The Colors of White

“Group With Parasols” by John Singer Sargent

That mustachioed, opened-shirt guy with an umbrella? That’s my great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wild; who’d preferred to be called Frank. (Did anyone ever joke, “Can you B. Frank, Frank?”  I sure hope so.) The shyly smiling woman seated in front of him, who may be holding Frank’s boater, is my great-grandmother, Amy Prescott Faulkner Wild. Because I have seen other photographs of those people in those same clothes, I happen to know that they, like Sargent’s four snoozers, had actually been enjoying the out-of-doors the day this stiff, posed [studio?] photograph had been taken. Which means that Frank’s umbrella is actually a parasol! And, as his open shirt indicates, that day had been as indolent, as lovely, as deliciously warm as the snoring moment Sargent has so magnificently captured.

Sargent, who also sported a mustache, was born in 1856; Frank in 1853, Amy in 1858. Knowing a little about how their respective timelines overlapped, I’d walked through the current Museum of Fine Arts’ “Fashioned by Sargent” exhibit yesterday adding historical context to what I ogled. And the same questions.

I knew, for example, how The Gilded Age, a time of enormous wealth and equally enormous exploitation, had overlapped a fierce, post-Civil War battle: the suffrage movement. Who was to get the vote first? Women? Or African-American men?  So when I looked into the eyes of one of Sargent’s exquisite women, for example, I could ask her the same questions I’d already asked Amy Prescott Faulkner Wild: Had you been a secret or even an open suffragette? Did you, like my great-grandmother, ever consider the workers who produced your wealth? For my great-grandmother, it would have been miners whose harsh, dangerous labor produced the coal her jaunty husband sold all over Greater Boston. Did she understand how those faceless miners made possible her mansion on Somerville’s Highland Avenue, her gorgeous summer home on Cape Cod’s Bass River, the family plot in Mount Auburn Cemetery?

I’d like to think my shy ancestor did. But, knowing a little something about White people, I doubt it.

Sargent’s “Group with Parasols” is displayed with several other white-featured paintings; towards the end of his career, the great portrait painter became fascinated with white. And therein lies a profound difference between his subjects and my family: My ancestors may have been wealthy—but they hadn’t been rich enough to wear white to a picnic!

Such a vast scale of difference! It echoes the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire.(The magnitude of difference between billion and million can be illustrated with this example of the time scale: A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.)

Oh.

 

What Am I Called To Do (with asterisks)?:

To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure

and discovery may be almost the greatest service 

one human being ever performs for another.

Douglas Steere

As my father got more and more frail and his children and grandchildren had begun to take on the major responsibilities at family get-togethers, leaving him with nothing to do, he’d say, “Never mind. I’ll just sit in the corner and drool.” He didn’t drool. But sometimes a younger family member would pull up a chair, sit down beside him, and listen to his stories. Which were wonderful.

As I and the warring, climate-disrupted world we all inhabit get more and more frail, asking the Universe: “What am I called to do?” seems an existential/spiritual question with some asterisks:

* at almost-eighty.

* that doesn’t add to my carbon footprint if I choose to witness/show up/minister.

*that would actually make a difference yet which I, on a fixed-income, can afford.

(You get the idea.)

Lately I have been pondering some ways we potential droolers might be useful in this unimaginably challenging time. Let me count the ways (so far):

Like the wonderful Steere quote, we can listen as others share their grief, their fears, their suffering.

Like my father, we can share own experiences; we can offer a long-view perspective. No, let’s be clear, there has never been a time quite so fraught (my dad’s word) as this. Yet surely our stories contain some nuggets the present generations might appreciate? Dare I say learn from? (Some buy-in’s probably required. Someone willingly chose to sit beside my father. Someone needs to ask us to recount the time when . . ., right?)

We can speak to the non-binary-All because we, too have suffered. We, too, have experienced unmitigated joy. And here we are. Our breath of experience adds more to the spectrum of What Being Conscious Is About, the All of it, its spectacular, wondrous, terrifying, maddening, unlimited array of experiences.

And, finally, this: I have seen what Love can do. Love is thoroughly embedded in that All; Its all-embracing power continually takes my breath away. It feels naive—silly—to write that, now, as wars wage everywhere. Everywhere! Yet over a lifetime, in the midst of conflict, when I remembered to speak or to act from a place of Love, everything shifted. Improved. Softened. This I know at almost-eighty.

