Here we are in the (new) summer season, supposedly normal. That is to say, normal with a recent spike in cases here in Berlin, with an entire block of houses, many of them recent refugees, individually quarantined. That is to say, normal as over 21 states in America have increases in the case numbers, and nothing like the Government in Albany to guide them. Normal, with the small exception that one cannot buy a train ticket further than a week ahead of time, and flights are almost guaranteed to be canceled more often than they fly.
It’s like Musical Chairs, said a friend who landed in Guatemala when the music stopped. She and her husband got caught in a crossfire on the streets recently, and have decided to get an armored car. It is precarious, but who is to say that she would be better ‘back home’ in America, where there are over 2 million cases and 200,000 deaths predicted by Autumn?
I’m starting to think that my cousin’s wedding that was planned for October in DC is likely to be canceled. And that trip to Japan, all that cedar wood and clarity I was hoping for in September, probably the same. Beijing is closed again with a second wave, and anything beyond the city limits is proving to be distant.
Like this we land in bed at night, sleeping with the ghosts of good times past, all our dreams and wishes of things to come. We make our offerings to our ancestors, while perhaps beginning to listen for the first time to their stories, all the relocation and subjugation and moments where bodies and souls were stripped of their dignity.
Now we pray to our better angels, and all our good ghosts. We pray because we don’t know what else to do but pray. Because suddenly, there is no escape. We are where we are, bearing witness to time as being.
I say my eyes can cry no more tears but that is a lie, for they will. Now they just take a pause, choose distraction, find a rubber boat to float down the river in and remain present with every ounce of my being.
I buy a hat. I wear my hat. The woman who sold it to me says it is a very robust hat, which pleases me. I make Vichyssoise like Grandma did in the heat of summer and eat fish sticks with frozen peas for dinner. Rosé crémant becomes a thing, as does a continued aspiration for discipline. A continual need for rest and recuperation, as well as camaraderie. We are still grounded, for better and for worse. There is a need to accept our place, as well as our distance.
It does no help to say, I don’t know why you say there’s no trust, or no respect.
When one party says it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.
You have 280 days to sit down at the table and figure it out, says the Governor. Police departments and all the voices of their communities, the ones that pay their salaries. Everyone with a voice must sit at the table. Bringing back the town meeting. Face to face. There is no unilateral policy measure here. You must all work it out, personally negotiate.
This is the Real Work of Reform —
Reform Reinvent Reconcile
But you need to Reform and Reinvent first.
90,000 MORE deaths are now predicted by autumn and public health is still being balanced with the need for personal relations. The reporters are still asking about nursing homes. I don’t think they should have an advocate who can kill them, the Governor says.
A phased reopening means we sacrifice some, while fortifying from within.
“Those are just numbers, my friends.”
The Governor could say he has blond hair, blue eyes, and a tiny button nose.
However, he doesn’t.
Stay the course
By now the focus is not so much the flowers in the park, but rather the miniature sunflowers and vibrant ruby geraniums growing in their windowsill pots. White basil blossoms and violet oregano. I wake to the sound of a man singing along to a song on the radio. I can almost make out the chorus, but it is in a different language, one I think I should know.
I return to the question. What is it that you offer? We each have our own highest potential. Our gift. But it is not a gift for us to own, it is our gift to share. Like beauty, real but unearned.
Now is the time for autogeneration — (re)creation of the self.
Everything we need is in our fingertips.
By now we have shared trauma; what’s a little more? Eventually our emotions really do become like waves and weather crashing against the well-worn wrinkles of a granite shore, the landscape of our being unchanging through the times and life we lived.
(Remember the hurt. It means we are not existing in a cave.)
I believe our broken hearts really do learn to beat stronger. All the more, when we learn to sing like grannies in their prayer meetings that don’t have anything to lose, and everything to gain.
We can be us, just for one day.