Advice to myself at the close of a pandemic

tulips

Be gentle
with yourself.
Listen closely
to your heart
to the robins’ chirping
to neighbors, far and near.
Speak slowly,
and with intention.

Breathe in the aching beauty
of this strange world — open
restaurants, churches, playgrounds,
children’s laughter sailing in the breeze,
your son hugging his grandparents,
exhaling without fear of harming them.

(You can cry — it’s healthy to cry.)

Unmask your trauma:
name each wound, each loss,
and cradle it close
apply the salve of time
and progress. Remember healing
is rarely linear, rather, it unfolds
mysteriously.

Make plans but hold them loosely.
Let time stretch out before you like
a rolling wave. Savor it.

Stay humble,
and cultivate kindness.
Keep disrupting hate
in all its ugly manifestations
search your heart
call it out
call your reps
send a call up to your Creator.

Keep tending to simple pleasures —
yellow tulips on your table,
mint chip in a sugar cone
from the corner creamery,
a lazy morning snuggling in bed with them,
new library books to devour —
relish their sweetness.

Move at your pace;
don’t let the rush
of hustle lure you
into the race again.

The truth? There is no race.
But there is one sun
around which we all orbit
searching for meaning
and love, and
aren’t you glad you made it this far?
Can you feel the thrill of spring rising?

Dare to dream again
make it bold
make it juicy
make it lavish with hope.
This is your
“one wild and precious life”
said the poet.
Now what will you do with it?


// inspired by Louise Erdrich’s “Advice to myself”; final quotation from Mary Oliver.

What flowers know

It snowed last Wednesday. Big wet clumps floated down, blanketing our hellebores, their full fuchsia faces turned up to the clouds as if to say, “Go ahead, test us.”

“Has it always snowed this much in April?” I asked Jay, glancing out the window, not waiting for an answer. “Seems like it’s snowing more than usual…”

Jay looked up from his excel spreadsheet — daily he’s been keeping track of the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois, his means of coping — and shook his head. “It always snows in April, babe.”

“Yes I know, but I don’t remember this much!” I remarked, turning to protest. But Jay was already back in excel, consumed by the numbers.

The only thing I was tracking as of late was the view from our bay window — our flower beds, now decked in snow, the emptiness of the street, new buds poking out from our tree. So consumed was I with my busy life last spring I never stopped to notice the tree buds’ gentle unfurling.

I was noticing my son more too. He’s three, an age marked by darling utterances (“You are my best friend, Mommy!”) and searing attitude (“Mommy, you are being too loud!”). What a privilege to know the minutiae of his days. To see each breakthrough and breakdown. To watch him grow in slow motion. This is what I remind myself when my anger bubbles over. The federal money’s out and Jay’s small business loan application hasn’t been approved. People have been acting careless. Not enough has been done to protect front-line workers. Then there’s the widespread death and job loss. Feeling helpless.

Jay’s spreadsheet suggests we’re beginning to bend the curve. Yet I wonder, how long will this season last? And how can I taste sweetness alongside so much bitterness?

I considered the view from my window. The hellebores are a hardy perennial, no stranger to spring in the Windy City. I know how to face the winds of change, too. You root down, trust that light will return and keep blooming.