Where is Love in Gaza? Where is Love in Ukraine? Yemen?  The streets of Haiti, the streets of vandalized San Francisco? That’s impossible to say. What I can say is this: some of us along Elder Path may want to listen to your grief, your rage, your fears. Grateful to be able to experience this “greatest service one human being ever performs for another,” we can hear you with Love.

 

 

Just There!

One morning years ago, wearily trudging down the basement stairs carrying yet another overflowing basket of dirty clothes, I distinctly heard a woman screaming, “Endless, endless, endless!” Was it my mother’s voice? Or my own? Wading through the mound of waiting laundry in front of the washing machine, I suddenly realized it didn’t matter which one of us had lost it. One of us understood something basic, fundamental, unequivocal: laundry happens. Deal.

“Galloping charlie,” a seemingly benign, scalloped green leaf just there, coyly nestled in my backyard grass, happens, too. (It’s really “creeping charlie” but such a formidable foe deserves a more imposing name, right?)

My endless, ill-fated battle with GC began in late April, early May, when my husband, recovering from open-heart surgery and still unable to garden (He’s fine, now), pointed out that what I’d thought a lovely, purple flower was actually a weed—and taking over our backyard. Oh.

Purple? One of my faves? Well-played, GC. First round: Yours.

So I began to pull up those lovely flowers. A newbie gardener, I actually believed that if I devoted enough time and energy, our backyard would eventually look like a tiny golf course. [Okay, seasoned gardeners. I hear you snicker. And those of you questioning this absurd goal?You’re right! I’ve clearly lost my mind.]

In my defense: Two things happened as I began. (Well, if you count all the rain we’ve had, making weeding that much more pleasurable, three.) One, I discovered the indescribable joy of battling an inventive, just-wants-to-propagate weed. Because, yes, it creeps. It creates an amazing network to spread, thrive, survive. After a while, my eager fingers learned what was grass and what wasn’t, what to sift through, and what to carefully follow, strand by strand, and then to gently, oh so gently tug up, twist to possibly engage even more strands, as I pulled. If I’m thorough enough, patient enough, gentle enough, a great, honkin,’ multi-tentacled weed emerges.

And if I’m not? Another GC win.

But that’s the take-away, right? GC’s inevitability. That Serenity Prayer’s acceptance thing. Which, as I sift, tug, twist, and lift, I contemplate again and again. And as another quiet weeding afternoon progresses, the relentless sun glaring on the other side of my house, immersed in this literally-in-the-weeds-spiritual practice, I am able to consider climate devastation’s inevitability. [There. I’ve admitted that. Let’s move on.]

The Second Thing: So far, our neighbors have been mercifully quiet. (One exception: Memorial Day weekend, one family sang along to Brazilian music. Delightful!) Circling swallows, butterflies, relentless bees, a gentle breeze tinkling our wind chime, the delicious shade of our japanese maple my companions, I am.

I win.

 

 

 

 

“And the days dwindle down . . . “

[It’s been a loooong time since I last posted. So: hello, again.]

Last week over lunch, a friend I’ve known since high school—Class of 1962—told me she hopes to live until eighty-six. What?

Her explicit, stark, and less-than-ten-years-left goal so rattled me I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. But a few days later, I am so grateful for this gift of reckoning she gave me.

Oldest of a large family, she’s already let her siblings know—”so they can get used to the idea,” she told me.

While touched by her thoughtfulness, it’s her specificity I find most startling. And yet exhilarating. Daughter of parents who’d called death The Inevitable and talked as much about end-of-life decisions as about their grandchildren, I had nevertheless not yet let a stark truth penentrate: like my friend’s projected number of years left to live, there’s a very specific number for me, too! And, yes, maybe that number could be less than ten?! Oh. (Since both my parents died at 95, maybe I’d unconsciously glommed down on that very optimistic, blurry, in-the-mists number? Maybe. But no more.)

Both my sister and sister-in-law died in the past eight months; never have I been so aware of The Inevitable. Never have I been so grateful for Life; never has it been more precious. This recent reckoning, though, asks a slight re-write of that wonderful Mary Oliver question, doesn’t it: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, precious, and dwindling life?”

Comin’ Around Again

When I was young I was very young. And the world I grew up in was a younger world, a world that told me, “When you grow up, you can be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher.” So for many reasons that seemed relevant in those long-ago times, I chose teaching. Given that those times’ imposed limitations meant that my “choice” wasn’t much of a choice, turns out I am a pretty good teacher! Turns out, interacting with children gives me enormous joy! Turns out, I got lucky.

