptable these days, starting with the current White House.
Let us not go back to the way things were. Let us find an equitable economic system, one that cares for the sick and the weak and the old, the young, the parents, the workers and the farmers, the indigenous and the immigrant, the artist and the teacher, the scientist and the spiritual guides, the healers, poets, writers, dancers, musicians, gardeners....the entire human family.
In this third chapter of my life, I need to be hopeful about the future, which will require moving beyond the habitual, both personally and societally. I believe it's time for those of us privileged folks to make sacrifices. We must think outside the box in order to realize what is possible. It won't be easy, of course. We will need creative, brilliant, kind and ethical leaders in every field of thought and implementation. Otherwise, this pandemic will turn out to be small potatoes as far as chaos and catastrophe.. "Imagine no possessions, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too...You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."
I like to dream how it could be if, when we come out on the other side of this bizarre yet oddly real phenomenon of pandemapocolypse, we will continue to work towards healing the planet and ourselves like never before, thus ever closer to Global Transformation. The artist, Judy Chicago, offers an interpretation of the Jewish Aleynu prayer that expresses dream quite well. I've excerpted a few lines:
"And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power...
...And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth's abundance..."
This is my hope, my wish, my prayer. So may it be. Amen. Ameen. Selah. Ho!
Hairy Woodpecker on our birdfeeder, Steller’s Jay waits her turn.
"Antibodies don't ensure immunity."
Anna's Hummingbird dances by the window.
"Unrelenting stress for health care professionals."
Cherry blossoms float on wind like snow.
"It will take years for the economy to rebound"
Now a Flicker is at the feeder Now the darkened clouds reveal some sun, and the lighting changes once again.
"A research paper suggests a more contagious strain.....Europe.....experts are skeptical...no scientific consensus."
New info, contradictory info, biased info, opportunistic info, fantasy info, fear-mongering info, conspiracy-driven info all occupying, 24/7, the incessant waves of media. Tune in? Or tune out---as i must do regularly, as evidenced above. Just turning my head. Looking out the window. Aaaahhh.
But we are all deeply impacted, unless we've been stranded for months on an inaccessible island. Most of us are homebound with an onslaught of news like we've never encountered. This crazy-making info and radical required behavior change may render us all insane before we even get a vaccine, or, God forbid, catch the virus.
Some temporary antidotes: step outside, find a tree, flower, rock, anything of the natural world, to deeply appreciate. Breathe deeply, boost your oxygen content, talk to yourself as though you were reassuring a friend who's about to have a meltdown. Find that which makes you laugh, like the cartoons that Andrea publishes here. Or Mel Brooks films. Or or or....
"Change is imminent, and can be a friend" said my hero, Andrew Cuomo, this morning. I've been watching his briefings from the get-go, to confirm Reality, hear a leader I can trust. I'd love to see a write-in campaign, "Cuomo for President, 2020." I know he's declined, but with a little pressure from an adoring public?
We are living history in the making during this pandemic of COVID-19, in which a teeny-tiny microscopic organism has forced 21st century human beings to radically change our most basic interactive behaviors, and to suffer the loss of so much that we have been taking for granted. So many lives have been upended through enormous loss, serious and lesser disappointments, unexpected and daunting challenges the world over. Who can fathom these numbers, these personal stories, these life and death and economic repercussions of COViD-19? So much we do not know. It's very humbling. It seems like we are all players in an intriguing and baffling movie, wondering how it will end. What an opportunity to learn the Truth that we are all interconnected.