those immutable ballasts
the other night, back in the days when i was still driving to the train most evenings to ferry home the fellow working downtown, back before the red-ringed virus found its way into the glassy tower where he works, back before they–and the rest of the world–sent everyone home, the moon hovered just over the fence line. the moon—big and whole and bright in a way a screen never will be–it stopped me in my tracks.
the moon made me weep the other night.
the moon wasn’t budging. not a kerfuffle in the world could get in the way of the moon doing what it’s done since the beginning of time. and, somehow, that certainty saved me. gave me just enough breath to fill up my soul and my air sacs.
felt like it all but reached out to tap me on the shoulder (or maybe the heart), to save me, to steady me, to give me the something to lean on i needed.
there it was, at the end of a long blurry day, when schools were closing, and produce aisles were beginning to sound a wee bit risky, there it was, taking up more of the sky than i could remember. it was, to my little mind, as if God–or whatever you call the abiding holiness–had pinned it there. just for all of us to see: it wasn’t going anywhere. it had shined before over terrible times. over atomic bombs, and world wars and crusades. it had shined over riots and the night the cities burned down. the moon, and those forces that hold it in place, they weren’t going anywhere. we could count on that one thing.
next morning, just as the sun was peeking over the same horizon–endless cycle, one rising after another–the woodpecker flew to my feeder. as did the cardinals. and the blue jay. their flutterings were not interrupted; they carried on. and so should i, so should we. all of us. maybe more together than we’ve been in a very long time.
maybe, at long last, the glues that bind will come out of hiding. maybe we’ll realize the one true thing is that nucleus of goodness that lives in our hearts. maybe reaching out (elbow-bump style) will be the thing that not only saves us, but carries us onward and upward.
maybe when we’re a little bit rattled, maybe when we’re scared, we can stop all the posturing and pretending we’re not in it together. maybe it’s taking a germ to shake us free from the ugliness, from the us-versus-them, that’s been choking us. truly been making it harder and harder to breathe. maybe this is the germ to wipe out the toxins. or some of them anyway.
in the last few hours, my virtual mailbox, the one i can open without shuffling down the sidewalk, it’s been filling with words from around the world really, words that just might serve to save us, to remind us how much of a difference a kindness will make.
this from a rabbi:
this from my priest:
In this time of pandemic, I am reminded of the parts of our scriptures that speak to people who were facing the most frightening thing imaginable in their time–the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple–apocalyptic scriptures that seem hyperbolic until we too are in a frightening situation and those words of God’s providence and presence amidst crisis are somehow just the thing I was thirsty for but didn’t know it. We couldn’t have predicted that Lent would be a period of unknowing and wilderness in quite this way, but here we are; so we enter in.
right now, when we’re holed inside our houses (or at least that’s where the public health experts hope and pray that we are), when we can’t literally squeeze each other’s hands, words might save us. words are breath put to sinewy cords, words are breath that rises from lungs, from the pit of the soul, really.
words, sometimes, are those intangible tangible ballasts and vessels that break through the barrier, shatter the walls we erect. words put breath to kindness, to empathy, to saying aloud, “i’m just a little bit scared. tell me we’ll all be all right.” words carry joy, carry laughter. words make us laugh out loud–and we can use a good dose of that now. words sometimes make us weep; sometimes in the very best way because they put syllables to the truth of who we are: we’re all alone except for each other, and the one immutable force, the one unconquerable truth is that love wins, love heals, love washes away whatever needs rinsing. love binds. love travels far and wide and without the laws of physics. love is the mightiest breath that ever there was (ask anyone who’s grieving; they’ll tell you the depths of the ache and the anguish, they’ll tell you how sometimes–out of the blue–it’s an updraft that fills them and lifts them again, as if the someone they loved just swept them up by the heart).
so, for the duration of this red-ringed hiatus, let’s put those words to the business of loving. of reaching out. of checking in. of whispering soothing certainties. of making each other laugh out loud. of reminding: the force of our love, collectively, is an immutable, indomitable thing. we might be felled by a fever, but no one, no one can suck the love from our hearts or our souls. together, we rise.
just as the moon and the sun. again and again and again. amen.
if the spirit moves me in these long days ahead, i might post a few extra words here at the chair. maybe down in the comments, maybe in posts that don’t come only on fridays. these are uncharted times, begging uncharted adventures.
how are you faring, and what are some of the words in days past that have given you hope or joy or a sure sense of belonging to the great and glorious ring of indomitable human family?
public health announcement: the surest equation to “flatten the curve” (that is slow the incline of coronavirus cases) is to minimize contact with those beyond the house where you dwell. this might last for a month; no one can tell us for certain. no need to wipe the grocery shelves clean; no need to hoard (my brother stood in a grocery line behind a woman with a cart filled with new york strip steaks–go figure!). get good sleep. wash your hands. sit in the sun (vitamin D is an immune booster). flush yourself with plain old water; try to keep your mouth from getting dry. the more religiously we can stick to the stay-out-of-crowds plan, the sooner we make it to the days of life after corona….
blessings to my beloved maureen, who sent along the words from the rabbi; to my priest, kat, who is ever wise. blessings to one of our wonderful chair sisters who–egad!–was bitten by a rattlesnake the other day, and is suffering terrible pains (and might be out of the ICU by now). may everyone who wanders by this ol’ table and chairs be safe and well, and surrounded by love. xoxo
So beautifully put, Barbara. Yes. This germ is indeed a reminder that we are not in this alone. Thank you for saying it. Just what I needed today.
bless YOU, sweetheart, for reading. for reaching across the table and letting me know you’re here. it helps. i admit to having been a bit wobbly a few days ago, before i took some deep breaths and decided that i could take on this new simpler life. and breathe in good faith and calm……
You are a ballast in this rocky-seas time. Prayers for our bitten chair sister!! And all who gather here. Thank Heaven and you for this virtual table. ❤️🙏🏼
sending love, moon sister. you KNOW my prayers arced straight toward you……
Barbara dear, I hope that writing your inspiring words this morning were as much a grace for you as reading them have been for me!