Over the years my teaching career swerved from teaching elementary school-aged children, as I’d been trained to do in college, to teaching deaf teenagers, to, for almost 20 years, working with adult learners in housing projects, homeless shelters, and at an adult learning center. But when my first book was published in 1998, I declared myself a writer—and never looked back.

Until now. A grandmother, I am once again teaching small children at my Quaker meeting. I’m again writing lesson plans. I’m again buying art supplies. I’m again talking with parents about their children’s needs. I’m again being schooled by insightful and loving co-teachers. And scraping play-doh off a rug. (Oops.)

And while sometimes this gig feels very automatic—”You know, we’ve heard some wonderful ideas from you. Let’s see if someone else has some good ideas, okay?”—something feels absolutely new.

This choice is so, so different, isn’t it! So realized. So informed. So much about joyously reclaiming a part of myself that, yes, I’d only dimly understood over sixty years ago (GASP) when I’d chosen Teacher. So whole.

 

To Have and To Hold

When I was maybe three or four, one of my favorite “toys” had been my mother’s button box. (What was that box’s backstory? Was it made of sturdy cardboard or metal? Had it once held candy or tea? Had it been a biscuit tin? I don’t remember.) I’d loved the susurration those hundred of buttons made when I slowly trawled the box’s contents with my hand.  I’d loved the randomness; the not-knowing what I’d discover in my hand when I extracted one or two buttons. Would I hold a large, plastic, Art-Deco button from a thirties-era jacket?A tiny, opalescent mother-0f-pearl memento of my babyhood? If I dipped again, would I perhaps find a duplicate to my first haul? What I’d loved most, though, was to treasure whatever I held.

Sunday night, my sister’s vast collection of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, pendants, and rings covering my living room coffee table, I was reminded of those individualized and reverent moments. Randomly picking up an exquisite ring or a necklace, I held my fierce and brilliant sister Deborah, who died from pancreatic cancer on June 7th. With tenderness and care her grieving ex-husband and son have been slowly dispensing her things; Sunday night, thanks to my daughter’s cell phone’s texting capabilities, our extended family had the opportunity to pick and choose a piece of Deborah’s jewelry.

Because my sister had already specified she’d wanted me to have her silver charm bracelet, my brother-in-law handed it to me beforehand. What I slowly realized as I picked up and admired Deborah’s collection, one by one, was that her laden, tinkling keepsake would be enough. (Although I did chose a couple of pieces I plan to pass along to two dear friends who have held me as I grieve.) Like admiring my mother’s button box collection, I loved, loved, loved cherishing Deborah’s jewelry. And that charm bracelet is enough.

This understanding may have been made more clear for me, I think, because of my recent visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Over the past fifty years I have visited “Mrs. Jack’s” hodgepodge collection many times; this most recent visit stirred up some concern: What happens to someone’s soul when she owns so much cheek-by-jowl, impossible-to-keep-track-of beauty? How could Isabella Stewart Gardner possibly love the thousands of things she’d collected? At some point, had she become inured to her breathtaking possessions? Become deadened to such overwhelming splendor? After the crowds went home, had she ever strolled through her higglety-pigglety gallery rooms and randomly picked up something small and exquisite? Had she held it? Loved it?

I hope so.

 

 

 

“Just Roll With It”

[Turner’s unfinished “Venice with the Salute”*]

Yesterday, in the collective silence of a Quaker meeting, I waited for whatever was to come to come. And was given: “You’re sad, sweetheart. Just roll with it.”

At first, feeling that acknowledged sadness weight my body, this somber, right-on message seemed enough. Full Stop. The End. But as I literally sat with that weight, sadness became A Thing, an opening, a possibility, a tool, a medium. “My palette,” I decided.  Something to work with.

So I will. I am.

 

*”Venice with the Salute, about 1840-45 (Oil on canvas)

The monumental Baroque church of the Salute, with its great dome,

dominates the entrance to Venice’s Grand Canal. Turner probably 

focused on this landmark in hopes of finding a buyer. 

He left the work unfinished, however, barely defining the buildings

on either side; water, land, and sky merge. The extraordinary,

shimmering forms evoke the paradox of dense fog on a sunny day.

