Wednesday, 22 April 2020

I am fortunate


We are into our second month of near isolation. Two months of keeping at least 6 feet away from friends, grocery store workers and strangers who are out walking as we are.


Two months of hand sanitizer, gloves and wipes. Two months of unsatisfactory Zoom connections and sadness as our family can only communicate through technology.

Two months recognizing again and even more fully how unbelievably fortunate I am: I have a life partner, a home, and the financial ability to care for ourselves and to give to others.

I have two daughters and their families who I love dearly.

I am fortunate:

-a citizen of Canada.
-a resident in Victoria.
    -a gardener.

My garden has always been my sanctuary, my oasis of peace, and never more so than now.  During April,  I repotted plants into larger containers, unfurled the rolled leaves on our apple tree, squishing those black worms hiding there, and then hand-pollinated the white and pink-tinted blossoms with a soft paintbrush.  It seems the bees aren't plentiful again this spring.

I've dug up some plants to share with my neighbour and with other gardeners.  This is like sharing a favourite recipe, giving enjoyment and leaving a legacy.

I've weeded and divided and trimmed back.

I am fortunate:
-a citizen of Canada.
-a resident in Victoria.
-a  gardener.
-a photographer.


I see things more clearly and feel more deeply when partnered with my camera.

Yesterday, I again visited my newfound corner of the Cattle Point area, where rocks meet the sea,  and where striations are reminiscent of magnificent and subtle abstract paintings.

I hurried down as I wanted to photograph while the sun was hidden by clouds.




When I returned home 1 1/2 hours later, I downloaded 250 images to my designated photograph-only computer. During the afternoon and evening I edited these down to 111 and that's only the first run-through!  I will likely weed the photographs saved to 50 later today.



It is not the photographs that are ultimately important, rather, it's the time I spent looking and seeing and being present in the moment.  Fully engaged. In isolation.



As I've heard from others, my lofty plans to tidy my clothes drawers haven't materialized. I organized my socks! A couple of partly-filled bins sit in our t.v. room, waiting to be topped up with more winter clothes and then stored. A bag of spring clothes deemed "good but not for me", were gathered mid-winter to go to a consignment store, now closed. And a table with 2 boxes is laden with goods for my participation in the Oak Bay Garage Sale - Garagellenium XXI, June 13, 2020 - which will most likely be cancelled.

On Monday, I arranged two phone call appointments with friends. While speaking on the phone is not something I relish, it was a real joy to connect.  A joy to listen and talk, with no agenda. I realize that email has nearly erased this pleasure from my life and I need to remember this even when this strange time is over.

Will I?

And, although I am engaging in activities that give me pleasure, I am still lonely.

I can't lean over the fence to chat with my neighbours. And while I've walked with a friend, with her following 6 feet behind me, it feels weird. I can't converse with the staff I've come to know well at For Good Measure, except by email when I order my food to be measured and bagged for me. And it makes me sad that I've chosen to curtail my twice-monthly volunteering at the food bank at St. John the Divine Church. I miss the clients I have worked with over these many years and especially now as the need is so great.

The vulnerable in our communities are always struck the hardest, and this pandemic vividly highlights the inequality in our city.  My donations to the Rapid Relief Fund and for bottled water for the homeless at Topaz Park seem almost like a cruel joke, in their minimal effect. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says every morning "We are here for you" the meaning seems to be that we are here for just some of us.

It is a sad time when a doctor on Victoria's front lines says, on radio, that the the homeless at Topaz Park need the oversight of Doctors Without Borders to be safely cared for.







I am very fortunate, indeed.





As Arundhati Roy wrote in an essay: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans 
to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”



Saturday, 4 April 2020

isolation

Covid-19. Three weeks into isolation.  Six feet between people, if,  in fact, you meet anyone on the street or during the restricted hours in stores deemed essential services.

