Julia has today off for Yom Kippur. I’ve never observed the day of atonement but this year, because it is punctuated by a school holiday, it sticks in my mind. Who to include on the list of those to ask forgiveness of, who to reach out to, who to say a silent prayer for, to give a silent thought for.
I have a list of what I’d like do during this season—reading, writing, getting body and voice into shape—and the challenge is simply beginning. Six months at home alone with Julia, working as planner and manager as well as caregiver and cook, makes the discipline to begin something for myself hard. Last week, days 4 to 8 of my free days, I did what I needed to do—finally getting to see the dentist, finding a place to fix my rocking chair and bringing it in, returning books to the library and picking up new holds, a bit of weeding and cooking. I don’t seem to be able to slam into the discipline I need but I can pick off some low hanging fruit. My lists should probably be written in circles. That low hanging fruit needs picking so it wasn’t a waste of time, it just didn’t feel like a launch.
If survival is the ability to get from day to day, then resilience is the ability to wake up in the morning with renewed vigor, reworked plans, and a smile. Do I expect too much? Today, they are twin abilities. There are people who have talked about thriving during shut down—I hear in my mind’s ear Shakespeare bragging about Lear. Why I hear the testimonies of thrivers so much louder than those people who have limped along as we have or worse . . . well, I know why.
Today, with this day off, I had planned to drive somewhere to walk amidst coloring leaves, but the the day has turned so warm that both of us have put on short pants and sandals. We are headed for a beach. Wollaston Beach in Quincy is nearby and having never been there, we set out to explore. I expected to sit on the beach, Julia wants to draw, I want to tap away and then read. I imagined ocean waves crashing and receding to make the music of the day. Wollaston is not like that. It is quiet but for the sound of cars on the beach road. The waves so small as to not disturb the gulls nestled on top of the water. If I hold my breath, there is the sound of very tiny waves lapping the shore. It will have to do. I am content to look at an expanse of water every few minutes.
The sun is warm. Yesterday, we had another outdoor choir sing. Coming late, I had to take a space far away from our conductor. I wondered at my hearing when I had a hard time understanding directions and song choices, but there was a breeze afoot and even people much closer to the inner crescent were having trouble hearing. We are, of course, masked and distanced. Yet, we still sing. I am so grateful for these sings, seeing faces, at least the top half, I am getting to know. Julia is vaguely embarrassed by my belting out hymns at home during our weekly zoom services. I tell her that I sing just this way when we are in church. She rolls her eyes. She makes disgruntled sounds when I miss correct notes or my voice cracks and I acknowledge that my voice, like my body and creative parts, are not in good shape. I have survived this time but I have lost some essential muscle.
Suddenly, the gulls gather to complain rather loudly about something. It looks like another kind of swimming bird, maybe even another variety of gull are swimming through the shallows diving for what they may find. The gulls have gathered and together work to chase the invading flock away. The new birds do not react quickly. They continue to dive and paddle but the gulls are persistent until these strangers can do nothing but give up and retreat to deeper waters. Then the gulls are quiet again. They take up positions in a line along the shore where the water meets sand. Their number thins again and some of those remaining put heads under wings for a well earned nap. The drama of the moment over.
I thought to feed the soul today with the smell of rotting leaves and a walk in the trees, instead, we at sitting on a deserted beach save the gulls and traffic. This too feeds a soul.