Enjoy the Silence

Most of the traveling I’ve done has been solo travel. When I was young and would quit whatever job I had so that I could travel for as long as I wanted (or until the money ran out), I would spend long stretches of time in silence. Sometimes I would miss casual conversation, the easy talking that could be done with someone who spoke my language, with someone who spoke my language as their first language.

I am thinking about those extended periods of not talking because the shelter-in-place order I now live under creates something like that for me when I’m not working. During my work-at-home days, I have meetings and meetings and meetings. I have anything but silence. Come the weekend, however, I have to conjure up some activity if I want to speak — a phone call, a zoom date.

At the same time, it’s hardly true that I’m silent in my downtime these days. I’m a talker, and there always seems to be some chatter of one kind or another around here. I talk to myself. I talk to my cats. I am that crazy spinster lady you’ve heard tell about. I talk. 

On a call with a friend this morning, she mentioned how hard the silence has been for her. Like me, she lives alone. Unlike me, she has been working at home for a couple of weeks now, and the quiet is getting to her.

And so I thought about my travel experience and the enforced silence of having neither a companion nor enough language to make real conversation easy. And that silence went on sometimes, went on for one week, for two weeks, of me really not speaking at all. And it was hard sometimes, but it was also okay. I was writing in my journal, I was having an adventure. Silence wasn’t a weight I was carrying.

And we have tools now that I didn’t have when I was traveling. We have the ability to be in contact no matter how physically isolated we are. We’re just at the beginning of sheltering in place. Now’s the time to figure out how not to be driven crazy by things like not talking. We have a much longer period of aloneness ahead.


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Still Processing …

Plans are taking shape for offering our programming online. I spent pretty much this whole day in meetings with our program directors, answering questions, encouraging brainstorming, trying to reassure them that they won’t be left in the lurch.

I’m exhausted.

I’m also, for the first time, worried. It’s not that I didn’t take this virus seriously before today. I most certainly took it seriously. It’s not that I didn’t acknowledge that I am in the group of people at risk for having a bad time with this virus if I get sick. I acknowledged that. So what’s different?

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve actually had to make plans for working from home, had to wrestle with the concrete facts of the degree to which I’ll self-isolate, had to cross the line from “here’s what *people* should do,” to “here’s what *I* have to do.”

I’m also sad. Preemptively sad. I’m sad thinking about not getting to see my really excellent team every day until the fog lifts on this terrible time. I’m sad thinking about all of the people that will be negatively impacted by this virus. I’m sad thinking about all the ways we as a country could have responded more quickly and helpfully so that fewer people would be in jeopardy. I’m sad thinking about the fact that my trip to visit my family last month will be the last time I’ll visit for the foreseeable future.

I wasn’t thinking about any of these things yesterday. I wasn’t worried yesterday. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that, if I  were to wind up in the worst-case version of this illness, I would likely not be a candidate for the limited supply of life-saving acute care equipment because of my age and size and pre-existing health conditions.

Wow, talk about things that aren’t helping my mood. I mean, damn.

Yes, and.

And it’s also true that I ate a delicious Jona Gold apple today. It’s also true that I saw my team rally and come up with great ideas today. It’s also true that I had great text exchanges with my best-beloved niece and nephew. It’s also true that I started my day with a text from my best-beloved sister. It’s also true that my hair looked great today. It’s also true that the day turned from grey, foggy, and rainy to clear-blue sunny when I wasn’t looking. It’s also true that I made a connection with one of my neighbors. It’s also true that I won every game of online Scrabble I played. And it’s also true that I saw my first star of the night before the sun had fully set.

So, yeah. All of that. All of that. I’m worried. I’m prepping to start doing 60% of my work from home. And I’m determined to be fine, to keep myself as safe and healthy as I can … and to remember that practicing gratitude always makes me feel better.


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Pandemic A-Go-Go

You know, or something.

I’m not really trying to be flip about what’s happening with this virus. I’m just … at a loss for what all to say. My state’s governor announced today that the education programs I oversee are all ceasing in-person services for the rest of the semester. We have a week to come up with a contingency plan before online programming is set to begin.

We need more than a week.

I think the decision to go online is a good one. I think it’s the right decision. It just isn’t that easy for programs like mine, and certainly isn’t anything like easy for the people we serve.