And so dear that you included our rattlesnake-bitten friend. She’s out of ICU now but still swollen and in awful awful pain 😦
Love you, thank you!
i heard from the rattlesnake bitten herself that it “hurts like hell!” ouch!
She is out of ICU but still swearing at the rattler! Love connecting with you and your reassuring words. ❤️
OH THANK GOD!!!!!!!! sending love. xoxox
Thank you for putting such lovely words to that magnificent celestial site the other night! During these trying times, the beauty of the blooming star magnolias, forsythia, daffodils and cherry trees along with the smell of fresh compost wipe all my cares away and remind me of how special this planet is and how we are all connected by a ribbon of floral beauty.
can’t wait to drink it in here. we are a few weeks behind you in blossoming, but i can feel the pulsebeat of the earth quickening. it’s a beautiful sensation. and i am listening, pressing my ear to the crust of the earth…..xoxox
Just beautiful. This post was precisely what I needed this morning…. Thank you, B, from my heart…
May our Chair sister who was bitten recover swiftly and fully.
Be safe and stay well, Chair sisters all! x o x o
somehow, safety and comfort in sisterhood (so broadly defined, it means all who pull up a chair here anytime, anywhere…). sending love, beautiful amy.
adding these words from the inimitable anne lamott….(bless her soul)…
“A great truth, attributed to Emily Dickinson, is that ‘hope inspires the good to reveal itself.’ This is almost all I ever need to remember. Gravity and sadness yank us down, and hope gives us a nudge to help one another get back up or to sit with the fallen on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity.”
to solidarity, and the kindness that bonds it….
Yesterday morning, we learned just before students arrived that school would be closed until at least March 30th. The day was a whirlwind as we in the school library tried to get as many books to as many students as we could. At the end of the day, as we said our goodbyes to our colleagues, the regular words of farewell were replaced with: Be well; Stay healthy; Be safe.
And then when I got home and checked in to Instagram, I discovered this perfect poem entitled Pandemic that slj shared. The author is Lynn Ungar. I urge you to seek it out.
Blessings to the rattlesnake bittten chair sister. And to all gathered here, be safe, be well, stay healthy.
God bless the librarians who stuff little children’s minds with books!! Loved SLJ’s poem/blessing/wisdom which she sent me the old-fashioned way❤️ Happy red-ringed Saturday to all…..
This Sabbath Torah portion, ironically, mentioned plague and being counted…. as we face this pandemic square in the face, one cannot help
but agree we need a count and to be counted, but on a different level…
We need a count of who needs us more than ever at this time and who
is ready to be counted to assuage the fear and discomfort that often accompany change and sacrifice… I have lived longer than I am going
to and I can attest to the realization that ultimately there will be an end
and at that end, we will emerge finer, stronger and more sensitive to the
gifts of life than before. No time like the present to get that tradition
going…. Be well, especially the snake charmer, hold one another fast
in spirit and be there for whomever…and remember to be kind and grateful….
bless you, wise one. wise and beautiful words….thank you.
a beautiful friend of the chair just sent this along. a poem to live by. (‘d not seen this one till just now). sending love.
Pandemic by Lynn Ungar
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is.
Touch only those to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
John used this poem today in his first e-learning lesson of this pandemic time with his AP Literature seniors. Their homework was to write an explication of the poem. He shared some of their responses with me. They were beautiful and thoughtful and hopeful.
oh, i would love to hear some. oh, to teach AP literature……swoon…..
beautiful amy sent this from an irish priest: (it’ll fill your lungs with pure oxygen, i hope…)
Lockdown by Brother Richard:
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
I reached out to my former spiritual director yesterday to make sure she was weathering the storm.
She said she was and she then commented on how she has been fueled by reading “pullupachair” and I smiled.
I haven’t seen her in over 10 years, but we check in on each other mostly through others, however recently she was on my heart so I began to correspond with her which has been great.
I smiled because we are now bound to you by a gossamer thread and I am sure our future writings to each other will be about our favorite pieces of your writing.
Thank you for always shining brightly with your beautiful heart and your beautiful words.
And it is well.
oh, dear gracious! that gossamer thread is shimmering in the morning’s snow light, that’s for sure! i have goosebumps all over. i have been a giant fan of yours for years. “And it is well,” indeed. blessed and honored. and sending a hug. you doing ok in this quiet inside of quiet? the snow this morning is yet another layer of the universe putting finger to lips, whispering, “shhhhhhhhhh…..” (my dang internet is down, so that gossamer thread is even more threadish this morning. dear AT&T, please get me running again!!!!)