“We are all a little broken. But last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.”
“You are not the darkness you endured.
“You are the light that refused to surrender.”
“Tough times never last. Tough people do.”
-Robert Schuller (it’s the title of his book)
Conversation. Voices that are not mine or my children’s or the creaking moaning ageing of the house -voices from others are talking. And laughing. We have friends over, and we are visiting without fear.
As we talk about their move from out of state, we hear an airplane fly over. We hear a click-clunk of scooter on sidewalk coupled with happy child-talk, from outside. As the night darkens, the child-talk becomes teenage squeals as our older neighbors begin night games in the street.
Do you remember these things?
Music -I hear music. There’s an impromptu outdoor concert a few blocks away. There’s a neighbor cleaning his house with the radio playing. My husband sings to our baby; he grins, entranced, as he watches the slow notes move his father’s lips.
The hose, outside, is on. I hear the rush of water that used to send me running to scold, “Turn that off this instant!” Now, I open our blinds to summer sky; glance down to muddy children, laughing in the hose-rain. I wave.
I remember these things.
As sounds filter in where once they were not, I remember. I feel my soul shudder thaw stretch unfurl. I feel. I hope. I smile.
In response to Rethinking Scripture’s post, “Summer 2020 – What I Don’t Hear.”
©2020 Chel Owens
“And what do I hope for? Health and happiness, mostly.
“I hope scientists find a cure for a virus that feeds upon human organs, drowning the lungs and clotting the bloodstream. I hope that as scary as circumstances might get, we all learn new ways to be. I hope for learning from the stillness. I hope for gifts in the silence. I hope to hug again, to travel, and be unmasked from every mask I’ve ever worn. I hope to pet my neighbor’s new puppy, to gather friends around the campfire we’re building in the potager, to hunt for agates and run from black flies again. I hope to have guests and readings and workshops in my new home. I hope no one has to fear losing their home. I hope people find their passion in their work and community. I hope simply to live as fully as I can.”
–Charli Mills, Founder of Carrot Ranch
Broken friendless lying dying, lifts a hand for
Walking talking presses buttons, flashes past within her world.
Why stop living in the mirrors, in the spotlight;
save lying dying friendless one?
.sneaky unseen creeping coughing, enters silent crownèd killer.
Broken homebound lying sighing lifts her hand for
Walking talking, in his sunshine, stops outside her locked front gate.
Why not wave at silent windows, in the sunshine;
save lying sighing homebound face?
Then or now, we all are people;
Now or then, we all need love.
and nourish others
Smile, wave, and love the world.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
Wandered in for Carrot Ranch’s prompt:
May 7, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to nourish. The characters can nourish or be nourished. What else can be nourished? A tree? A setting? Does the sunset nourish the soul? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by May 12, 2020. Use the comment section …to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
“It is never too late to be a child again or perhaps for the very first time. Just let go and be who you were meant to be or who you always wanted to be.
“Never give up until they are shoveling dirt over you. When it is your time, you will leave this world, but nothing says it will be forever. We don’t know what lies on the other side, and all the souls have to go someplace, so why not think about it that way and forget the forever aspect of it all. The world is constantly evolving, and so I know that there is no true end to things; it only happens in our minds. Take this time to make things right in your life. Rebuild fences and be a true friend to everyone you know and love.”
-Anne Copeland, “This is the Way the Earth Rolls.”
I feel we’re all struggling to find hope as the world slowly turns. I love Stuart’s story and advice, and think we also need to keep our hand on the plow.
I watched the morning news but turned away when feelings of hopelessness washed over me as they reported infection rates and death tolls. Isolation is helping end this nightmare, they say, but for any one individual it can sometimes seem an exercise in futility. When a reporter stressed the importance of continuing our social distancing practices, an old memory crossed my mind:
“No.” Ms. Wade shook her head. “Here’s what you’re going to do.” She put her arm around my shoulder. “Keep your hand on the plow and hold on.”
I knew what she meant.
Having grown up around farming and plows I understood the metaphor, but until then I’d never heard anyone describe so succinctly a situation pertaining to myself. Don’t dismay, was her message. Simply continue doing what I’d been doing.
