A RIPENING HEART: WAITING OUT COVID



I’m an introvert, which helps, I suppose, but the isolation is getting to me after nearly a year. I’m a member of a Zoom meditation group, two Zoom poetry groups, and a Zoom writing workshop, which I teach. I also sit in on a Torah study with a remarkable Rabbi and congregation from Amherst, Massachusetts. I’m not a Jew but I am nourished by this intelligent communal practice of Midrash. This helps but I can’t really get a read on the faces in front of me. I recognize them, I like and love them, but there is still a fourth wall between us. I prefer the physical presence of people to these mediated images. There is something about stirring the atmosphere in a room with another human being.


I’m a writer by profession and an amateur visual artist. These are solitary activities. I also live alone. I have lost a very important relationship; or rather, the relationship has changed from being lovers to being friends. My heart is full of this wonderful woman every hour of the day. I miss her physical presence terribly, her affection, her warmth. I am heartened to receive her eloquent emails.


It could be worse. I could be in solitary confinement, I could be in Guantanamo, I could be in a hospital isolation room with some incurable disease, or in an iron lung. My present solitude allows me to empathize with people in worse conditions than myself. Sometimes I’m physically stressed by this situation. Sometimes I want to scream. I meditate daily and pull my consciousness away from my head and down into my heart. I trust what happens there to get me by, although I couldn’t really name it. The Buddhists called it chitta, or heart/mind, a kind of intelligence of the whole of which the nattering logical mind is only a small part. I've learned that not to honor it is a deprivation of consciousness and body.


I write every morning. I read. I have a spread of books open all the time, skipping from one to the other. Some judgmental inner voice faults me for this but I quickly tell it to fuck off. I don’t need a super ego right now. Just what would he repress?


I can only call this a ripening.


What did I do today? I wrote in the morning, had lunch and then grabbed my camera and got in the car. I’m lucky to live where I do. I’m surrounded by farms and landscapes. I’m less than an hour from the New York border and can drive to the Art OMI Sculpture park in an hour and a half. I’m a half hour from North Adams and the wonderful, labyrinthine museum at Mass MoCA where I can schedule a timed visit. The museum occupies several former mill buildings and is roomy enough that the virus is less likely to find me. I like to go there with my laptop, sit in the café, and work. I like the staff, the people behind the counters, the other wanderers in the museum. I like the feeling of being in community even at a distance.


I am less politically stressed right now than two months ago but concerned about all the damage that has been done to the country, aware of the rage and hatred that is still around, even if the maestro has left the White House.


There is only speculation when the pandemic will end. I sometimes dread going to sleep because I don’t know where my mind will go in my dreams. I am writing this to reach out a virtual hand to you, to wish you well.

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