Morning before 8. I’ve gotten up, dressed, set up breakfast, taken out garbage cans, said hello to the guy across the street who is returning from food shopping—Ah, the wonder of senior hours. I wish I had opened a window last night to wake up to the birds. There is a lot of bird song this morning; the street, this tiny enclave, is quiet. Julia is still asleep—classes begin at 10, so no need to rush her up. I have my fresh, hot coffee and I put myself on the front porch to tap on this machine of see what comes to life.
It has been another challenging week although the challenges have been different. Julia did most of her school work, with even a bit of help from me; however, we’ve had trouble getting her linked into the zoom calls. I’ve asked the school IT for help—re-boot and reinstall—and then no way to connect. I was enormously frustrated yesterday. No way to get in, no way to get immediate help for class after class. Reboot and reinstall. I am almost sure it is my fault. I am probably doing some part of the set up wrong which makes me feel quite inadequate especially when I manage to sit Julia in front of her chrome book for class after class and she is utterly frustrated when it fails to connect. I wonder why I am not willing to just give her a pass, give us both a pass, duck out of school and go for a walk.
The saving grace yesterday was an art assignment she was working on and has worked on for three days. The assignment was about shape and the artist referenced was Faith Ringgold. She is an artist whose work I am familiar with and I directed Julia to many more pictures, many more websites than she was assigned. Julia plugged in her anime obsession and created a large-for-her work a la Ringgold.
So when the zoom links failed, there was the art assignment. The weekly art assignments and her blog drawings have become an increasingly important part of Julia’s work week. I was pushed to think some about summer and beyond.
When I woke up this morning, I realized that yesterday’s zoom fiasco was reminiscent of old repetitive nightmares—showing up for a final without ever going to a class, waiting in the wings without ever looking at a script— about control or rather the lack thereof. Yes, and a metaphor for the time. So much is beyond personal control. That is what those gun totting fools storming statehouses and that much bigger fool sitting in his white house rail again. Loss of control. No way to bamboozle the facts he does not like. This is a time to abide, listen, make peace with ambiguity, find a way to flourish with a small rocky garden patch and a laptop, not to walk away from hard questions or sack the scientists or threaten governors who are telling truth to lies. I don’t think the fools consider taking the time to learn.
Well, I get it, fools! I am having a tough time abiding and listening too. As for flourishing in ambiguity—I fail every single day! And I believe in science—Actually, I don’t “believe” in science. I read and listen and I recognize truth and accept science. Science and community—I do believe that I must do what I can, what we can, to keep the community that I am a part of safe and healthy. The fools don’t have this belief. And here, I note that I am not arguing with people who are desperate to get back to the work for food and shelter. Their needs are much greater than mine. They are not the fools. I find it hard to believe that the best minds around the world have no solution to these needs. I take issue with the fools in bars in Wisconsin, carrying Nazi flags in Michigan, getting new tattoos in Georgia. And the biggest fool who has the power to be counseled by the best minds in the world, to feel deeply for those suffering, to pool international resources for solutions but instead uses power to humiliate reporters and to fire experts and who is concerned only with the fading wealth of his friends and his own glorification.
My frustrations are very small by any comparison, the ripples possible for me to create in my small pond hardly noticeable by a greater world, but perhaps they stem from a cause similar. How to let go of the tight fisted holding onto my small stream of control is not always evident to me. I can almost pity the powerful who have been pampered for so long and yes-ed so many times that they believe they actually to control the world. What would it take for them to learn any of this? How many and who must die for the lesson to penetrate the soul?
Earlier this week, I was talking with someone and realized that I lost count of the weeks we have been in quarantine. I imagined it was somewhere around 6 which indeed seemed like a very big number. I knew I was wrong but needed to look at a calendar to count weeks. We are at the beginning of week 10.
And it is time to bend in other directions.
~Summer is coming and Julia will need to be occupied. She is scheduled to be part of a very good Newton Summer School but there is no word yet on whether that will happen. There is no assurance that there will be actual school in the fall. I have only worried these possibilities. I need now to lean into the ambiguity and explore alternatives with curiosity.
~One thought I have is to find an art tutor to do zoom classes with Julia. She is already doing zoom cello lessons and although they are not always completely productive, she practices most days and feels good about what she does. I need to find a similar situation for her to do art. Art with purpose. Not capital “P” purpose, but day-to-day, week-to-week purpose. Someone willing to take her where she is and sculpt lessons around her interests. And most importantly, to stretch her a little bit every week. I do not have fingers in the art world here but I belong to a few email groups where I can post first questions.
~Wedding planning for the end of August should have occupied lots of summer time. At present, all planning is at a standstill. Not cancelled, not moving forward and waiting for word from a governor and the camp as to whether the camp will open at all. If the camp opens, a round of weighing whether people will come to New Hampshire for a long weekend will ensue. I am sad for Cheshire and Justin. They seem to naturally reach for alternatives but I am sad they must.
~I have allowed myself to buy plants for my little garden patch. Vegetables and annual flowers. Plants I haven’t bought in years or ever–I’ve lived in shady patches for a long time. It felt quite the extravagance when I began buying two weeks ago, but I bought more during our Mother’s Day jaunt to New Hampshire and still more yesterday at Volante Farms. And I finished planting today. In the garden, there are tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuce, rainbow chard, zucchini, tomatillo, a pumpkin, basil and parsley, sun flowers, cosmos, zinnia and many, many marigolds. There is such satisfaction in a garden planted! Had this been an ordinary year, my landlords would have been living upstairs and they would have planted this space. A pandemic boon, perhaps.
~Time to just sit and write is something I need. I have been leaving it once again to the end of the day when all I want to do is something a mindless as possible. I am sorry to say that reading has fallen to this place as well.
I have spent some time in the last ten years wondering what life would be like if I had taken other options, made different decisions, followed different paths and the like. This quarantine time has put a stop to that imagining. At least for the moment. I might be sitting on another porch, Julia might be zooming with another group, I might have planted a shadier garden or be fretting over a different writing project, but I and we would quarantined and a bit lonely somewhere like almost everyone else all over the world. Somewhere quarantine is lifting, somewhere social life is slowly beginning again, but this time of isolation and loneliness is ubiquitous. And we will talk about it one day, asking the same questions we ask about 9/11 or the JFK assassination. Where were you? How did you survive? Who did you mourn for? Where did you find relief? What was the comfort? When was there joy again? For this moment, I am present.