Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.Romans 12:9-12, The Message Bible
Yesterday, March 12 – The Coronavirus Hits Home:
Yesterday was the day that life changed because of the coronavirus. Yesterday, it all hit home. At work, we decided not to have public gatherings at church for the next two weeks at least. Services will be streamed live online, with just the pastors and a few participants. There will be no programs, choir, coffee hour, potlucks…as we wait and see where things go from here.
My mom decided to cancel a flight to Colorado – she’s been looking forward to visiting her grand babies for months. Now, she’s stuck in Chapel Hill, with me. Chapel Hill schools have closed, public gatherings canceled, travel plans for trip to Colombia put on hold – to be determined. There’s so much more… you know… you have your lists too.
I couldn’t focus yesterday, and I was not productive. I’m an anxious person in general, but yesterday was too much. I was very stressed when I left work. I hit the liquor store to pick up a bottle of vodka – feeling like I needed a drink to calm my nerves. The liquor store was crowded. The clerk told me that they’ve been really busy the past couple days, because of the virus – I was not alone in needing a drink.
I came home, but couldn’t relax at my normal activities. I couldn’t focus on a tv show, nor did reading help. Eventually I turned on the Frozen video- Disney to the rescue.
I ended up going to bed really early, listening to nonsensical podcasts, trying not to think about what’s happening… but it was impossible. Sleep was fitful. Not sure I fell into a dream state. I’ve been awake since 4 am.
This morning, March 13 – On the Trail:
This morning, as dawn was approaching, I felt a nudge to be outside before the sun rose. I choose a trail I hadn’t been on before – a new exploration. I took my camera with me, in case I’d find inspiration for a haiku photo.
The morning was dark and gray, but the early morning light was phenomenal. I just soaked it all in as I began my walk – the colors, the sound of birds, the sound of frogs. The parking lot had only two cars in it, but I didn’t see any other people. I was really alone, and being outside began to calm the nerves.
Slowly, I began to walk and observe – realizing that I was really taking it all in. I was very present, in the moment. It was a little dark still, but light was beginning to peak out. Just what I needed to start this day.
I walked with my camera – just in case I saw something for my photo haiku project. Where once I might have walked along quickly, this morning I stop and look at everything. It was a beautiful morning.
My first real stop of the morning was the car:
“Wow,” was my first thought. “Someone really worked hard to make sure that this car never moves from this spot. It’s a real shame to see this here in the woods.” Thinking though there might be a poem here, I took a few pictures.
Then, camera down, I stand still and simply look at the car. I think “The car feels somewhat appropriate today. It represents the weight we all must feel. Some profound and fundamental change is coming for all of us. We don’t know what will be happening in a week, two, three… but whatever is happening, it feels heavy. It’s weighty…and it’s not something that we can easily walk away from. We will have to see it, up close, and we’ll have deal with it and possibly make sweeping changes in our lives.”
“God,” I pray, “bless us with love, and help us to hold onto the center that is You in this crazy, mixed up time.”
I have a strong kinship with crooked trees – when branches and roots reach up and around and stretch in many directions. And maybe, just maybe, “I’m being stretched this morning. Being outside, the early light, I am starting to feel some real joy, giddy almost, being alone with the trees. It’s a quiet joy experiencing it all.” I walk along feeling that somehow, this small joy is going to make all the difference as the realities of the coronavirus stretch and shape us with whatever comes next.
“God,” I pray, “Guide us toward the joys of our lives, and help us to remember what is good. Lead us to changes that stretch us beyond where we are now.”
My affinity toward trees is rivaled in regard to my love of streams, especially when light is playfully reflecting on the surface. I was overjoyed to go up a small hill on the path and see these beautiful arms of water outstretched and greeting me. (I know there will be a poem here at some point, stay tuned!) It’s here that I stop, stare and reflect the longest. It’s here I find stillness while light rain falls. It’s here that a prayer for light and illumination helps me to find some comfort.
“God,” I pray. “Aid me to be a light in these times of uncertainty for my loved ones, friends, family and community. Help me through my own anxieties and worries so I can find ways to aid those who really need comfort during these times.”
The Swampy Waters:
I muse as I meander along about all the winter debris nature left behind in the woods. Unlike the winter debris in our yards that get cleaned up, the broken branches, uprooted trees, and dead leaves of the forest are left to decay into the forest grounds. That decay becomes the nutrients for future growth.
As the trail twists and turns, I come upon a swampy area. The water comes up to the trail head, and light rain dances upon the surface of the water. Reflections of the trees above shine on the surface, and I feel at peace for a moment. It’s here I start reflecting on my job as community builder. “75% of my work is to help people build community in our church community.” I wonder, “what isolation and self-quarantine may mean for being community, if we aren’t going to assemble and gather around worship, fellowship and food. What is my role right now? How do I stay connected and help people feel connected during this time, especially since I am by nature an introvert and a hermit?”
“God,” I pray, “Help me be a light, so I may help others and keep our community connected to one another. Give me vision and ideas how to make that work visible and viable for all who might be in isolation and quarantine.”
I come across this uprooting toward the end of my walk. I don’t even have words, but I know somehow this image sums up everything from the past couple weeks, and the past couple days. We are uprooted – with no idea where things will go from here. Everything feels like it is going to change.
And I gaze upon this tree with sorrow – that life just got harder for all who already suffer and struggle. “For the families separated at the border, and for those who are disenfranchised. Their struggles will be amplified in ways I can’t comprehend. For the elderly in nursing homes, for doctors and nurses at hospitals and clinics, for all those people who may be out of jobs as theaters, sporting events, concerts, and restaurants close down. For all the children who get meals at school and their parents who may lose jobs temporarily (and maybe permanently) because of this virus.” We’re all uprooted right now.
“God,” I pray. “I simply pray. We all just simply pray. In your mercy, please hear our prayer. Amen.”
–with love, joy, blessing to all of you, good people! during this time, if you need anything at all – prayers, smiles, laughter, tears – please reach out. don’t let yourself get too isolated. peace! —