[Explanatory notes, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, May 2022]

Through the Ether

My father were be astonished. Self-labeled “a merchant of death,”during the Cold War my definitely-analog dad sold General Electric-manufactured heavy military equipment to the government. Gigantic and metal and painted battleship-grey; such armaments were how the USA would win this war, Dad believed—who’d died decades before Twitter and Tik Tok and Spotify et al. How mystified my father would be to learn how weightless, colorless, relatively inexpensive, and transmitted-through-a-network-he’d-never-comprehended* misinformation can be and is destructive, disruptive, even deadly!

Who’s winning this Cold War 2.0 which weaponizes instability and fear and distrust? My sense is they are. But how would I know?!

I do know this: I believe in another weightless and colorless and mysteriously transmitted network. When this network broadcasts it’s called prayer. When we open ourselves to Spirit; i.e. when we click on our “radio” to signal to ourselves and to the Universe that we’re listening, something grounding happens. We’re hearing Truth.

 

*After World War II but before the Cold War, Dad sold GE radio and television equipment to stations throughout the northeast. Radio waves—aka microwaves—he’d understood!

 

 

 

“Land Acknowledgement Day”?

This year at my house, Thanksgiving Day will look pretty normal. Our menu will feature indigenous entrees like cranberries, corn, squash, maybe even turkey. (Some years we’ve served chicken with figs to rave reviews.) There will be several pies, yes, and family, yes, and between the main course and all those pies, we’ll go around the table and each of us will say what we’re thankful for. Like I said: normal.

But in my heart, ahh, this year will be radically different. This year, silently, I will celebrate this tiny patch of Somerville real estate I call “mine.” I will celebrate the land beneath me. As I savor my made-once-a-year cranberry sauce or baked squash, I will celebrate the fruits of The Land. I will remember the Massachusetts people who’d once trod upon this land. I will hold them in the Light, a prayer without ceasing.

Perhaps you will, too?

 

Light A Candle

[Mom’s 95th birthday party, Neville Center, Cambridge, MA,  2018]

This has been a week of anniversaries: my mother died three years ago this week, my father died eleven years ago this week, and yesterday my Quaker meeting held its twelfth anniversary, all-meeting silent worship in front of Raytheon Technology Corporation. [“Raytheon wins $2B contract for new nuclear cruise missile,” July 6, 2021] Seated on folding chairs and holding signs declaring “Quakers praying for peace,” about twenty of us sat on Cambridge’s Concord Avenue’s sidewalk; an equal number sat across the street—in front of the long-term-care facility, Neville Center, where my mother had died. Alone.

For several years every third Sunday of the month, rain or shine, members of my meeting have been faithfully worshipping in front of Raytheon (and before that, in front of Textron, maker of cluster bombs.) But since my mother died, I had not felt able to show up on Concord Avenue. Until yesterday.

Sitting in delicious, warming, October sunshine and gazing at the three-story Neville Center across the street, I prayed for peace and held my mother in the Light. Is there something, I wondered, besides this little patch of Cambridge real estate, that connects my disparate prayers?

And what came to me is this: I am not alone. Seated here, my prayers for peace entwine with others’. But for many reasons, most not of her own making, rarely did my mother experience this delicious interconnectivity I feel right now.

Such sadness to realize this and yet such gratitude for my faith community; a community I might add, I sometimes struggle with.

So today, as this anniversary week ends, feeling all the feels, I light a memorial candle.

 

 

Serendipity

[An excerpt from Strands: An Apprenticeship with Grief and Loss, to be published by Barclay Press, 2022.]

In January of 2020, the same day Beijing reported its first coronavirus death, out-of-the-blue I decided to rescue family photos in moldy photo albums or crammed into shoeboxes under my bed. After buying a nifty storage box, I began to sort and organize. That same week, Ancestry.com informed me that my ancestors had been English, Scottish, Norwegian, and German. (I’d hoped to learn something startling!) A local historian contacted me, again out of the blue, to learn more about my great-grandmother, Amy, who had been a Faulkner before marrying Benjamin Franklin Wild.  (He’d preferred “Frank.”)

That synchronistic week continued: StoryCorps notified me that a family-history story set in Somerville, which I’d recorded a few years earlier, was now accessible at the Library of Congress. I reconnected with my beloved second cousin, Peter Wild. And that Saturday, I’d been invited to visit a recently-opened and beautifully organized food pantry in the roomy basement of the Mission Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Highland Avenue—just a few blocks from my house. From 1894 until 1975, Mission Church had been “First Unitarian Somerville,” and located next door to Amy and Frank’s mansion, now razed, where three generations of Wilds, including my father and my Aunt Amy, once worshipped.

