At Blackwater Pond

by lizhuston

Today is Friday, April 3.
I looked at my calendar this morning. Saturday, March 14 was my last day in my studio shoppe before closing for the pandemic. I was slightly ahead of the curve, having taken it upon myself to do the responsible thing by closing, only days before Los Angeles Mayor  Garcetti decreed that all non-essential businesses close. That means it’s *only* been 3 weeks. Three long, strange weeks. Three weeks of painting, crying, sleeping, working… Three weeks of isolation. Three weeks at home. How can three weeks simultaneously seem like such a long a time and so short a time? That first week barely counts as isolation, for even during that time, I still saw a few people, even had a lovely day with my ex, as he helped me pack up the shoppe so I could continue working from home. Which means the isolation didn’t really start for me until Saturday, the 21st – so it’s really only been two weeks. That’s even worse. Two weeks? I thought it had been an eternity!

Like everyone I know, I have emotionally responded to the situation with varying degrees of fear, panic and grace. Some days I walk around my house as if in a dream, tears streaming down my face, wondering if this is real. Other days I am emotionally resilient (like today), and even laugh genuinely.

I took my morning coffee on the porch today. The hummingbirds were drinking the nectar I made for them yesterday, fighting each other off for their share of the bounty. The squirrel was sneaking down from the big tree to eat the baby olives sprouting from the little olive tree, which I planted upon returning from Greece. Parrots screeched in the sky, and my big black cat sat purring on my lap. I noticed how tall the weeds had grown, and thought about pulling them. In the luxury of this moment with the natural world, and without warning, I suddenly had the sense that all was well.

Now, I know that all is not well.
I know that this is a scary time, and those on the frontlines are taking incredible risks just to keep people alive and society from crumbling. I am beyond grateful for every single person and their contribution (whether they are doctors, nurses, store clerks, postal workers, county employees, and so on). Please don’t think that I am sugar coating any of this. An actual pandemic is upon us, and we are all frightened. However, in my heart of hearts, I truly believe we are all doing the best we can with the tools and resources available to us. That includes “bad” decisions and behavior, including those with good intentions.

In my reverie this morning, I started to feel guilty that I could feel “good” in a serious situation like this. But parallel to that rising guilt, it occured to me that maybe I could try and experience the moment of peace without any guilt. Perhaps I could grant myself a respite from the 24/7 resilient fear mind, and just be. You know, like a human BEing. Maybe I could appreciate the fact that I have real time at home for the first time in at least seven years. Maybe I could learn to sit in the quiet and the uncertainty, much like I have learned to sit in my meditation practice, (despite desperately wanting to move from the cushion, even after decades of practice). Maybe I could be with the sadness, the fear, the anxiety, as much as I could be with the peace, the quiet, the solitude. All the feelings come and go – I may be feeling a moment of grace now, but that’s not to say that in 15 minutes I won’t begin to panic, or cry once more. And that maybe that’s all okay.

As I sat thinking on these things, I noticed a longing within. A longing for true conversation. Not the basic text messages I have been getting (and sending). You know the ones… “Hi. Thinking of you. How’re you holding up?” Those have their place, and I truly appreciate them. But oh, how I long to go deeper, not wider. Text is not the platform for that. Nor is video chat, or even phone calls really – at least not for what I’m craving. I thought how lovely it would be to write a long, spiraling, thoughtful email to someone; someone who would also write back at length, where we could engage in true correspondence.

Sadly, the only people I could think of who would be both game and enjoyable to correspond with have far too much emotional baggage attached. As bittersweet a realisation as that is, I cannot engage in any emotional baggage right now. It is clear to me where the limits lie – and revisiting old ties, even for the sake of good conversation, are not on the table. That is when I remembered about this blog, dormant for far too long. And I decided that maybe this is when blogs are for.

I will endeavour to blog as often as I am able, or as often as I have something to say. In the meantime, I would like to leave you this morning with a lovely poem written by the one and only Mary Oliver.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

Mary Oliver
(from New and Selected Poems Volume One)