These days are hard for everyone. Nothing is the same and everyone is waiting for normal to return.
Here they are, the waiting days. Worried days. Shut-down, locked-down, up-and-down days. We are stilled. We flare up. Fret. Rage. Are stilled again. At my house, we’re five all together at home, and we know that’s lucky. We have friends who live alone, and we know that must be hard. But this is hard, too. These days are hard for everyone. These virus days are different in different places, but it’s all one story because nothing is the same and everyone is waiting for normal to return.
I’m writing this in the middle of May and who knows what will have changed by the time you read it? We’ve learned how quickly things can change, not just in our own lives, but everywhere. The world is waiting. We’re staying home.
In the Park
We’ve been told not to travel anywhere unless it’s essential so there is a lot of talk about what is essential. There is nowhere for us to go but up and down the neighbourhood streets and then, a bit further away, the park. We’re grateful the park is still open. It used to be a place we sped through on bikes heading somewhere else – school, church, the market downtown – but these days, all those places are closed and we walk to the park because it fills the time. We’re not supposed to sit down on the benches so we walk under the trees and watch the spring. We watched buds begin to unclench. Then it was time for blossom. Tiny leaves uncurled, some pale green, others pink or red, and we spotted the hard, green beginnings of cherries and the spiked starts of this year’s chestnuts. Walking in the park every day, we could watch closely, and every day it was different. Six weeks, seven weeks in and now the leaves have broadened, and the shade is here. I’d like to sit down on a bench in this new green light, to linger and watch and maybe read.
Thoughts in Solitude
Lately, I’ve been reading Thomas Merton, whose monastic thoughts on solitude might seem an obvious choice in these lonely, lockdown days. Except I’m finding it’s not like that at all. With everything shut, my house is suddenly crowded. I’m used to working alone at home since our youngest started school a few years ago, but now the world has stopped and my family is home with me all the time. That shift isn’t easy. I’d like to say it hasn’t been easy as if the shift is something that was hard that I got through it and have now achieved some level of graceful productivity. But no. It proves to be a continuing road. I’m not there yet. Thomas Merton is helping.
When he wrote his Thoughts in Solitude, Merton had been living in a monastery at the Abbey of Gethsemane for over a decade and his writing had been published and widely read. The world knew his name, but he lived shut away, surrounded by other monks, and intent on seeking wisdom. He wrote: “A monk must never look for wisdom outside his vocation. If he does, he will never find wisdom, because for him, wisdom is in his vocation. . .. For wisdom is God himself, living in us, revealing himself to us. Life reveals itself to us only in so far as we live it.”
In this season, those words resound with me. I like the thought that Wisdom’s revelation is slow, steady work – a present and hidden work, slowly making itself visible like spring’s unfurling and like every growing thing. I don’t need to wait until conditions are better. This moment is my vocation. Nothing feels normal and everything feels suspended, but it’s through these days that I’m to shepherd my kids. These are the days where Life finds us and will find us. Where God meets us, unchanging, even as everything changes.