This morning I decided to take a retreat day after a rich immersion in Zoom meetings yesterday. It all began with a time of Mindfulness Meditation at 7:30 AM, continued with a 1PM virtual Torah study group, enjoyed with friends from Cambridge and Israel in attendance and then on to a 5PM second night seder celebrating Pesach virtually with our Jewish community from all over the world, winding down with a 7:30PM Tenebrae service with our church community as we entered the contemplative vigil of Good Friday. It was an exhausting abundance of good things.
So today is a quiet day. I spent some time ordering my desk and my “plague” workspace where so much communication and connecting is taking place via phone and computer. Gave a bit of attention to cleaning up the kitchen. I set the compost bucket near the back door before taking it out to the bin. As I turned away from it, the sun burst through the clouds, illuminating it in an almost ethereal way. Decaying melon rinds and orange peels, the remains of a teabag, some withered salad greens - and suddenly I was contemplating a holy process in action.
There has been so much time and energy and concern and fear and frustration and anger in the airways drawing my attention to the COVID 19 phenomenon that it is extremely easy to forget that there are other natural processes at work, restoring order and healing just outside my conscious awareness.
I emptied the compost into the bin and, thanks to the recent film documentary, Fantastic Fungi, took time to peer into the process going on there. An orange peel semi-wrapped in a furry blue and white jacket; some shriveling branches of forsythia that had brought their sunny beauty indoors a week or so ago; something else green and slimy -no longer recognizable, all more visible thanks to that film that calls attention to the work of the mycelium that are continually in action, breaking down matter, renewing the soil, healing the earth - - how they are networked and interconnected and working silently in our behalf all the time.
On my way back from the compost bin, the wind drew my attention - a soft roar in the pine branches overhead and I became aware of the trees surrounding me as witnesses - strong, flexible, undeterred in their silent way, as they reassure me that storms can be weathered if I can maintain a bit of my own flexibility. Their resilience in the wind inspires a bit more confidence as I continue on the path to my back door. Even the stump of a long deceased tree stands as a mute witness to the continual process of change and decay and transformation that is going on all the time all around me.
So I draw on the traditions that nourish me. I feed on the sacred texts, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist, that connect me with history, with hope and with the reminder of the impermanence of all things. I am a very small part of the massive ongoing process of creation - - and creation continues!
I have also drawn some perspective from these all too contemporary thoughts attributed to Kathleen O’Meara, writing post famine in Ireland in 1869, that are now circulating in the ethers:
“and the people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and listened deeper
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
they were healed themselves.
May we each find the reminders we need to keep us resilient. May we notice the hidden mercies that abound in creation. May we be healed. May we be the wounded healers the world needs to heal herself.