We’re rallying. I mean, of course we are. How not? Our students are everything, and we need to make sure they are supported through this strange time. And also, this is what we do, right? We figure shit out and make plans and carry on. It’s what we’re all doing everywhere, right? Because our lives have to go on, and our communities have to come through this, and so we do what we have to do.

And then I stopped at my grocery store on the way home. I wanted some fancy cheese and some French bread and some fruit. In and out. Easy, right? How did it not occur to me that — between the WHO announcement and the governor shutting schools down all over the state — people would be panic-shopping and losing their minds all through the aisles?

I am silly this way. Entirely.

I can’t really be this oblivious, and yet … I wasn’t prepared. Wasn’t prepared for the serious soul-searching in the produce aisle, a couple debating whether they should risk fresh fruits and vegetables because someone who handled the food might have been “A CARRIER.” Wasn’t prepared for the woman taking every case of bottled water on the shelves and setting her small child atop the pile in her cart to keep other shoppers from trying to swipe a case. Wasn’t prepared for the man who tried to convince people to let him cut the (very long) check out line by giving us dramatic stage-coughs and saying, “I got the asthma! I can’t be around all these people! Let me get home!”

I wasn’t prepared.

I’m home now. I got my snacks. I’ve sent a zillion emails to staff to get our planning under way. I’ve emailed my family so they won’t worry about me, all alone up here in the sickly north.

So, here we go, friends. Here we go.

Sending love and well wishes to you and yours and hoping we all come through this intact, stronger for our struggles, and ready for the next challenge!


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Sing a song of … safety?

I am managing not to freak out about COVID 19 … yet. Today, my governor declared a state of emergency, but I haven’t done any stockpiling, and I won’t. Mostly this is true because I am supremely bad at disaster prep. When I was in Jamaica ahead of a Category 4 hurricane aimed right at the part of the island where I was staying, I didn’t even think about doing any shopping until someone on the street asked me if I had what I needed. I went to the store then … and purchased not much of anything: a candle, a bottle of water, a few snacks, some rice and saltfish, a bottle of wine. That was it.

But I’m also not stockpiling because I don’t think it’s necessary — maybe not at all, but certainly not just yet. (Fingers crossed that the cosmos doesn’t decide to show me just how wrong I am to believe that.) I have a regular grocery delivery coming on Monday, and that should be fine.

I have, however, begun paying more attention to handwashing, to the time I spend scrubbing my hands. I couldn’t bear to sing “happy birthday” every time I washed my hands, though. Fortunately, the internet provides. There are several lists circulating that offer up other things you can sing that will carry you through 20 seconds of washing. That won me over. While there were plenty of songs on the lists that I don’t know or know well enough to sing all the way through the designated section, the moment I saw the refrain to Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” I knew I’d found my timer.

You could, of course, sing anything. And tonight I started thinking of other bits of songs to use for when I want I sing about something other than “the kind you find in a secondhand store.” A few options:

  • “Amie,” Pure Prairie League — final refrain or just the “falling in and out of love” part
  • “Sweet Baby James,” James Taylor — refrain
  • “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” Rodgers and Hart — the opening verse that most people don’t sing, or the “he’s a fool and don’t I know it,” part
  • “Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” Jim Croce — the verse, my particular choice would be the one when Slim comes on the scene
  • “Desafinado” or “Off-Key,” Antonio Carlos Jobim — any of the verses, in Portuguese or English
  • “Águas de Março,” Antonio Carlos Jobim — first verse

Okay, I’ll stop. My point is that it’s easy to sing for 20 seconds. It’s easy to sing a whole lot longer, and if washing our hands while we do it will help keep us and our loved ones and people around us safe, it’s time to queue up the tunes and get to singing!

Let us all sing,
it’s good for almost anything.
It’s good for musty, dusty throats
to let out gusty, lusty notes.
It’s good for people, frogs, and goats
to open up and sing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5I3pN_9XAY

 


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Into the Woods

Earlier tonight I read a post by another Slice of Life Story Challenge writer. It was about getting lost in the woods. And it reminded me of a moment during my writing retreat last fall when I, too, got lost in the woods.

