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WORDS FROM FRIENDS

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA XI

In Los Angeles––clear blue skies—and in cities all over the world. In the oceans—silence not experienced in decades as cruise ships have been forced to a halt. "Ambient noise from ships and other maritime traffic can increase stress-hormone levels in marine creatures, which can affect their reproductive success," writes Marina Koren in an article in The Atlantic, The Pandemic Is Turning the Natural World Upside Down An American woman living Wuhan thought there were no birds there. Then then lockdown happened, and she heard birdsong. They were always there, she realized, but noise pollution had kept her from hearing them. This infographic from Vennage shows several other ways the pandemic is affecting the world around us: Corona Virus Impact on the Environment

 

In The Overstory by Richard Powers, the point is made again and again that we humans are not more important than the trees, the forests, the plants, the soil, the animals. They also have a right to life. And even if we think and act as if we are the pinnacle of all creation, we desperately need our fellow beings. We are rightly focused on what is happening to us humans in this global epidemic, but in the much bigger picture, something else is happening. The Earth is being renewed, albeit for a relatively short time, not only by spring, but by the absence of human impact. It amazes me how quickly Our Mother responds.

 

Over and over I hear and read the phrase, "When this is all over..." and all of us know what "this" is. But what will we do tomorrow when this is over? I'm thinking of when I can next see Cheyenne in the flesh. When will we be able to see family in Denmark, friends in New Zealand? But going to see them involves air or sea travel, increasing air and/or ocean pollution once again. I ask myself what changes I will make? All the information about the climate crisis has done little to change our collective behavior. In the time of Corona, it feels as though Mother Nature is giving us yet another loving but also harsh wake up call, a direction for us to heed. We've been forced to give our embattled Earth a little respite that is also to our benefit, but will we be more conscious of continuing when "this is all over?" Already there are signs, some of them violent, that people, perhaps in fear about their livelihoods, want to get back to business as usual. It's easy for me in my recliner to judge the people protesting the Stay At Home Order in Michigan. I, after all, have my regular retirement income, which, thus far, has not been touched by the pandemic. I am extremely grateful, but what about people who are terrified because of job loss? And when I think of change, it's so easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the tide that surges back to the way things were, so I ask myself, what can I do? How can I help us to think and act differently? What if we each thought of one change we could make and then did that one?

 

Historically pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

                                                                     ~ Arundhati Roy, Indian novelist and

                           activist

 

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA X

The casserole made of substitutions

Love in the time of corona is

 

Waiting in the parking lot for the little family to walk by

The mother saying thank you because you waited

Meeting up virtually to support the addicted health professional

Walking on opposite sides of the street with your buddy every day

Making a casserole with what's in the house

 

Love in the time of corona is

 

Sending a birthday card to your daughter's friend's 5-year-old

Chatting with friends and family

Calling people you haven't talked to in a long time

Saying yes to teaching a middle school class online

Supporting the burdened food project

 

Love in the time of corona is

 

Hearing from your daughter every day

Sending a birthday card to your niece who is a hospital nurse

Trusting your work will make a difference

Drinking up the green of the leaves

Tasting the snow on the mountains

 

What is love in the time of corona to you?

 

 

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA IX

People disparagingly call them "flying rats," and they do have some deplorable habits. Their babies are incredibly ugly. But there is beauty in the iridescence around their necks. And on Saturday evening I saw four of them, flying in pairs to join ten or so birds on a highwire. Two landed, and two went on wheeling. I watched them sail. Sail away. And back again. One on the wire—I swear she saw me watching—took off, made a gracious loop, and then came straight toward me. For a moment I thought she was going to land on my head. She stopped on the parapet of the building above me and gazed at me. I gazed back. Communion.

 

I've never disliked pigeons. They are little beings, too. They are part of urban ecology—cleaning up after humans who leave their unfinished food lying around. So who's to blame?

 

And one flew down to me on Saturday night when I was feeling all the feels––a little lonely, teary when the show I'd been binge-watching ended on such tender human notes, bereft that those virtual companions were gone from me. Wanting some company for a while. I give thanks to that one pigeon who saw me and dove down to hello me. Pigeon love.

 

"We know ourselves to be made from this earth. We know this earth is made from our bodies. For we see ourselves. And we are nature. We are nature seeing nature. We are nature with a concept of nature. Nature weeping. Nature speaking of nature to nature.

 

The red-winged blackbird flies in us, in our inner sight. We see the arc of her flight. We measure the ellipse. We predict its climax. We are amazed. We are moved. We fly. We watch her wings negotiate the wind, the substance of the air, its elements and the elements of those elements, and count those elements found in other beings, the se urchin's sting, ink, this paper, our bones, the flesh of our tongues with which we make the sound "blackbird," the ear with which we hear, the eye which travels the arc of her flight. And yet the blackbird does not fly in us but in somewhere else free of our minds, and now even free of our sight, flying in the path of her own will."

 

            ~ Susan Griffin

 

 

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA VIII

Great root seeking life at Canyon de Chelly

The presence of the life force all around us ceaselessly amazes me. Plants that appear dead revive with a little water and cutting back. Trees in the Southwest send forth astounding root systems to gather moisture from a crack in the rocks. Media most commonly present the rising death toll from COVID-19, but the percentage of recoveries far outstrips the deaths: 79% of people with confirmed cases are recovering, which means 21% die (Worldometer Corona Virus Statistics). Both numbers are probably higher, because these figures only reflect confirmed cases. It is a human survival strategy to note the negative—a holdover from the flight/fight response in our long-ago ancestors. I don't ignore the seriousness of this pandemic, and that is probably why media continue mostly to emphasize the deaths—to keep us alert and careful. But I am choosing hope, also—noting daily the numbers and stories of recovery. Noting the vast majority of people I know who are staying home and otherwise using smart precautions.

 

I am also, because it is spring, noticing the prodigious resurgence of life, as the trees green and green and green, the tiny purple flowers most consider weeds burst into the sunlight. Cambodians wait until spring to celebrate the New Year, which will be on April 14-16 this year, although it won't be celebrated due to strict quarantine observation [edited]. Because newness of life is so evident in this season, humans have ever celebrated the return of life in springtime—the lunar New Year, Easter, Beltane. Maybe with greater verve this year than in many years, we are grateful for life that comes on the heels of winter and also follows death.

 

Sometimes new life in the natural world is cradled in the death of another being, as in "The Rabbit," by Mary Oliver from Three Rivers Poetry Journal.

 

THE RABBIT

 

Scatterghost,

it can't float away.

And the rain, everybody's brother,

won't help. And the wind all these days

flying like ten crazy sisters everywhere

can't seem to do a thing. No one but me,

and my hands like fire,

to lift him to a last burrow. I wait

 

days while the body opens and begins

to boil. I remember

 

the leaping in the moonlight, and can't touch it,

wanting it miraculously to heal

and spring up

joyful. But finally

 

I do. And the day after I've shoveled

the earth over, in a field nearby

 

I find a small bird's nest lined pale

and silvery and the chicks—

 

are you listening, death?—warm in the rabbit's fur.

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