It was early 1980s and I was a twenty-year-old kid working a part-time retail job. Ms. Wade…
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Today’s my son’s birthday. We were planning a birthday party for him, before. “You know this year you get to have a big party, right?” I’d said to him. “Make sure you’re thinking about what you want to do and the friends you’ll want to invite.”
Fortunately, my baby-surgery recovery and our other birthdays made it so we didn’t get past that point in conversations. I didn’t have anyone or anything reserved. We hadn’t invited people. All that happened is that, when Utah’s governor first announced the schools were closing, my son asked, “What about my birthday?”
“Well, we’ll plan to have it after school’s back in session. If things go longer, we’ll have it in September.”
Looking at maps of the spread of Coronavirus, I’m thinking we’ll push his party till next year.
Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation reportexternal icon. ©2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Another event’s been affected by all this, for us. Kev (my husband) and I were planning on our first-ever trip to Europe. We had to commit to going last year, and have been paying toward it. I’ve also been stressing about it; thinking and praying about whom to leave which boy with for three weeks.
Although the organizers have not officially told us this is the case, we think it will be cancelled. More than the money is the idea that I was *this close* to something that’s been on my bucket list since I was a girl. Not much is still on that list, mostly because humans haven’t developed self-aviation.
Birthday parties, vacation plans, weddings, funerals, baby blessings, Disneyland, the dentist… all cancelled.
We’re not the only ones affected. A friend complained about missing their family cruise. Another listed all the concerts she couldn’t attend. What whiners, right? There are people dying after near-suffocation from a disease they contracted at Wal-mart.
But, we are not trying to be shallow. We are dealing with massive change.
My favorite example of this, pre-COVID-19, is in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. <Spoiler Alert> Planet Earth is bulldozed to make way for a hyperspace expressway. The protagonist, Arthur Dent, escapes with Ford Prefect (an alien in disguise) just before the bureaucratic aliens known as Vogons blast us to nothing. Arthur is an Everyman. When Ford tells him what’s happened, he can’t grasp that Earth and everyone on it is gone.
“There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parent and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.
“He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it, He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every ‘Bogart’ movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.
“He passed out.”
I remembered this quote as I drove around on my once-a-week errands, feeling a slight jolt at empty restaurants and neon signs about what part of which business was open. I remembered the quote while we watched LDS General Conference this morning; while the camera panned over an empty exterior shot of the building where 21,000 people would have been meeting.
General Conference, April 2019. Thanks to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the picture.
The good news is that I think I’m through all the Stages of Grief now. I skipped from Shock to Depression, swung back to Emotionless, and am now resigned to Acceptance. My family and I are still here, are fine, and are just staying home. I can stay here in my own, four walls. I don’t need to worry about what if because those who are in charge have removed the stresses I had, outside of my four walls. If IT can stay outside those walls as well, then we’re set for months.
And, we’re making lemonade out of lemons. My son and his brother set up a Minecraft server and invited his classmates. We’ll wait and see what happens with Europe. The LDS church leaders are broadcasting from a small room, with their chosen speakers sitting six feet apart.
(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General Conference begins at a small auditorium in the Church Office Building with top leaders socially distanced amid the coronavirus pandemic. ©2020 The Salt Lake Tribune
I’ll bake a birthday cake and make enchiladas from the ingredients I picked up from my store order yesterday. I’ll wrap the presents our postman delivered. I’ll remember to look at this from my son’s perspective, because all he wants is a happy birthday.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
My parents came by yesterday. I don’t talk about them much because they have the right to decide whether they want their information online.
Still, over they came. They walked forward and deposited my and my son’s birthday presents on our porch. They stepped back. I unwrapped them: a framed pencil illustration my mother drew of our son, and a beautiful Schwibbögen. My children crowded around me in the doorway and excitedly waved and yelled about schoolwork and the new computer game we’ve been playing as a family, Stardew Valley.
My parents put up a good face. I held my new baby in the doorway as they drove away, waving his little hand for them. I doubt they saw; they probably barely saw well enough to drive if they were crying as much as I was.
I think IT -as Mike calls the Coronavirus crisis- has finally hit most of us. One of my sons came in last night around 9. He sat on our bed. “I’m scared,” he said.
“Oh? Did you have a bad dream? What are you scared about?”
