America | Culture

A Mirror of Roughness and Honesty

“The water of a pond is a mirror of roughness and honesty—it gives back not only my own gaze, but the nimbus of the world trailing into the picture on all sides…

All things are meltable, and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

We’re all connected, and that’s never been more apparent. If that pond is indeed a mirror of roughness and honesty it surely tells us a lot about ourselves right now. Political divisiveness, nationalism and now a pandemic all collectively dance around us, joining our “normal” complexities in life, and all a reflective nimbus as we stare at ourselves in that pond. What’s new to us isn’t new to humanity. It’s all been here before and returns once again to show we still have a ways to go.

I have a lot to write about after this week’s trip to Nashville, but like London and Scotland last fall I’m stepping away for now with stories unwritten. The stories are still fresh but the mind is restless. Stories have their time: This isn’t the time for those I’d planned to write. The weight of the pandemic can weigh you down. Worry about what you can control, not what you can’t. Don’t get roped into the news cycle, but do educate yourself on what to do to get by. I’ve managed to be around way more people than I would have liked this month, but took what precautions I could save scrapping everything and living in isolation.

I remember once when I was walking with my teacher Ajahn Chah he pointed to a boulder in a field and asked, “Is that heavy?” I replied, “Yes, of course.” Ajahn Chah smiled and said “Not if you don’t pick it up.” – Jack Kornfield

There were plenty of people being cavalier about this pandemic in Nashville and in memes on social media. It’s gallows humor on the one hand, but there’s also a bit of active denial going on. I saw many people not “picking it up” over the last few days. Hell, I could be accused of that myself given the travel. Don’t carry the weight of the world, but own your own behavior. All things are meltable and replaceable, and it appears that we’re entering a reckoning.

So what to do now? Travel is done, hope you didn’t pick up COVID-19. Now continue good hygiene and increase level of social isolation in earnest until you’re sure A) you didn’t pick up the virus already and spread it to others and B) help flatten the curve. Carefully analyze every cough and sneeze. And dive right into the work that needs to be done at home, or find a way to move the chains forward while working from home. But just to keep a sense of optimism, I’m going to plant some basil tomorrow. Gardening brings normalcy back to life, even in rough times. Maybe take a long walk. Far from people of course. Two nice ways to shed some of the weight of the world.

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