Plague Diary II
Day 24 4/7/2020
Gregg sends me poetry by Shelley:
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
I did send out my “I am here for you and your friends” letter. Getting some responses during the day, one referral as of 5 pm.
I watched about 7 minutes of the President of the Greatest Country on Earth’s press conference. Hard to recount: he has fired the Inspector General in charge of distribution (for telling the truth about shortages after he said there were none), he has decided to de-fund the World Health Organization (They called it wrong,), he is touting an antimalarial drug as the cure (He owns stock in the company.) despite the scientists saying it’s not approved. After that much, I could not stomach any more.
Today is the full moon. According to Lucy these next three days will be a bitch—planetary conjunctions, etc. Well, a bitch among bitches, I say. I have put all the crystal balls in bowls of saltwater for the event. I used the big copper crystal pendulum on myself this morning. When in doubt go woo-woo. Sometimes I forget that I spent the majority of my adult life in California. If I think about it too much I get very nostalgic. Imagine walking along Venice Beach at sunset, watching for dolphins in the first wave, seeing the pelicans air surf. I used to walk along and talk to the ocean, most every day. How could I have left that? Did I think it would be forever?
My prayer list is expanding—I try to remember each one every day; I check to see who I have not communicated with lately and reach out. I miss people. I think I do this to reassure myself that I am connected as much as anything. I pray that I can be a funnel for God light. In my head, out my heart, repeat. Send it through. As if God needs a channel, but hey, I need to be useful. This seems useful.
Day 25 4/8/2020
We’re Allowed One Walk per Day
I walk, and the path is strewn with petals;
I walk and the path is lined with people wearing masks.
I walk and the path is strewn with bodies;
I walk and the path is lined with heroes.
I walk and the path is filled with naked emperors;
I walk and great birds of pretty wheel overhead.
I walk to the river and weep.
I look up and see others walking;
I take up a sentinel post and offer an un-gloved hand to those
for whom the path has become too steep.
I am here for you.
I am here for You.
Gregg calls this my bodhisattva heart energy. I had my first call today. Eliane’s grandson, 24 years old. Struggles with no work, being alone, turning to beer and crack cocaine. We talked for around 40 minutes. Conversational. I asked a few questions. Afterward I pray for him and hope I helped. Later still I realize that I don’t have to help. I am not here to fix or counsel or rescue. Just companion.
Before our call I walked the forest labyrinth with Juliana and Dick. I found a little circle of stumps set in the woods and I stood in the center, called the quarters, chanted Awens and said the Druid Prayer for a while. I didn’t get lost in the labyrinth this time.
I came home and painted on a strange picture using cutouts of flowers, birds and insects. Looks like a strange game board found in an old box with no instructions inside. But I kinda like it.
Day 26 4/9/2020
I am acutely aware that it is Holy Week, that this is Maundy Thursday. Remembering this night last year in St. Andrews Cathedral, Inverness. How moved I was when everything was taken off the altar and the candles were blown out. Thinking about how it felt like my move, which I was in the middle of. Everything dismantled, closed, donated, discarded or shipped. How I felt the last day, sitting in the sun for a few minutes by the pond. End of a lifetime. I remember crying in the church, walking back to the hotel along the River Ness. Looking forward to Iona, looking further forward to Princeton.
That felt so huge at the time. I had such a sense of loss and yet a sense of pride that I had not been broken, that I had survived, that I was going to start a new life.
And now, and now. The plague. Breath of Kali. Snake of Gaia. I don’t like the scientific name-it sounds mechanistic and masculine. I just figured out the numerology of covid19=72=9.
Ok, I digress. I could not get started on anything this morning, so I decided to take myself out for a coffee at a favorite coffee shop. Here is how you do this in this new age:
How to go out for a coffee:
· Call the coffee shop. See if they are open. Yes.
· Place your order and give them your credit card over the phone. Tell them you’re walking so you’ll be there in 20 minutes. (It’s a mile away and you have to look like you’re exercising, NOT going out for coffee, for God’s sake).
· Take off your inside clothes and put on your outside clothes.
· Put on your outside socks and shoes.
· Strap on your fanny pack with phone, ID, glasses.
· Get your gloves and facemask and hand sanitizer.
· Put your facemask on under your chin and your gloves in your pocket.
· Find your housekey.
· Take off, walking down the middle of the empty streets. Pull your face mask up if you pass anyone, (but you don’t, mostly).
· When you get close to the coffee shop, sanitize your hands.
· Upon arrival, stand outside, pull your mask on and wave through the window.
· Identify yourself and wait for them to pour your coffee and get your labelled bag with its 2 donuts.
· Stand in the doorway as they unlock it and reach in for them.
· Smile (with your eyes) to thank them.
· Stand outside the window and wave goodbye.
· Walk to the sidewalk, stand (DO NOT SIT ON ANYTHING!) with your delicious treats.
· Pull your mask down and take a sip of coffee. Fabulous. Take a bite of one of the donuts. Absolutely divine.