I will say up front that, in the moment, it felt less like I got lost and more like the woods tried to absorb me. It wasn’t a good feeling.

In September, I went upstate for two gorgeous and glorious weeks at an artists residency. I had a beautiful studio, a lovely view, gourmet meals, four amazing artists and writers to share my dinners and down time with. It was heaven.

There is a small wooded area behind the house where I stayed. “Small,” in that it doesn’t stretch on for hundreds of miles or something dramatic like that, but large in comparison to my day-to-day encounter with woods. As a child, I spent my summers in the Adirondack mountains. I was in the woods every day and felt entirely happy and comfortable there. I have spent the last 30-plus years in this huge, clattering city, and my time spent in the woods would be … nil.

Add to that what I’ve realized is a creeping dread I’ve developed when it comes to the woods, a dread that has formed slowly enough for me not to notice it until it was suddenly in my chest, fully formed.

But I was determined to go for a walk in the woods. We’d been told there were two trails, a red trail and a blue trail. We’d been told that the blue trail was the better maintained, easier trail (this turned out to be 100 percent not true). We’d been told that there were blazes painted on the trees and we just had to keep an eye out. Yep.

20190919_090409

That picture is the trailhead. See the nice arrows pointing toward the blue trail and the red trail? See how easy this walk in the woods was going to be?

The moment I entered the woods, I questioned the wisdom of my decision to head out, alone, without telling anyone I was going into the woods. I didn’t turn back. I set out on the blue trail because I am not brave in the woods. The blue trail immediately disappeared: path completely overgrown, not a single visible blaze after the first one. So I turned back and stopped at the trailhead and decided to take a chance on the red trail, the steeper trail that would be harder to follow.

I follow the blazes — so much easier to find than on the blue trail — and walked along trying hard to convince myself that I had no reason to be getting a stomach ache over being alone in the woods. I followed the blazes and started up a small hill. I saw a blaze ahead of me, and another a ways ahead of that tree in front of me, but I stopped walking. I stopped because I wanted to listen to a bird song I’d never heard before. It was a strange, almost hollow sound, and I looked up to see if I might spot the singer. I stopped in my tracks. I didn’t turn around. I just stopped walking. I looked up into the trees, but didn’t see what bird might be sending out that strange hollow call. So I stopped looking up at the trees. I brought my gaze down …

And there were no blazes on any of the trees in front of me. Not one.

I pretended to be calm about it. I took a few steps forward, telling myself that the blaze I’d seen would, of course, magically appear once I was closer to the tree. Of course that didn’t happen. There was nothing on that tree or any of the others.

I turned around to walk back … but I couldn’t find any blazes on any of the trees behind me, either. I walked back to where I’d looked up for the bird then tried to walk back out on a different route. No blazes, and the path I was walking was totally unfamiliar. I went back up to the spot where I’d stopped for the bird then tried again to get back out of the woods. No blazes and the path I was walking was not the path I’d walked in either of the other attempts at escape, nor was it the path I’d walked to get up to that point on the hill.

The thing was, I knew I wasn’t even ten minutes from my door, knew that the woods would clear somewhere very near where I was standing. But I was pretty certain I wasn’t getting out of those woods.

Okay, so here I am writing about my experience, so you know I got out. I stood on the trail for a while, refusing to go back up the hill only to find myself on another wrong path. Finally, I saw a tree whose half-fallen branches I had fought my way past on the way up the hill. And I could see the path running in front of that tree. I pushed and shoved my way through an overgrown area to get to the tree, refusing to walk back up the path and think I could find the way to walk down to that tree.

When I reached the tree … I no longer saw the path. I’m not kidding. But I did see another tree I remembered and cut across some more overgrown business to get to that tree. And then I found the path and found my way back to the trailhead and got my citified self out of those woods.

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This is the entrance to the woods. Doesn’t it look like the entrance to a magical kingdom? Yeah. Magical. Kind of like the Hotel California.

__________

You can read the not-at-all-creepy post that inspired this memory here.

And you can read my retelling of other times I’ve been lost in the woods:
Into the Woods, Part 2
Into the Woods, Part 3
Into the Woods, Part 4
Into the Woods, Part 5 (the final part)


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to.
Or … it’s not too late to join in!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot