when the quiet you get isn’t quite the one you asked for. . .
maybe i mumbled. maybe the universe mistook what i’d been thinking aloud. or maybe i’d be wise to watch what i wish for.
yes, i’m the one who mentioned just last week ago that i was wiped out; low tide had come with no hint of refueling. so i might have muttered something about how a few days of monasticism would suit me just fine.
i guess i forgot to note that i sought a quiet that comes without quarantine. one that’s not particularly de l’instant, of the covid moment.
till late last night, it was the other one in this old house who’s been behind closed doors (with a bath towel stuffed into the under-door crack –– just for good measure!) since sunday night when first he sniffled and then asked if i might fetch a thermometer. it seems his two years dodging the red-ringed virus came screeching to a 102-fahrenheit halt.
turns out he might be living proof that sauntering into a sauna isn’t quite on the recommended list for things to do during pandemics. (not for nothing did i go to nursing school!)
till late last night, i was the nurse and he was the patient. the little pink line — the one from our friends at abbott labs, the one the government is kindly mailing to any household that asks — hadn’t shown up under my nose. but then it did. covid 2.0 came knocking. and let itself in.
might as well hang a shingle outside the house –– warning: covid at work.
i never really thought i was going to end-run it. might as well have been watching a sand dial. knowing any minute the sand would run out. and my number was up. again.
for the record: it’s a very odd thing to be home alone on the other side of a quarantine room. we’d a lovely little routine, choreographed by the mother of invention. there’s an upturned milk crate just outside the room where he’s holed up (the very chamber i’d scrubbed top to bottom soon as the college kid moved out and back to college). i deposit deliciously cooked breakfast, lunch, dinner and even bedtime snacks there in the tray on the perch, fully masked every time (meaning the mask’s on me, the one doing the depositing).
i’d become so attached to my mask i never traipsed up the stairs — or near the stairs — without it. given the odds, it might have been a fool’s charade. even KN 95 can’t erase what’s already invaded.
for the most part, i stuck to my pre-meditated monastic agenda all week: stirred simmering soups, mopped the kitchen floor (with no worries that big soles would be soon slopping across it), and got to the end of a (brilliant) 400-page tome. i did add plenty more lysol to the cleaning equation, and enough alcohol wipes to get a bit woozy.
but honestly, there is something comforting about not needing any excuse to cower indoors. as long as a few other people i love stay in the clear, i will more than forgive the masters of the universe for muddling my one little wish.
because i had lots of time for reading this week, i found one or two things worth passing along. from vietnamese zen master thich nhat hanh, who died a year ago sunday (january 22), here’s one of his ten love letters to earth. as i look toward the end-of-march publication of my next book, The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text, i find myself endlessly drawn –– with deeper and deeper attention –– to those who’ve penned sacred devotions to the wonders of this holy earth.
Your Wonder, Beauty and Creativity
Dear Mother Earth,
Each morning when I wake up you offer me twenty-four brand new hours to cherish and enjoy your beauty. You gave birth to every miraculous form of life. Your children include the clear lake, the green pine, the pink cloud, the snowcapped mountain top, the fragrant forest, the white crane, the golden deer, the extraordinary caterpillar, and every brilliant mathematician, skilled artisan, and gifted architect. You are the greatest mathematician, the most accomplished artisan, and the most talented architect of all. The simple branch of cherry blossoms, the shell of a snail, and the wing of a bat all bear witness to this amazing truth. My deep wish is to live in such a way that I am awake to each of your wonders and nourished by your beauty. I cherish your precious creativity and I smile to this gift of life.
We humans have talented artists, but how can our paintings compare to your masterpiece of the four seasons? How could we ever paint such a compelling dawn or create a more radiant dusk? We have great composers, but how can our music compare to your celestial harmony with the sun and planets—or to the sound of the rising tide? We have great heroes and heroines who have endured wars, hardship, and dangerous voyages, but how can their bravery compare to your great forbearance and patience along your hazardous journey of eons? We have many great love stories, but who among us has love as immense as your own, embracing all beings without discrimination?
Dear Mother, you have given birth to countless buddhas, saints, and enlightened beings. Shakyamuni Buddha is a child of yours. Jesus Christ is the son of God, and yet he is also the son of Man, a child of the Earth, your child. Mother Mary is also a daughter of the Earth. The Prophet Mohammed is also your child. Moses is your child. So too are all the bodhisattvas. You are also mother to eminent thinkers and scientists who have made great discoveries, investigating and understanding not only our own solar system and Milky Way, but even the most distant galaxies. It’s through these talented children that you are deepening your communication with the cosmos. Knowing that you have given birth to so many great beings, I know that you aren’t mere inert matter, but living spirit. It’s because you’re endowed with the capacity of awakening that all your children are too. Each one of us carries within ourself the seed of awakening, the ability to live in harmony with our deepest wisdom—the wisdom of interbeing.
But there are times when we have not done so well. There are times when we have not loved you enough; times when we have forgotten your true nature; and times when we have discriminated and treated you as something other than ourself. There have even been times when, through ignorance and unskillfulness, we have underestimated, exploited, wounded, and polluted you. That is why I make the deep vow today, with gratitude and love in my heart, to cherish and protect your beauty, and to embody your wondrous consciousness in my own life. I vow to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before me, to live with awakening and compassion, and so be worthy of calling myself your child.
—Thich Nhat Hanh, Ten Love Letters to the Earth
you can listen to all ten love letters being read by the editor of Emergence Magazine here.
and only because i will always and forever love the imaginative world of alan alexander milne, born january 18, 1882, in hampstead, london, here is this most precious mirrored image of father, son, and bear.
so now my quarantine continues. only this time fueled by advil. how would you spend a quarantine?