“Statues” was a game we kids played during recess on the playground. One kid (usually a girl, a bossy “Lucy” type) got to control the action; the rest of us would dance and whirl and act crazy until she shouted “Freeze!” and we’d all stop in mid-action. Whoever wobbled first from their “statue” pose was out of the game. Of course some of the poses were so ridiculous that most of us would start giggling and jiggling and eventually we’d all just fall on the ground laughing.
Several decades later, in the midst of our whirling ordinary lives and crazy business-as-usual, a pandemic has shouted “freeze!” and we have
We have sheltered-in-place; hidden in fear; closed our businesses, schools, places of worship.
We’ve lost our footing, lost our income, been bewildered, been disinformed.
We’ve cooked from our freezers and pantries, checked on neighbors, sent “I love you” emails.
We’ve gotten sick. We’ve died.
There have been lots of words about this in the ether of the internet – wise words, beautiful words, panicked words, informed words. Too many words.
I don’t want to add many more words to the ever-growing pile. What I do want to do is something I seldom do in this blog: offer you two of my newest poems. One was written “before,” in the first week of January (“Loving Mother Anyway”), and the other was written last week (“Obeisance to Mt. Baker”). They pretty much contain everything I have to say about the pandemic . . . so far.
May you be well.
Loving Mother Anyway
Joyfully immersed in her creative project,
she coddled, nourished, patiently evolved us
from single-cell simplicity
to complicated sentience.
Now we believe
we are the apex of her creativity,
the very reason she exists.
We crow our brilliance to her heavens
as we scar her skies with contrails
We lacerate her skin
then salve her wounds
with trash and poisons.
We suck her riches dry
and kill each other
when we feel deprived.
Tired, she whispers now.
I grow so tired of them.
I feel no joy in keeping them.
Soon, she says,
very soon I’ll shake these parasites
from my exhausted body.
I’ll loose them from my gravity
with whirling, angry storms.
They will fall up
through holes ripped in my shawl.
They’ll vaporize in empty darkness,
and I will not take them back.
Anxiously I watch
her growing discontent.
I wonder: could I love her well enough
to make her change her plans?
Our science says too late for that.
But do I cherish the bounty
and the beauty of her life enough
to love her anyway,
as she destroys humanity
so she can heal herself?
Obeisance to Mt. Baker
Green-fringed fir shawls
flail in gusts nor’westerly.
A dozen gulls and two great eagles
sail between gray waves, pale sky.
Digital 1s and 0s swarming
mutate into small-screen warnings:
I’m bewildered in this swirl.
My jaw is clenched,
my fingers too.
I can’t find meaning,
But tall above the Cascade Range,
stolid when all else is trembling,
brilliant white Mt. Baker stands,
The peak will not,
cannot be ignored.
I meet the mountain’s ancient stare,
hear its silent hallowing demands.
My breathing slows.
Wind and code falter in the ether.
Turmoil is becalmed.
Reverently I press my palms together,
peak my fingers, mirroring
Accept its deep initiation.
Embed its calm into my heart
where chaos cannot reach.
“I used to think bearing witness was a passive act, but I don’t believe that anymore. When we are present, when we do not divert our gaze, something is revealed. The very marrow of life. We change. A transformation occurs. A consciousness shift.” Terry Tempest Williams, quoted on ServiceSpace.org