I was at my local supermarket, Pepper's, this morning, 10 minutes before their 7 a.m.opening time for seniors and those who are vulnerable.  I had come to buy  hand sanitizer made in a cooperative venture between a local distillery and a company that makes herbal products. The bottles were right by the door so I was waved in with the warning "shhhh....don't tell anyone!"

Back home, I slipped a CD into my CD player and started folding my laundry. It was a Barbra Streisand CD from 1997 called Higher Ground, that I had purchased from a thrift store many years ago and that I had tucked away and never listened to.

As track 3, At The Same Time, played, I was amazed by the lyrics! "Think of all the hearts beating in the world at the same time" was the main refrain.

Barbra's words in the insert to the CD read:
"I adore the lyrics of this song, which reflects exactly what I think: knowing how fragile the planet is, how fragile souls are, and how desperately we need unity. Look how the world came together after Princess Diana's death.  We all saw how people need to be close, to love each other, to cry together, to feel together.  I wish we could live like that all the time, without having to wait for tragedy to strike."

Yes, knowing how fragile the planet is .... and how desperately we need unity.


Then and now and always.

And, in order to stay as healthy as we can be, and to help others do the same, we must move our physical selves away from one another.  We must have no less than six feet between us. And, we are beginning to cover our faces with protective masks.

Food Bank clients at St John the Divine, must wait outside for their dry food order and for bags of fresh food that are passed out to them.  The vulnerable unsheltered in our community get meals served to them outside of Our Place on Pandora Street and camp out in tents.

Yesterday, a friend gave me a donation of two $20 bills for the Food Bank.  Today, I was chastised for not immediately disinfecting the paper money and then washing my hands for the one- minute hand- washing protocol.

The world has changed drastically and so quickly.

We are in the midst of the phenomenon called physical or social distancing.  While this isn't as restricting as complete self-isolation, it seems just baby-steps away.

The word  "isolate" comes from the Latin word "insula", which means "island", and definitions of isolation include  "separation",  "segregation", and "not connected to other things."

Panama exemplifies these definitions with its new measure to combat the virus. Starting on Wednesday, only women will be able to leave their homes to shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The men's days for errands are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The time allowance is limited to two hours.

Everyone must remain home on Sundays.



Solitude is a different thing all together.

Vocabulary.com says about "solitude":
 "'Solitude" is the state of being alone. You might crave solitude after spending the holidays with your big, loud family — you want nothing more than to get away from everyone for a little while...........The word solitude carries the sense that you're enjoying being alone by choice."

Solitude frees the mind from distractions and may enhance creativity.

Supporting this, Abigail Brenner M.D., in her article "The Importance of Being Alone", writes that "spiritually, being alone may bring you closer to your inner being, allowing you to more readily access the creative and intuitive aspects of yourself."





And, Rainer Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, referring to solitude writes:
“But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”




Further explanations infer that solitude is a state of being alone without being lonely, whereas loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation.

Okay!! Enough!

The question for me is how I can ease my often painful sense of isolation to a place that more resembles solitude.

Earlier this week, a friend sent me a text to set up a 9 a.m. phone date for the following morning. She told me that she tries to do this every day.  I am definitely not a phone person....so what can I do to move closer to personal engagement?

I was introduced to someone on Facebook who posts a "prompt" on her page every day to engage her friends. She writes a word which might be a colour, a descriptive word like "rise" or, today's choice "wind", and people post their visual interpretations.  I look through my photographs on the computer and choose one to post.

At first I thought I might start something similar on my Facebook page to involve some of my on-line friends, and then I realized that playing on Franny's Facebook page was absolutely perfect!

I'm thinking that a story time "game" might be fun.  I will choose a few willing friends to play what we did as kids and even young adults, where one person started a story and stopped at a crucial place passing the story on to the next person who then added a bit and then passed it on again. An email
game?  Or might it work on Facebook as well?



Either way, it will be engaging.  A connection.  A stretch towards something and out of isolation.