· Walk slowly home down the middle of the streets, eating your donut and sipping your coffee.
· DO NOT wipe the sugar off your mouth. DO NOT lick your fingers.
· Try to look like you’re just out exercising.
Day 27 4/10/2020
Today is Good Friday. Yesterday afternoon I walked to the Univ Chapel to see if the doors were open, nope, closed up tight. I walked through the empty campus that has started to lose its “energy.” Hard to define, but the buildings now look like an unearthed archeology dig or some fantasy sci-fi movie set. No words. No words. I came home and performed a small eucharist. I read a chapter in John.
Here’s a poem I found in CDP II. Talks about going out, but could certainly apply to staying in.
You leave home. You don’t know why.
You sell all of your belongings. You buy a one-way plane ticket
to a far away place. And then you leave.
You meet new people.
You hear new languages. You try to speak them too.
You fail in ways you’ve never had to fail before.
You lose yourself. Yourself becomes a complicated subject.
You discover what it means to continue on past the point of
You ache, you feel lonely, you feel lost. And yet, somehow,
you welcome these feelings too.
Day 28 4/11/2020
Silent house. Sunrise in one window. Moonset in another. Day before Easter.
Thinking about Easter. Thinking about coloring Easter eggs and plaiting Easter baskets out of construction paper. Thinking about Dad shining our shoes and Mom putting pin curls in our wispy hair after our shampoo bent over the kitchen sink. Thinking of new dresses and little feather hats and socks with lace on them and gloves(?). Did we have gloves when we were little? I remember as teenagers we had hats and wrist-length white gloves. I’m thinking about church in Fremont, but also thinking about looking for our Easter baskets at Grandma Gregg’s house in Wallace. Two different times? Surely. Thinking of all the cars and trucks parked in the gravel drive outside Grandma’s, about the men throwing horseshoes in their white shirts with the sleeves rolled to the elbows. Thinking about cousins and food. Ham, of course, creamed corn, green peas just picked and shucked. I want to talk to my sister Jodi and ask her about the gloves—how old were we when we started wearing gloves at Easter? I wonder why Jodi and Glenn were taken at the same time. Who ya gonna call?
Yesterday I talked to my friend Hilary about Passover. She told me how she cooked all week for the Seder—brisket and matzo ball soup and half a dozen other dishes. How she and her husband ate it all alone. She’s the one who asked me about Easter. This nostalgia is all her fault.
We’ve hit over half a million cases now. Well, depends on who’s counting. One media outlet says we are overcounting, hyperinflating the numbers to take down The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth. Another media outlet says we are undercounting, keeping the numbers low to protect The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth. Image of a pinata. Can you see it? the Fat Orange Fuck tied to a tree limb and all of the blindfolded pundits swatting at it with bats and broomsticks? No sports on TV, so we watch this and award points to our favorite team. Or how about this image: Armageddon United vs. Science Infallible. Tied and going into overtime. Or cutesy images of white people stuck at home with their obnoxious kids—and the dog!—homeschooling past their intellectual capacity (Who remembers 3rd grade math? Geez.) vs. videos of brown EMTs in green plastic, driving yellow ambulances to take away Black and brown bodies from the red brick buildings of the Bronx. (We did over 200 runs today, just my guys, 16 hours.) The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth says we will be open for business soon. Very soon. It’s gonna be over. Very soon. We are doing great things. Amazing things. We’re going to re-open our country. [Half-screen feed: People stacked up in nursing homes, the staff all gone home (They just don’t come to work anymore.). People in jail using FaceTime on smuggled phones (They are leaving us here to die.).] Amazing things. Very soon. We have a great economy. The greatest in the world. We’re going to re-open our country. I talk to people all over the country and they tell me we’re doing amazing things.
I remember one Easter—2012—Thelma and I were in Glastonbury at the little Episcopal church in the High Street. The vicar had hidden Easter eggs all through the church, in the corners of pews, under hymnals, everywhere. He called all the little kids to the front steps and said, What do we say on Easter? Hallelujah! Can you say Hallelujah!? They chirp Hallelujah!. Now I want you to go and find the eggs, and every time you find an egg hold it up and say Hallelujah! real loud and bring the egg up here and put it in this basket. Ready? Go? The little bodies flung themselves into the congregation and soon there was a multitude of up-thrust arms holding eggs and a chorus of voices shouting Hallelujah! One little boy found an egg right in front of where Thelma and I were sitting and held it up and squeaked Hallelujah! his face lit up like a sunbeam. Oh! his dearness.
So tomorrow is Easter. Today it’s just the tomb and the ‘hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes’ and the linen swaddling cloths. I want to feel holy, I really do. I want to make pancakes (I don’t have the makings) and call the family to the table (I don’t have a family) and watch my Dad eat the ears off a chocolate bunny he’s cadged from one of our baskets. Hey! Dad!! That’s mine!
Silent house. Sunrise in one window. Moonset in another. Thinking about Easter. Maybe this is what passes for holy these days.
Day 29 4/12/2020 Easter
Early Easter morning I set out walking. The streets are absolutely empty. I walk up Nassau Street, the “Easter Parade” consists of the shadows of me, a garbage can, a tree and a scraggly bush. I text a picture to Gregg, who calls it the “Procession of the Invisibles.”
The numbers, you ask? 550,000 cases in the US. Did I really start this diary less than a month ago? Shit.
I walk around the block and turn into the cemetery. It’s about 7:30, the sun just up, the birds in full morning song. Peaceful. I walk for a long time among the graves, past Chinese, past Jewish, past Russian, past Italian. The Jewish gravemarkers have little stones placed along the top of them; I assume this happened in celebration of Passover. Lots of people from the 1800’s, lots of old folks, lots of families. A whole row of “little angels,” babies who stayed just days or months before they flew home.
I feel strongly that I must stay here in the village of the dead until I figure something out. I sit on a bench and write the thoughts that come over the next hour. Here they are, unedited:
1. I have had this date—Easter—in my head since I was at Pat’s on Ash Wednesday. I thought I would fast. I gave up pastries. Like giving up a potato chip on the beach with the tsunami at one’s back.
2. When I heard about going into isolation I thought it would be for 2 weeks, then two more, then “until Easter.” I didn’t think I could stand being so alone.
3. I need to re-commit. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself.
4. I need to think through a new plan. I need to envision myself en-isled, like someone who chooses to live on an island alone, like a monk who chooses to go to Skellig Michael, like a Saint going to sea in his little leather boat, like an astronaut climbing into his capsule, like a polar explorer strapping on his skis. I MUST CHOOSE this time and make it holy.
5. I need to walk out of this cemetery into my pod, my capsule, my coracle, my uterus, my vehicle.
6. I need to own my solitude.
7. In order to do this if I need to resort to my old coping tricks, like setting a daily schedule, so be it. [As I write this, the Easter bells start ringing.]
8. I need to choose to LIVE.
9. So I commit to another 40-day fast, from now until May 22. Fasting from loneliness.
10. There will come a time when the pod opens, the capsule lands, the boat comes ashore, the uterus can no longer hold me, the vehicle will have arrived.
11. I do not have to know. I do not have to fix. I do not have to become.I do not have to end up with a product.
12. I do not have to be accountable to anyone but God.
13. I can, on this day, embrace my Christian roots. I can picture Jesus sitting at the edge of the garden just here, saying ‘Don’t touch me, I have not yet gone to my Father.’ I must not be afraid of going without touch.
14. If Jesus is risen today, then I must rise today. Or let him lift me, get rid of all my old feminist, New Age antagonism toward resurrection. (Jodi, I know you are saying I told you so.)
15. Ego commiterre. (I use my phone to look up the Latin) I commit.
Day 30 4/13/2020
Day 1 of Lent II. My early morning readings speak to me:
God to Moses: Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. Ex 3:5
Jesus to Peter: When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go. John 21:18
… a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Ecc 3:5b
Shall I take my tiny coracle
across the sparkling ocean?
O King of the glorious heaven,
shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?
Version of the Brendan Prayer, CDP II 1463
Lord, you have always marked
the road for the coming day
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.
Crazy weather. Lashing winds and pouring rain. The New Jersey version of “foundering seas and impenetrable fog.” I go out in it to a doctor’s appointment. These days doctor’s appointments go like this. Call first and tell them you’re on your way. Park your car and call us when you get here. OK. Drive through the storm, tree limbs in the road. Park in the almost empty parking lot. Call to say you are here. OK come up. Put on face mask. Find the outer door propped open so you don’t have to touch it. Press the elevator buttons with your elbow. Exit eleveator and find the doors to the doctor’s office are open. Greeted by a woman in hijab and face mask and gloves. Undress and weigh yourself. Down 6 pounds. Doctor arrives wearing a face mask. Brief chat and examination. Papers left on the counter to pick up on the way out. No one in the waiting room. Elevator down and out into the storm.
Well, now the storm is in full force. Streets running with water, huge wind, raindrops so big they plop and splat on the windshield. Hey, I think. Wait a minute. This is a perfect day to go to the grocery store! And so it is. No lines, few shoppers, mostly the shoppers for the food delivery. I buy more than I need. Or will I need more? Stories on the tv about food rotting in the fields for lack of workers to harvest. Tulips left unpicked in Holland.
I put a peach pie on the front porch of Julianna and Dick on the way home. By the time I get to the apartment and unload the groceries in the rain, I’m starving. I make myself a big spinach omelette. Down to the last three crossword puzzles in my book. What do you do while you’re eating if you don’t have a puzzle? This is getting grim.
After I eat, all my big plans and ideas for the day turn from bright thought bubbles to sagging water balloons. The Ooze, I may start to call it. I used to call it lassitude, but that seems tame. The storm continues, though, with the windows banging in their frames and the rain running down them so hard I can’t see out. I lay on the couch and finish my novel.
I paint for a while, green and purple mountains in a blue sea. A cairn on the top of one. A tiny house on another. An almost invisible stone circle. I talk to Brendan for the best part of an hour. He says he wanted peanut butter, but couldn’t find any so he went online. Somebody on ebay selling a jar of peanut butter for $20. (War profiteering now—FEMA taking medical supplies from the states and selling it back to them at a profit. Jesus. Jesus.) I talk to Ed. He tells me about a couple in a sailboat in the Caribbean, down to lemons and cilantro, no-one will let them dock to buy food. (Whatcha gonna do when the tequila runs out?) Jane and I on our weekly chat fest: We’re boring, we say. What do you talk about when you don’t do anything?
I walk in the diamond streets when the storm passes.
The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth melts down during his nightly pressfarce. I can’t watch. I turn on CNN and they describe it. Now I wish I had watched. Morbid fucking fascination. The President of the Greatest Nation on the Earth has declared imperial powers. HE will decide when to open the economy and it will be SOON. He can do this because he has the Constitutional Power. He will order it, and it will be SOON and it will be BIG. “When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total,” he mouth mushes into the mic. The governors are forming regional coalitions to refuse the order. I can’t bear the hysteria in the voices of the pundits, can’t find the energy to turn on my Netflix movie. I brush my teeth and crawl into bed.
Day 31 4/14/2020
Lent II, Day 2. (Perhaps this need to date and label is a sign of control slippage? Nobody knows what day it really is.) I remember this date in years past when there was a car queue around the block at every post office, folks getting their taxes in at the last minute. Today’s image: car queues around the block for food handouts. Fuck taxes.
I am pretending that I am on a 40-day writer’s retreat in a beautiful place. No expectations, just enjoy and let the creative process work. It works pretty good today. I paint in between little chores. I clock in for the Centered Prayer meeting, feel my body quiet down, but thoughts drift by like little boats in the storm runoff. That’s ok. I’m on retreat. It does feel different, thinking this way. No guilt if I am not working on a project. While I was walking I set my revised goals. Three of them:
Stay healthy physically.
Stay healthy mentally.
Sample text stream during ‘the Pandemic” (as we affectionately call it. Like a nickname, like Panda).
~How are you doing my dear?
*OK. Tired of myself.
~I can relate. I’m tired of hearing my thoughts.
*I have discovered that I am essentially boring. Others may have already known this. Voyage of self-discovery.
~This is something I have always feared for myself, afraid I may be coming to the same conclusion on my own voyage. What a shame, and here we were thinking we were absolutely intriguing.
*And mysterious and fascinating.
~Now it’s just bleak, boring, and bland.
*Don’t forget blah!
~Oh yes, we mustn’t forget blah!
*We’ve forgotten so much…
~Yes! I feel that very strongly.
Day 32 4/15/2020
Lent II, Day 3. Well, yesterday’s little flutter of euphoria was comforting. Right up until I went to Julianna and Dick’s to walk the forest labyrinth. She came out on the porch and handed me a mask and gloves and a folder of photographic images. “You'll like these.” I stand in the driveway and turn the pages. All of Scotland, mostly Mull and Iona. The turquoise sea between. The Hebridean sunset. Well, fuck me, I melted down completely. I wept during the drive to the labyrinth and as I waited my turn, and as I walked it. Soooo homesick for Scotland, for Lewis, mostly for Calanais. Wanted sooo badly to stand with my back to a stone and feel the deep thrum. Wanted to touch Glenn’s Monk Stone. Yikes. As I was walking Julianna collected a huge bouquet of daffodils, which she handed to me as I came out. She thanked me for the pie. “You know,” I said, “I found out that pie with a friend is a special treat, but pie by yourself, well it’s just food.” I told her that I lost my sense of taste for months when Glenn died. She looked at me and said, “Perhaps you’ll love again.” I said, “I want to love again.” She said, “I didn’t think I would love again after Jim died. You may find love again, just don’t look for it.”
So I cried all the way home, took the long way ‘round, got lost on some back roads of NJ, turned back at a DETOUR with the GPS screaming RETURN TO THE ROUTE. RETURN TO THE ROUTE. RETURN TO THE ROUTE and me screaming FUCK YOU every time while I looked for a place I could turn around. Came up to Skellig Princeton and ate the rest of my pie. Tasted like cardboard.
Day 33 4/16/2020
So I called my dear healer friend John and spent part of the afternoon in a telemedicine call. Working with him I am able to see where I am stuck. With his help, I realize that I feel an acute sense of failure when I have a day like yesterday, when I feel like I should be able to press on, get through this, and don’t.
I have two writing projects that I was working on in January and February. I liked both of them and felt good about progress. I have not been able to get jack shit written on either of them during this isolation. John helped me to see that I can set them aside, put them away, let them go for now, confident in their “being there” at a later time. I feel an instant relief.
The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth, with the numbers (630,000 cases, 35,000 deaths) listed on a sidebar, announces the way we can get our Great Country Back Again, due to his excellent leadership. And it’s going to be bigger, better, and smarter than before. Oh, from your pursed, pouty lips to God’s ears. Whereas two days ago, he was going to be in charge of it all, today he is telling the States that it’s on them. Oh, and he as de-funded the World Health Organization. Of course.
Day 34 4/17/2020
I do as John suggested—I take my writing projects and put them aside. I find a beautiful crocheted doily that my grandmother made and placed it on the writing desk and create a mandala of crystals upon it. I look at the picture I have been painting for a few days—beautiful Scottish hills, the sea. Yesterday I added a starry night sky. Today I cut out little orbs of blue and white and place them in the sky. I create a spaceship with little round windows and dither a bit about where on the page I should put it. I like the spaceship—I like the idea that something is coming in.
I talk to Ed on Zoom for an hour, tell him about this experience. We talk about the changed world. When I hang up, Philip calls and through a very poor connection with an enormous fuzz of video and a 5 second echo-y lag, he manages to convey that he wants me to submit for the next Mount Haemus Award!!! Write a paper on Christianity and Druidry, prepare to present it at the next Mount Haemus conference, publish it online. O res mirabile! It is as if the gates have opened and the way is clear. I have a JOB, one of my own calling, a project so much bigger than the ones I just set aside. I am so flabbergasted that I can’t even contain myself.
I put on my shoes and start walking, almost running, down to the bridge, across the lake, along the towpath. I’m striding along, singing and saying Yes! Yes! Over and over. I almost bump into a huge blue heron just off the path. I screech to a halt and start taking herm picture. I stand there and watch herm walk a few paces, wait until s/he lifts off, get a blurry shot of herm wingspan. An omen? An affirmation? A visitor from beyond my comprehension? I feel the Awen flooding through me as I stride up the Harrison Street hill into Princeton.
When I get home I start pulling books off the shelf, start scribbling notes on post-its, in a writing journal, on a yellow tablet. My mind is working like a search engine, scanning everything. You know one of my projects that I “put aside” was called Theology of Immanence. And this is it.
Day 35 4/18/2020
Wake up with my brain on fire. It’s like watching a speeded-up film of Dumbledore in his office, pulling books off the shelf, strewing papers on the floor, working frantically, with his tall wizard hat sliding to one side of his head, his beard splattered with ink, his writing hand holding a quill, his off hand holding the sleeve of his robe away from the pile on his desk. That’s me! I think. Dumbledoreena—Warrior Queen of Skellig Princeton.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swing finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoor each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
“As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” Gerard Manley Hopkins
I sing along.
Day 36 4/19/2020
Yesterday’s ebullience flickers in the darkness of the day’s news. The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth is encouraging people to break out of the “political correctness” of quarantine. He tweets “Liberate Wisconsin,” “Liberate Michigan’” “Liberate Virginia.” He says that we are “losing our second amendment rights,” the call to arms. There are millions of people out of work, thousands in line at food banks, just when you think it can’t be worse, it gets worse. Fomenting revolution. Armed, angry, hungry, out-of-work people defiantly marching together in the streets, waving MAGA posters (to which the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth coos, “I think they like me.”) in the empty streets outside the closed stores. The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth brags that he has saved the lives of millions of people. (I shit you not.)
An Epic of Biblical Proportions: the Old Testament prophets rise up as angels descend. Cecil B. DeMille should film this: Gone with The Wind II.
Even I succumb to pessimism, which I express only here (for people don’t want to hear ‘bad news’ and ‘negativity’). I sense war. I look over my beautiful apartment with its art and flowers and windows streaming with morning light and I think how long?
Day 37 4/20/2020
Whenever I have a big writing project I go to the nearest library or co-working space and find a large white board. I scribble and write and draw lines and change colors as my ideas flow out and bump into each other. This morning there is no library; there is no white board. The computer screen seems too small, little scraps of paper cannot be wrestled into any kind of corral. I take out a large sheet of art paper and with a sharpie write
THIS IS A WHITE BOARD
across the top. Trying to fool my brain. It worked, almost. I spent the morning writing, then converted the notes into outlines.
I have another session with John: strategies for keeping myself from the logismoi of inadequacy that takes up residence in my brain whenever I start a big project. I listen to a podcast that Gregg sent—a physicist, Nassim Haramein talking about the holographic universe, telling us that you have the feeling first before you have the proof. By honoring the feeling, you connect with the energy of the entangled universe and the proof will come. I don’t get all of it, so I will listen to it again.
I take a walk to Marquand Park, sit for a minute under a tree canopy, “writing” my story line out loud. It floats out from me like a cartoon word bubble, uncaptured.
I turn on the TV (When Will You Ever Learn, Dufelina?). The news is so horrific that I cannot bear to watch. The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth telling His People what an excellent job he has done against side bars of blackpeople death statistics, whitepeople riots, talking about gun rights and rattling off key word sound bites purloined from Fox News. He says of the rioters: I look, and I see American flags. I’ve never seen so many American flags. I think they like me. I switch it off after less than 5 minutes, and sit, stunned at the magnitude of it all.
I talk to Jane on our Monday call. (See, I can still tell what day it is. OK, I lied, I look at my phone to see what day it is. We all do.) We lament that all of our “human” interactions are mediated. Computer, phone, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, podcasts, Netflix. We lament that we don’t want to use this time to enrich our lives with online yoga or online book clubs, or online bridge games or online meditation or online church or online Suzie Ormand lectures on our Money. We laugh like we think it’s funny.
Day 38 4/21/2020
Some days come in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. In the morning I think I see the picture on the box, but as the day empties out, it fragments: I have an early online consultation on the writing project; one errand run of three stores and a drop off to a friend; three healthcare related phone calls; one thank you call from the HomeFront, where I sent half my stimulus check; a scheduled call with a friend; an unexpected call from Philip rescinding (?) delaying(?) or extending (?) the writing submission, a walk to the river to process this, a phone call with Gregg while walking, and an online meeting with the writers’ group. Haramein talked about the universe as a fractal. I’m feeling like I’m out on one of the smallest, most distant tentacles of a gigantic, invisible, livingpattern. I’m totally insignificant and intrinsically important and caught between the two.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, while I am trying to stick to a disintegrating commitment to get some of my writing done, the sky turns black, thunder and lightning roar, the wind bangs against the windows, and the rain comes. They’re playing old Blues tunes on the radio. I put down my pen and dance in the darkening room.
Day 39 4/22/2020
I stand in the Spring sunshine waiting my turn to walk the labyrinth. This gorgeous day: blossoming trees in full color—pinks and reds and white—standing like ladies in their Easter dresses; flowers of yellow and white and blue and crimson carpeting the green grass, trees humming as they sway in the breeze. I stop and name the people I know who are happy during the current state of affairs: Gregg, who does not have to suffer his two-hours + per day commute on the 405 freeway in LA, who doesn’t have to be in the same room with his neurotic boss; Nic, who is severely asthmatic, who hasn’t had to use her inhaler for a week because the air is clean and she can breathe unaided; Ed, who consults with people around the globe without the endless hassle and exhaustion of airports and hotels; Julianna, standing just there in the sunshine, holding a bouquet of daffodils. I want to be one of the happy people.
I am conflicted, of course. I am acutely aware of my privilege. Here I am surrounded by the glory of nature while just outside this gorgeous bubble thousands and thousands of people are suffering on an epic scale, personally, nationally, globally. Is it hubris to accept this proffered gift of happiness? Is it selfish to acknowledge it, celebrate it, as if I deserve it? I’m arguing with God, of course, Goddess if you prefer. I project judgement on myself, regardless of which way I turn: How dare you be unhappy in all this beauty, you ungrateful thing? v. How dare you not suffer when everyone else is? I lean against a huge, ancient elm, chanting Awen, chanting Awen, as I watch my beloved, frail, ancient friend walk the turns and twists of the labyrinth path, her green cape blowing around her, her hair alight. When it’s my turn I pray that I have the strength to accept this enormous gift of joy in the face of unspeakable despair.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray.
Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
Day 40 4/23/2020
860,000. Time to open up America, says the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth. He’s bored, his minions report. He’s restless. He wants to go outside. He wants to go play golf in Florida. Having a two-year-old in the highest office in the land is wearing on all of us. Give the sucker a swat on the butt and hand him his bottle. You! Go over there and SIT DOWN. Here, watch some kiddie porn or the 1979 Super Bowl. But SHUT THE FUCK UP!
It is a sure sign that the pandemic is merciless that he is seemingly immune. Proof that he is not human, that he is a Golem, created out of the clay of our sins.
I spent an hour on a ride-along phone call with my dear friend in California as she drove the long way home from getting a covid test. Oh, so you could get a test? sez me. Well, she sez, you have to be symptomatic and you have to make an appointment, so I called and they said there’s a cancellation for this morning at 6:30 am. I said, that will be hard, when is the next one, like 2 pm? The next opening is next Thursday. Oh, ok I’ll come at 6:30. So I thought I would have the 6:30 appointment but I was one of the 100 people in the 6:30 appointment slot so there were all these cars lined up and we had to wait with the windows up. So you’re symptomatic? sez me, scared. My friend has every known risk factor. Well yeah, I spiked a fever. So that’s the way it is, talking with somebody you love who has a fever who has to drive an hour and spend an hour in line and drive another hour home and wait 5 days for a result. We told jokes and dissed our old boyfriends and what all and what all, until she made it home.
So, after a long walk to the river I come home and turn on the TV. A sure sign of imminent insanity and the need for a telementalhealth phone call. Just in time to hear the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth tell people that perhaps they could inject disinfectant into their bodies to get rid of the virus. Oh, and the Governors of the Democratic States should just declare bankruptcy. There was more, but my barf bag overflowed and I had to disinfect my body with alcohol.
Day 41 4/24/2020
Dear Covid: I don’t mean to be presumptuous and interfere with your beautiful wickedness, but could you show the love to our President and give him a big hug and a juicy kiss from all of us? Thanks. R
Day 42 4/25/2020
934,730 cases in the US. 53,280 deaths. Just looked back to Day 1 of this journal: 1300 cases, 141 deaths. “That’s too many,” the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth said at the time. Thank God he cancelled flights from China (to all but 40,000 people subsequently).
Last week the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth said we have to open up our country, that he liked the protesters in the streets. Today he has hedged his bets, saying he doesn’t agree with “some” States who have opened up “too soon.” He “could tell them what to do because I can, but I can’t because it’s their decision”.
So the Governor of Georgia is opening hair salons, gyms, spas and tattoo parlors. (Makes you wonder what he’s wearing under that suit, don’t it?)
One of the amazing (Only one? you say.) things about this time is that it is SPRING in the Garden State. Fucking beautiful. I walked through a “poetry garden” with Eliane today. Beautiful setting with grassy trails and placards of poetry every 10-15 yards. Lovely to walk along reading poems. We sang when we got to Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds.”
Day 43. 4/26/2020
Rainy Sunday. I got my times all mixed up, thought I was doing something with Gregg at 8:30 so got up and got ready, then remembered that 8:30 for him was 11:30 for me, so I putzed around until then, but at 11:30 he wanted to move it to 5:30, oh dear, oh dear. None of us can keep time or date straight these days. No Mondays, no weekends, no clocks in the virtual world.
I drank the last of the Scotch I had saved for the ceremony and painted as I waited, listened to the Sunday shows on NPR. All of the programs were about Loneliness. Every single one of them opened by saying, “Many people are experiencing loneliness.. Today’s program will be about loneliness. If you are isolated and feeling lonely, know that we are in this together.” PEOPLE, please, are you LISTENING to yourselves?
I call it the impermeable bubble. I struggle against the bubble, you know. Even when I know I can’t pop it from the inside to release myself. I project my thoughts of future liberation onto coffee shops: Everything will be ok when I can walk to get a coffee. I confess that I have an old (now ratty and barely holding its shape) cardboard Starbucks cup that I sometimes fill and walk around the plaza early in the morning. I keep hoping someone will come up to me and say, Where did you get that? but of course, we don’t “come up to” each other these days, we cross the street to avoid each other, we don’t initiate conversation. I am going to allow myself a moment of self-flagellation here, if you will indulge me:
I HATE THIS FUCKING SHIT!!
OK, I’m done.
At 5:30 we did hold a Tibetan Sheetro (sp?) for the dead. This consists of an hour-long chant to help the dead pass through the Bardo and re-unite in the Oneness. We did this ceremony weekly for a year for Glenn after he died. Today I wept as Gregg chanted, for my family, for all those connected to them, for New York and the inestimable grief emanating from the city, for me. I felt weird when I prayed for myself, like who am I and really, is it all about me? I got a funny response from the Cloud of Witness saying, Of course it’s about you, dear, you’re the one still separated from us., you’re still there.
Steph sends me video of all the “wild” animals who are in the cities now. Funny and magical and dear.
Day 44 4/27/2020
I have found a new route down to the river and back. Down the side streets past elegant Princeton houses with their manicured lawns, down past school playing grounds and a large open space inhabited by Canadian geese and robins, down around a corner to a forest road, over a stream, on to the tree stump where I sat on my first walk to find the river a year ago. Beautiful all the way. I sit on the stump, look at the river (a lake, really, at this point) and make odd scribbles in my little pocket notebook.
After banging against the isolation bubble all weekend, I have a people day: four long calls, several hysterically funny videos from afar. My friend and healer, John D. works with me on my problem with stalling out when I write. I tell him I can be working along, making progress, when the slightest thing—bathroom trip, coffee re-fill, blues song on the radio—causes me to stop for a minute or two AND NOT BE ABLE TO START AGAIN. Like flying along in a little bi-plane and the engine starts to sputter and you know you’re going to crash. And you do. And you can’t get going again, sometimes for the rest of the day or even two days. Not quite writer’s block, because the text keeps flowing into my brain, but the gas line is clogged, and the plane goes down. I tell him I think it is because I have no feedback. Nobody cares if I write or don’t write. No one is reading this.
An old Jewish joke: A blind man is handed a matzo, turns it over in his hands and says, “Who writes this shit?”
John helps me access a companion, gives me a three-step process to use when I feel like I’m about to get stuck. After the call I work for three straight hours.
We’re probably going to hit 1,000,000 cases tomorrow. The President of the Greatest Nation on Earth is stalling in getting test kits to the States. I think he doesn’t want the numbers to go up. If we find out there are more cases, and especially if we find out we’ve massively undercounted deaths, he won’t be able to claim that he has saved 2 million lives by closing off air travel from China, “except for Americans. We had to bring them home.” (Americans could not transport “Chinese” viruses, you know.) From “War President” to “Savior” in one easy press conference. One of the newscasters has tears in his eyes as he asks the camera, “When will this end?”