That Sunday, still able to worship in person in the Friends Meeting at Cambridge’s meetinghouse, I reflected on that week.What does all this family stuff in one week mean? I wondered. Seated with a hundred or so fellow worshippers, we’d sat in deep quiet for over a half hour before someone stood to break the silence. And in that long and delicious time to deepen and reflect, something came to me: You call these random, all-the-same-week incidents family. Yet most of these happenstances have been about Wilds. Most of the photos in your nifty storage box are Wilds. You know next to nothing of your mother’s history.

This accurate observation had been followed by A Nudge: And isn’t about time for you to find out? Or, as I would come to view this Spirit-sourced prompt: Here is the first exercise of your apprenticeship. Go!

The next day when I googled for clues, I discovered that I hadn’t known how to spell my maternal grandmother’s maiden name—it’s Cogill—and that I’d been spelling my maternal grandfather’s first and last names wrong, too! My ignorance humbled me; to immediately realize how little I knew seemed a gift, an opening,* an invitation to apply what Buddhists call “Beginner’s Mind ” to this apprenticeship; to be curious, openhearted, eager. A Bonus: Stumbling upon the actual spelling of my grandfather’s name had been “serendipitous,” to use a word my mother often employed (sometimes wrong), and a reminder that, indeed, way opens.*

My maternal grandparents divorced when my mother had been a toddler; her father was never a part of her life. In 1966, when she and my father vacationed in Palm Beach, Florida, her father reentered her life: “You know, Al,” she’d mused one night at dinner. “I think my father lives here.” Low lights, flowers, a delicious, expensive, seafood dinner and a bourbon or two probably contributed to Mom’s pensive mood. Encouraged by Dad— “There’s two sides to every story, Pat,” he reminded her—she called her father. Who, I want to believe, immediately jumped in a cab to meet his daughter.

Did my grandfather stand for a few moments at the entrance to the dining room scanning the tables for Mom? Did his face light up when spotted her—the stunning, middle-aged, well-dressed woman craning her elegant neck to scrutinize every man entering the room? When he’d approached my parents’ table, had all three shook hands? Hugged? What were the first things my mother and her father said to each other? Had their initial conversation been stiff? Awkward? Warm? I don’t know. As already noted, my mother wasn’t much of a storyteller. I do know that sometime during this reunion, Mom announced that I would be getting married that July.

“I’m coming,” her father declared. (In that declarative moment, did my mother remember all the times in her childhood when she’d longed for a proverbial Dad?) The dapper, elderly stranger who’d showed up—in spats—to my first wedding had been Munro not Monroe. And his last name was Horre. Not, as my mother, her sister Kay and her mother spelled it, Horrie.

I’d known—but forgotten—that Horre to Horrie spelling-change story, too; its broad outline, at least. When I’d been maybe ten or eleven Mom explained, “My mother went to court. She added the I. You’d think that with a name like Horre, she might have added a few more letters!” Too young and too cosseted to understand her quip, I didn’t get it. Twice-divorced, I can now also appreciate how my grandmother, who wanted to be called Lil and not “Grandma,” had inserted an i into her ex-husband’s last name. I love how Lil inserted her personhood, her selfhood. I.

I remember that inserted-i story. But do I also remember a veiled look, how my lovely mother might have looked away, twirled a lock of her wavy brown hair or stared at her wedding ring when she’d finished telling it? Had she “cleaned her molars” with her tongue, as my sister and brothers called this Mom-tell which signaled, “I’m done! And angry. No more. Stop!”

The serendipitous story (And it really is):  Seven months and two days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Munro Horre and Muriel Kershaw applied for a marriage license and earned a tiny notice in The Palm Beach Post. I only discovered my grandfather’s name misspelling because someone researching Kemp family history had apparently clipped a two-paragraph, alphabetized snippet—which had also included Munro and Muriel’s announcement. And because of “a little thing I like to call ‘The Internet,’ ” as my daughter, Hope, says, there that snippet was, waiting for me to find.

Although newspapers misspell names all the time, seeing my grandfather’s name in print felt solid. Felt real. Important. I liked looking at this little scrap of information. So I took a screen shot of this small memento of the grandfather I met once but never knew and sent it to my four daughters and my sister.

Horre. Munro Horre. Who, during my mid-sixties-hippie-style-wedding-in-a-park reception, having just met his other daughter, my Aunt Kay, sidled up to my mother and whispered, “I like you more than her!” Munro Horre.

