The Thing Is
by Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
from Mules of Love (c) BOA Editions, Ltd., 2002.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
There are a lot of things about this time under quarantine that will change me forever, many of them beautiful gifts. It reminds of me that last week before my babies were born. They were late, and each day the waiting was interminable, but I spent the time doing things I would never normally have done. Making friendship bracelets, shopping for mysteries at a used bookstore, going to brunch with my husband on a weekday. How to spend time in an innocent, innocuous, easy way when you are bigger than a house, it's hot as hades (July), you don't want to spend money, etc.
These days, when everything is closed (even the parks), money needs to be saved, and we are all together with no place to go, we are finding new activities, new patterns, new ways of being with each other, new hobbies, and new interests.
The girls have opened a bakery in the playroom and it seems whenever we bake one thing we bake two things at a time. So far Confetti cookies have been a big hit, but we've made our classic family Chocolate Chippers, sugar cookies dyed and marbled to resemble the planet earth as seen from the moon, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (while retelling the story of when I wouldn't let Kris have a bite of mine when we were dating -- he ordered banana pudding instead, if you can believe it), and pound cake. We made a pizza out of potatoes. Kris cooked a turkey for Easter (our first bird).
We started out with family movies nightly, but that was when we had no kitchen or dining room and every meal was eaten huddled around our coffee table in close proximity to the TV. We watched a lot of classics from our childhood (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Back to the Futures 1-3, Ferris Beuhler's Day Off, A Princess Bride) and some contemporaries (Frozen 2, Forward, The Princess Diaries 1-2).
We've planted seedlings. We've weeded like we've never weeded before.
One night we went for a walk after dinner and watched the stars come out. It was dark, and I pulled the girls in a wagon. We looked at the moon, we noticed a bright star in the sky that turned out to be Venus. The longer we walked, the more stars we could count. We saw Orion's belt appear. It was exciting.
My father started coming over once a week to give astronomy lessons. I downloaded the stargazing app. You hold your phone to the sky and it shows you what constellations you can see. Last night we noticed two stars above the moon -- the heads of the twins of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.
To me, there is nothing more magical, an activity I imagine I'd take up in the best version of my life, and one I certainly wouldn't be doing if not for the quarantine.
I've often time found times of great tragedy and disruption to be teachers. It's uncomfortable to admit but sometimes when everyday life is grinding away I wish that something would disrupt it, snuff out all the momentum and hit the pause button. Unfortunately, I have found that only tragedy and waiting for babies can really slow time -- to recenter and refocus life. The hope is that we will carry these new, slower rhythms with us in the future.