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Saturday, May 9, 2020

We're all poets and we just don't know it

“We are in a storm together, but we are not in the same boat.” I read that statement online and it really spoke to me. We are all trying to make sense of this surreal situation we find ourselves in. Life in one household during this pandemic may be completely different from the other houses on the street. In fact each household on one street may have a completely different experience during this strange period of self-isolation. Some are experiencing financial difficulty and anxiety about the future of their small business. Others are exhausted and frustrated from trying to work from home while also supervising their children’s home learning sessions. Still others are just feeling alone and cut off from the ones they love. But the fact that we are all going through something new and strange is drawing us closer together, and it’s doing something else. It’s bringing our creativity out.

Maybe it’s the silence. There is a lack of highway, train, plane and general industrial noise that normally pollutes our soundscape. It’s eerily silent. It’s actually quiet enough, that we can finally hear our own thoughts. And those are coming through, loud and clear, aren’t they? I know personally, that I have had my clearest, most inspirational thoughts come to me during times when I was forced to be quiet. I was laid up in bed with a fever (not recently, don’t worry), or in a location where I was happily cut off from the technological distractions with which we have so thoroughly encumbered our lives.

It could be an overwhelming of feelings and a desperate need to express ourselves, that is causing this burst in creativity. It could also be that we have been creative all along – we just don’t normally make time for these types of pursuits. Normally our days are broken up by what is known in the corporate world as ‘high revenue’ activities (our jobs or businesses) and practical things we need to do to get through the day (eating, sleeping, and caring for our families). How often do we make time to be creative? I think that the need to express ourselves artistically is clearly emerging and claiming its place on our hierarchy of needs, right up there with food, sleep and some sort of regular human interaction.

I think this is another reason why we go to the Internet so often during stressful, unprecedented times like the one we are in right now. We are looking for solidarity and like minds. We may not be able to clearly express our thoughts until we see them written out by someone else, in a meme. There! That’s exactly what I was thinking! (Like, Share.)

And for those who do have an overflow of words tumbling out of them right now, in an effort to make sense of it all, there is poetry. If you go to Facebook and search Quarantine Poetry, you will find a whole inventory of creativity born in isolation. On Facebook, my friend Katie Nolan posts a daily #covidhaiku. This is one of hers, following the 5-7-5 syllable rule: 

Social media – Increases anxiety – And yet, here I am.

And for those who are not on social media, a quarantine poetry chain mail is going around, via email (and possibly good old fashioned snail mail as well). I recently received a poem in response to my story about Forest Bathing, so I will be submitting it to the quarantine poetry chain. It goes like this:

Skipping Stones
                                Poems are like stones
                                Skipping across the water
                                Wherever they touch
                                A new world begins
                                And where they finally
                                Come to rest
                                The truth is not far away.
                                                                Murray Kelly, 2020                              
Springtime normally makes me feel like doing something wild with my hair, getting my hands in the earth and writing a poem about new life. This year I’m reading the poems of others around the world who are feeling rather uncomfortable with this particular plot change, including this:

“The cycle of unfinished tasks, completed in a noiseless room…the silence becomes unsettling and I am left to worry…like a bruised little bird, too confused to fly…not knowing, when I will be let out.” ~Didi Kasana, Vienna, Austria.

If anything, this Covid-19 situation is a reminder to all of us that our life’s plan can change at any minute. And our “new normal” might mean social distancing for the foreseeable future.

 Photo of Person Writing on Notebook · Free Stock Photo

When this is over, things should never be the same

 (please forgive my attempt at poetry)...

When this is over, never again
Will I take for granted, the embrace of a friend,
The hug of a child, around my knees
The ability to dance, with ease  
At a concert, a party, a bustling pub
Our hands will touch. Our shoulders will rub.
We’ll share this thing that we call life
But for now…there is strife
There is fear…for us all
And so we must heed the call
Sit at home, stay apart
But look around, have a heart
What is this? Something new
The world ahead for me and you

The things that were important to us a month ago, just before this period of self-isolation began, seem kind of trivial now. What value would I place on being able to pull my granddaughter into my lap and read her a book? To kiss my daughters on both cheeks? To hug my mother tight?

A virus has brought us to our knees. I remember reading this forecast not too long ago. There have been many prophecies and much soothsaying but I heard from more than one source the idea that the next World War would not be fought with guns but with germs.

And no – I’m not buying into the conspiracy theory that this virus began in a laboratory – there is no proof to back up that particular story. But it seems that Covid-19 is having a more widespread, global effect than any other type of bomb would have. Everyone is affected. Even if you manage to escape contracting the virus and having your health compromised, even if your job is safe and you can pay your bills, your life is being affected because, like everyone else, you can’t do the things you used to do, right now. But I do believe there is something good to come of this.

In the earlier part of the 19th century we had an Industrial Revolution. The world became mechanized and automated. In the early 20th century, the automobile was introduced and by the end of the First World War, many families had a car. After WWII, factories ramped up production to bring the global economy back up where it was before the war effort shut it down. Maybe we are heading for our own Revolution. Let’s hope it is one that leaves less of a carbon footprint than the last.

While our leaders, scientists and healthcare workers fight the battle for us on the frontlines and our essential services workers keep the home fires burning and our bellies fed, the rest of us are shifting our priorities, paring down, and getting back to basics. We are learning that we can do without some of our previous habitual luxuries. Yes, some of us will go back to getting our hair and nails done by a professional someday…but will we all go back to working outside the home? Perhaps not.

It might take a while for many businesses to repopulate their core staff. Many will decide that they did just fine on a lower headcount, after being forced to lay off dozens when Covid-19 shut things down. I have no doubt that several industry leaders will discover the benefits of a smaller bricks and mortar presence, relying instead on a core work force that is primarily working remotely from their homes. It makes good financial sense, and many companies have been thriving with a 100% remote workforce for years. The rest of us just discovered that it can, and does, work. I wonder what the effect will be on air pollution over big cities if the majority of the workforce no longer drives to work 5 days a week?

We are already discovering, after just one month, how the reduction in industry is clearing up smog in places like India. Residents there are enjoying better views of the Himalayan mountains, and beyond the city lights they can even see the stars in the night sky for the first time in ages.

When this is over, let’s remember to take our long, solitary walks in nature, and let’s continue to meditate, exercise and do the things that are helping to reduce our stress during this anxious time. When this is over, let’s appreciate the things we are missing now, like dinners with friends and visits with our seniors as well as huge sporting events and rock concerts.

And when this is over, let’s remember that for many generations now, humans have been actively polluting the environment. Our daily activities have been the problem. We have been the scourge on the Earth.

Let’s not miss the opportunity to change that, somehow.