Cold spring day.
I’ve spent the day staring out the window at intermittent downpours, watching the occasional billows of blue smoke emerging from the chimney down the hill and across the street. The street itself occasionally showing the depths of the rain rolling down it as waves across the surface of a river.
Much of the rain today strong, often acting as a filter glazing the green hillside just a few hundred yards away.
Today is my friend Richie’s birthday. Richie passed away some months ago after a long and beautiful life in rural New Jersey. He is survived by his wife Mary after 52 years of marriage. Mary is also my friend this is likely the first birthday that she and Rich have been apart.
The morning was dark under deep grey clouds and heavy rains. Caitlin came this morning in her usual good form and good cheer. We bantered for a while, as we do, and then turned our attention to a podcast interview with Paul Chek as we underwent the rising routine. I was sure Caitlin was going to love Paul, and was not disappointed. They both have rather specific, detailed, and sophisticated views of whole being well-being.
Like many dark mornings on rainy days, there was a sense of quiet, seclusion, solitude and privacy to the air. Inside that blanket of silence, we giggled playfully on our way into the stillness of the day.
“General Lee surrendered today.” I said [wrongly misreading the date on the Library of Congress page.]
“Was that today?” She replied, going about making the morning breakfast smoothie. “These bananas need to get used.”
A quick glance to the social media channels and a check of the campaign page, no new contributors today, and I was on to email, scanning to do lists, and calendars…
I better call Mary I thought to myself. I would’ve been calling Rich, no need to break the thread of love just because the body has fallen away. There in the beautiful but cold and windy woods of southern New Jersey, Mary is, like so many of us, “sheltering at home.” A double strange date for her – global pandemic, and the familiar sounds of her husband, birthday cake, ice cream, and cheer, conspicuously absent.
It was nice to hear her voice. A little unsteady, tender, humble, but surrendered to the gentle sadness. We spoke for a while and she shared with me a few of the magic moments surfacing in the sacred space of this day for her. We honored and reflected on the challenges and pain we have each had in our respective lives over the past year, considering that others have also been facing hardship.
We spoke of the strangeness of this channel in time and how best we might travel through it, each of us honoring those seeds of beauty and longing within its, offering prayers that those seeds might bloom and bear fruit one day.
We thought, in the face of this hardship, and meaningful sadness, how privileged we are nonetheless, the gratitude was palpable though unspoken. After some time weaving through the mystical space of love and loss, under our respective stormy skies, we did express gratitude in words for one another, for our time together and for friendship, and ended the call.
I imagined, as I often do, that I had much to do today and turned back to my calendar and list, but not before taking a moment to gaze out the window at the rain and feel appreciation for the beautiful people in my life, both those still embodied, and those beyond.
I had work to do, completing a developmental assessment report for a client overseas. Just as I turned my attention to the project, a text message came through from a colleague in the same field asking for my perspective on the assessment she was scoring this morning.
People, we, say the most lovely things often when we are alone with our thoughts, and those phrases, those little gems commonly come through in these assessments. The challenge is often to parse the perspective from the poetry. It’s good work, when you can get it.
I spent the next few hours reflecting on my clients work, translating my view into an appreciative inquiry and (hopefully) constructive suggestions. With that finished, I picked up the text thread from mom and decided to call to get the details…
When our new global condition descended, mom was in the process of organizing herself to sell the house and move overseas. She hasn’t said so, but I imagine that looks a bit through the looking glass by now. It sounds like she’s got some good movement in finding buyers, but in the face of our collective condition, and her concerns for my acute condition, the list of things for her to accomplish has become somewhat kaleidoscopic and difficult to untangle.
To her credit, she is making progress, but the various colors and shadows I think penetrate and tug at her psyche in myriad and challenging ways.
I suspect this is true to varying degrees for most of us right now. I certainly know the feeling for myself as I gaze past the reality of my desk, to the next layer of accounts and responsibilities, things seem pretty concrete and rational. Once, however, I try to imagine future steps and scenarios, the view gets distinctly surreal.
Our global death count crossed 100,000 today. The president of this country is talking about sending people back to work, while the scientists and health experts seem to caution against it. If that does occur we could see a dramatic resurgence in the acute suffering. Even if everyone stays home and the pandemic is contained, I suspect no one really knows what happens next with the economy, social order, or political evolution.
I suspect it will take years for global trade, national interests, and the reverberating social trauma to work itself into a new “familiar.”
Calling mom, the conversation did not go well. Or maybe it did, certainly I didn’t go easily. I left it needing to do some work on my own psyche to assess what missteps on my part had led to the discomfort of our interaction. It felt like yesterday.
Fortunately the work at hand was fairly simple financial management tasks and some basic housekeeping for my website. I interspersed this work with conversation by text with my wise sister and was able to process the confusion and tension fairly quickly.
The rain had stopped. Dusk is approaching. Gentle lofts of smoke from the chimney across the way drift lazily skyward. “Smells like an Oregon winter.” Caitlin said earlier of the air outside. I think I should go get some of that now before night falls. I’ve been at my desk all day – for nine hours now – some fresh air is probably in order.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…