Hope and Longing

My family has mostly been sheltering in place since March 11th. We have only been leaving our house to run essential errands and walk the dog. Other than that, my husband and two teenage sons spend our days at home. We try to focus on the positives of this challenging and unprecedented time. The slowing down of our daily routines is one of the blessings. 

I am grateful for the space of reflection that this time is providing. Humanity often needs some hardship to reset and reprioritize what matters most to us. It has been a long time since the entire world has been faced with an opportunity to reconnect with our deepest values. 

On my regular walks with my dog, I have seen more wildlife than I have ever in our town. On a recent morning walk, I saw two young coyotes crossing a road and frolicking near a field. Within seconds, I could hear the local ground squirrel colony chirping to alert its community of the dangers lurking nearby. Many brave ones perched on their haunches and carefully watched the coyotes to be sure they were heading away from the colony. I often see a resident redtail hawk perched in a pine or oak tree and scanning for food. This week, my family spotted a sharp-shinned hawk, a bird we have never seen in the almost thirty years we have lived here. Because we have been home more, we started filling our bird feeders again and have poured over bird books to identify species. I look forward to the fall, so we can observe who will visit as the seasons change. 

We have also spent more time connecting with family outside our immediate one. When I was growing up, we had phone calls every weekend with my grandparents, who lived in Illinois and New Hampshire. Talking to them on the phone was part of our weekend routine, like soccer games and pancakes. We are currently making sure we speak with our elders and loved ones more regularly, especially since it isn’t safe to see them in person. I want to be sure to continue these interactions when we have control of this pandemic.

I am regularly grateful for all of these experiences. However, as I read my morning papers, I long for the time when it feels safe to go out for a meal or get a haircut. I wonder if we’ll ever be as free and easy about our interactions with others as we used to be. I fear that I won’t ever be able to truly relax and enjoy the time spent at a sporting event, theatrical performance, or music venue. Will it feel safe to hug a friend or family member with whom I don’t live? Will traveling feel safe any time soon? I  hope we can quickly control this pandemic so that we can recapture those other experiences that feed our souls.

Before my daily meditation, I frequently read from The Pocket Pema Chodron, a mini-book with selections from the Buddhist nun’s books. On a recent day, I read an entry titled, “When Things Fall Apart.” Chodron reminds us that “falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.” She states, “…healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” I aspire to let there be room for all of these and recognize this current era as an opportunity to find peace with the textured lives we live.

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