(Spell-check keeps asking if I actually mean Horror. And maybe I do.)

Thanks to the Internet I located a Cogill family lineage tracing back to the mid-eighteen hundreds, too. I printed it out. I hole-punched it and reverently placed those family names and dates, as dry and as dusty as the begats of the Bible, in a three-ring binder. Thanks to the Internet, I learned that Lillian Cogill Horrie died in 1961 at the horrifyingly young age of fifty-nine. (No wonder she hadn’t wanted to be called “Grandma”!)

Possessing a Cogill family lineage or doing simple arithmetic to learn that Lil had been forty-two when I’d been born didn’t speak to my condition, however. * This “exercise” had not been about right-brain, three-ring binders or pouring over census records. I was not supposed to research my mother’s family’s history.

What had I been gently nudged to do? To spend some time wandering through that metaphorical hallway of shadows and forgotten ancestors; that’s what this exercise had been about. To inhabit that mournful word, forgotten, but supply my own adjectives as well. Like lost. Unacknowledged. Denied. Stricken from the records. Missing. Never named. Gone. To walk past artists’ renderings of my English, Scottish, Norwegian, and German ancestors in that hallway of shadows and forgotten ancestors, to study the more recent portraits and photographs of the New Englanders listed in my three-ring binder and, at last, to discover that where Munro Horre’s portrait ought to be is an empty frame. To stand in front of that empty frame, its brass nameplate correctly spelled, to feel the sadness of his not-there-ness. To connect with my mother’s sadness. And to begin to connect with my mother differently.

This too: to connect my own and my mother’s sense of loss with humanity’s collective loss; our shared grief. All our lost, missing, gone ancestors! All their lost wisdom. All the revelatory stories we will never hear. When an old person dies a library burns down, an African proverb reminds us. What enormous loss we all carry!

My sense of loss was to become enlarged, more painful, more focused, soon after that weirdly synchronistic week. Thanks to Ancestry.com, I learned that an eighth cousin—nine generations back she and I share a common ancestor—is a young Woman of Color. More than likely our common ancestor had been male and White. More than likely our shared DNA means rape, coercion, a violent sexual assault.

Horrified, devastated, I sought guidance from family and friends—and my apprenticeship handbook.

 And found this: The cumulative grief of the world is overwhelming, Weller notes. 1 And he counsels us to literally hold this enormity in our hands, to cup our hands as if holding water in order to offer ourselves a bottom, a limit; to perform this ritual in order to contain all these powerful feelings.

Unaccustomed to ritual yet appreciative of how Weller’s suggestion both acknowledged and honored what I was feeling while offering those feelings a safety net, I held that galactic grief. I embodied it. I honored it by lovingly cupping it in my hands. I grieved my own forgotten ancestors—and humanity’s. I held in the Light my eighth cousin’s forgotten ancestors, brought to this country in chains, whose real names and those of their descendants have been lost, forgotten, erased. I grieved those unnamed men and women and children who’d once walked on this tiny patch of Somerville real estate I call “mine.” I grieved for my fatherless mother.

I held that. For a few terrifying moments, I allowed myself to experience momentous grief. But then my right brain kicked in: You can never adequately cup water in your hands. You can never hold it all. And I spread my fingers wide.

Making Do

Six stamps left. Loathe to step inside our tiny, neighborhood post office and wanting to support the currently-endangered USPS, we’d both ordered stamps, lots of stamps—but because so many others have done the same thing, our orders were slow in coming. What to do meanwhile?

In the time it takes to press a Forever stamp onto a envelope we’d figured it out. Two for bills, the remaining four to mail a time-sensitive IRS form. And the condolence card to a dear friend whose mother has just died? It’ll have to be an email. “Just for now,” as my yoga teacher often says.

And, no, it wasn’t our solution that was remarkable—it’s how automatic, how seamless, how born-to-solve-this supply issue our thinking process has become.

Raised by parents who’d grown up during the Depression, born during World War II and its attendant rationing, victory gardens, et al, from the time we were born we’d known this same kind of shortage; the same kind of “Is This Trip Necessary?” decision-making that families always make during challenging times. (And let’s face it, we’re not living in a Yemen refugee camp are we! Or Chelsea.)

So in the midst of my horror, my rage, my heart-racing fear, my deep, deep sadness, the pain of  knowing how devastated many are while I am so unfairly untouched by this pandemic; in the midst of all I am feeling? Such love! Such gratitude for my mother and father.