Day 45 4/28/2020
The Vice President of the Greatest Nation on Earth visits the Mayo Clinic. There he stands in all his coiffed glory, surrounded by masked doctors and nurses AND PATIENTS in the hospital. Great photo op, hey? Can’t miss this. The Vice President of the Greatest Nation on Earth, did I say in the middle of the MAYO CLINIC?—stands amid them all without a mask. He justifies this by saying he doesn’t have the virus, he feels fine, quotes an arcane, proven irrelevant CDC statement that the mask is to protect you against the spread, omits the CDC’s current statement that the masks are to keep YOU from infecting OTHERS you officious TWAT.
We hit a million today.
Covid 19, 2020
In a way, we don’t want it to end,
not the sickness but the silence.
We don’t want to come out from our exile
if it means the animals will disappear again.
We don’t want to break our isolation
if we lose this., this holy moment,
its bright clear air,
green unobstructed rivers,
vistas of the Himalayas from India,
St. Kilda from Lewis,
stars from Fraser’s porch in Inverness.
We miss each other, we lovers,
but we hate as well.
We hate up to those in power,
we hate down to those who pluck our chickens.
Some get. Some don’t.
If I get sick, I don’t want to get.
If I don’t get means I don’t get food, I don’t want to not get.
We hate the cities
with all their death,
we hate “foreigners” who brought this to us,
we hate the scientists for not making a cure.
We hate the governments
and the self-crowned princes.
We hate, and the list goes on.
Yet in a way we don’t want it to end,
this bird call unmuted,
this fox on an urban street,
this outrageous sexy blossoming
this joyous, preposterous epiphany who slithers under doorways
and kills us.
Some of us get fat, some starve.
Some look in the mirror and notice their waists thickening
and their eyebrows bushing.
Some look in the mirror and see
1200 cars behind them at the food bank.
Some of us are sick and tired of our kids.
Some of us are running out of diapers and formula
In a way we don’t want it to end.
What that means is, we don’t want to witness the end.
We want our lives back—not their lives, our lives, let’s be clear—but
we want this glistening day without us
to go on and on.
Those of us afraid of death salute the “heroes”
who keep us alive.
Yet some of us, anyway,
the some of us that includes me and mine,
some of us want Nature Gaia to win.
Day 46 4/29/2020
The Estimable Son-in-Law of the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth, totally expressionless, totally wrinkle-free, totally clean looking, like a blow-up dolly after a bath, stands before us to proclaim, of their handling of the covid crisis: “It is a great success.” Again, I ask, Who writes this shit?
Riots in the streets. People with flags and Uzis and sleeveless tees showing pit hair and muscles, proud and loud and jubilant in their courage, sing out that they have lost their liberty, that they are locked up by deep government against their will, that they are forbidden to work. (I want to say that it is sorta amazing that they now love work.). It’s been a month you tattooed wusses. One month. By what standard of bravery and patriotism, what historical measure, what comparison with Andersonville, the Somme, the Sands of Iwo Jima or any other glorified “sacrifice for the land of the free,” by what conceivable American hero myth does one month hold aught but derision? So you cash your “stimulus check” from “deep government,” and you use the cash to buy gas for your jacked-up red truck and bullets for your big dick gun and a coupla gigantic red-white-and-blues, and you go outside to riot for the right to go outside. Put your cock back in your pants and go feed your kids. Jesus.
Day 47 4/30/2020
The eve of Beltane. Two years ago Beltane, I walked up the Tump with a bunch of hoo-ha ebullient Druids, watched the men fake a sword fight, shared mead from a passed cup. Not this year. Oh well.
I spend the entire morning cleaning my apartment. Everything. Bathroom. Ugh. Dusting. Big Ugh, always hated dusting. Change the couch cushions around, put a new cover on. Laundry. Compelled to honor the change of season. I take my big crystals out of their sock pouches, where they’ve been since Calanais in December. (For years now, I haven’t taken my crystals out except at Calanais) Now they are recharging in a bowl of water mixed with Purple Heather Salt I bought at a weird little Highlands store with Fraser. I was supposed to go to Scotland this weekend for a month. Homesick.
Once the house is clean and the crystals are cooking I take a walk around the block. A storm is brewing up. Wind gusts in the 30s. The sky is a strange silver color, like it’s trying to send a message: when it comes, baby, it’ll come. Once back inside, I lay on the couch and read the New Yorker and damned if I’m not homesick for New York now.
There is a mystery here somewhere: homebound and homesick. The answer lives at the bottom of Grendel’s lake, I spose:
At night that lake
Burns like a torch. No one knows its bottom,
No wisdom reaches such depths. A deer,
Hunted through the woods by packs of hounds
A stag with great horns, though driven through the forest
From faraway places, prefers to die
On those shores, refuses to save its life
In that water. It isn’t far, nor is
It a pleasant spot!
Beowulf, trans. by Burton Raffel (found in Robert Bly’s News of the Universe)
I turn off the radio and put down the magazine and listen to the silence. Wait for the rain.