Untidy Altered States
“The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.” ~John Galsworthy
I finished closing up the cottage over the weekend, always a bittersweet process.
I staggered the tasks—many of them messy and cumbersome—over several days. Physically, it’s less risky for my aging back.
Emotionally, though, no matter how many times I do it, no matter how efficient my extensive practice, I feel the impending ending of summer, the end of warmth and light and access to the place I love, the place I feel most at peace.
I’ve never much liked endings. And though I’ve learned to embrace them as harbingers of new beginnings (age has a few benefits), I still wrestle with the transition between what was and what will be.
I arrived to this island sanctuary May 19th and left September 13th: my COVID summer of peace, quiet and solitude.
My life has been completely, utterly, gloriously my own.
Yet, even as I relished in the respite from the world and its frozen boiling craziness, I was acutely aware it was temporary: a time of new challenges, of new growth, follows periods of rest.
As you read this, I am now in Parkton, Maryland, where I am staying for many, many weeks.
I will be helping my son and daughter-in-law with their two children—aged two and four—with whom they have spent a stressful six months as they (try to) work from home.
Hopefully, I will provide some relief in the form of an extra pair of hands and a new pair of ears. And a night away.
Oh, and then there’s the eight-week old puppy they picked up on Thursday. Cute as can be but not yet house-broken.
My life will not be my own again for a while.
God willing, I will survive.
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In a way, my swift shift to an altered reality—that microscopic but momentous loss of visual landmarks and auditory anchors—serves as a metaphor for our global macroscopic disruption.
There is B.C.: Before Covid
We all remember that reality, that landscape, our former one in which we waited in crowded lines and went to the theatre, concerts and restaurants without a single anxious thought of safety concerns.
The one where we wandered without masks, oblivious to the invisible virus hiding in wait to get us all. A world in which hugging and handshakes provided a daily dose of human contact, that we hardly knew we needed, that we took for granted, barely noticed sometimes, and now miss the most.
Perhaps this time of containment, this time of in-between, of waiting and watching and cleaning up and clearing out, will prepare us to contend with a future full of fires, actual and philosophical, and a bunch of puppies who must be trained to pee outside.
But there is not yet an A.C.
“After Covid” is a long way away, and much, at least for the United States, rests on the results of the Presidential election on November 3rd.
There is only D.C., During Covid. An altered state.
What we’re learning as we muddle our way through the middle of it, marching our way to the end of it, will determine the kinds of beginnings that will result from it.
Our lives depend on it.
God willing, we will survive.
“Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.” ~Anna Quindlen