“I don’t know. Just scared.”
Trying to uncover the fear did nothing, so I quickly switched tactics to enumerating everything safe about his situation. We have family, a safe area, a warm house, brothers to take care of him. He calmed enough to sleep in his own bed.
As I was drifting off to sleep later*, I heard and felt the slight change in air pressure that meant our bedroom door had opened. One of my older sons stood in the doorway.
“Son? What’s wrong?”
Bearing his about-to-cry face, he came to my bedside. “I’m scared.”
I hugged him and held him. “It’s okay, Son. It’s okay.”
“Thank you, Mom.”
We walked back to his bed together. I gave him a Melatonin and tucked him in.
…Which might explain why several of us slept in this morning. I awoke to feed Baby at 8ish; finished and got ‘ready’ to pick up a prescription by 10 a.m. Everyone but we parents and my early-riser was still asleep. Costco’s automated phone message played its usual bit, then had a slightly louder recording tell how they have new hours for the warehouse, including a special time for seniors to shop. People picking up prescriptions do not have to wait in line at the door -just tell the
guards associates at the exit doors that you’re picking up a prescription and they’ll let you in.
I haven’t written about Costco yet. Usually, it’s my home away from home. I like to go there when we travel, and Utah boasts the world’s largest Costco. Friends have even teased that I ought to travel to all of them and chronicle my adventures.
When I went there to stockpile toilet paper and water three weeks ago (okay -kidding), people were a tad tense. A few, like me, knew what was coming and were purchasing a few extras. A week later, the store had imposed limits on supplies. A few days after that, signs dotted the columns and tape lines dotted the cash registers and waiting areas so that we might stay 6 feet away from each other. Lines formed to get in, separated by cones and pallets; lines formed to check out, enforced by Costco employees.
Today, plexiglass barriers are screwed to the front of all the cash registers. Some workers wear face masks. The receipt-checkers at the exits have clipboards and gloves. No one touches your membership card. Everyone furiously wipes down counters and computer equipment. They spray shopping carts (trolleys) with a pink solution out in the parking lot.
I saw a pregnant woman of Indian features and dress wearing gloves and a dentist-style face mask. They’re probably not doing much for her, but I’d be doing the same in her shoes.
Next on my errands was the post office. They had tape on the floor as well, plus a sign outside about keeping 10 or fewer people in the waiting area. The woman at the desk wore a face mask and she also sat behind newly-installed plexiglass.
Perhaps we ought to start living in personal plexiglass houses.
The oddest part of my experiences is something Pete pointed out in his comments on my last update: people are avoiding any interaction. Told to be wary and stay six feet away, we are also avoiding nonverbal cues that indicate safety. We are not smiling, laughing, reassuring, or talking. I guess we need to learn to be friends …from a distance.
Which is why I find comfort in the snippets of sunshine. A woman asked another woman at Costco where she’d gotten her package of Charmin toilet paper** from; I heard them laughing at whatever the response was, and I smiled at their smiles. The secretary for my sons’ school asked how we were all doing when I called about a registration issue. My friend and I talked on the phone.
I felt like giving up that day we had the earthquake. I’ve mostly stopped obsessively checking the United States Geological Society’s latest earthquakes page since, and was handling each day too busy to dwell on the larger implications of what we were doing. Today, however, I’ve returned to some of that anxiety. The novelty’s worn off, I suppose. We’ve purchased all the extra food we can eat. We’ve got a rough schedule for schoolwork at home. We’ve even finally started a nap routine for the baby. Now, though, comes the most difficult part: facing the long dark of Moria.
But wishing IT away hasn’t worked for most of us. Assuming IT wouldn’t come didn’t work very well, either. My son’s speech and behavior aide last year told me they were working on his Sphere of Influence; what he could control. Me, I can’t control IT. I can’t control the world’s response. What I can control is me. I can still control much of what my family does and is exposed to as well.
So, you may find me writing from within a circle of salt. Still, at least I’m still alive. And writing.
©2020 Chelsea Owens, including photos of the Schwibbögen and Costco
GIFS © GIPHY
*Okay, I was really playing Candy Crush. They’re offering infinite lives all week, which is brilliant for keeping people in.
**Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissue is worth more than gold right now…