There is a corner of my yard where the dirt of an abandoned flower bed has lain neglected and ignored, a corner that hardly anyone ever sees, that has not yet been raked and softened after the snow and ice of winter packed it so that it is almost as hard as the stones that make up the front walk. But this morning in the early light, before the sun had warmed up the spring air, before my children were out of bed, before I had put on my tennis shoes to take a walk around the block, I noticed the tender green shoots of a yellow crocus emerging from that dry and forgotten corner of earth, and I marveled at the beautiful simplicity of the small things that I hardly ever take the time to notice.
Last week, when contemplating this essay I knew what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. That hardly ever happens as a writer—so often you are sitting at your computer searching for the just right word or idea or turn of phrase, or at least I am, so it was with gratitude that I considered the words that I would, eventually, record.
But that was a week ago.
That was a week ago, and this week, this day, looks so different. So much more intense and isolating and out of the ordinary. Every day there seems to be something new in the news to fear. It is hard to know how to strike the right tone, to balance hope and fear, to address one another over the physical distance that we are being required to create. I don’t go in to my office anymore. I haven’t seen my students in almost two weeks. Everything is being done online, at a distance. To keep them safe. To keep me safe. To keep my family safe.
So it is here, on my couch, surrounded not only by the tools of my trade but by the noise and bustle of four children suddenly at loose ends—home from college, without jobs, without the comforting schedule of sports and church and dance classes and friends— it is in this space that I sit and write.
It seems like a sacred time.
A quiet time. Even when it isn’t very quiet. (See previous comment about children all over the house.)
But I have so many questions. How do we live in abundance when our environment has been restricted to such a small sphere? How do we love, and serve, and help, and connect, and laugh, and is it too soon to laugh, when we know that there are others who are hurt and sick and exhausted and anxious, but then isn’t laughing one of the best things we can do, to release all of those anxieties that are built up inside?
This week I issued a challenge to my students. How can they use creative communication to create and connect? How can they impact the lives of the people around them, the people that they had, until just days before, been attending class with, eating dinner, with, and studying with, especially now that they have been scattered all over the United States, all over the world, no longer within arm’s reach? How can they use language to build bridges over suddenly wide spaces?
I don’t know what they will do. But I have seen the start. I have seen notes on doors of professors, and conversations through social media. I have seen them grocery shopping for the people who can’t, or for people who are afraid. I have seen them posting workouts and art tutorials and hosting online movie nights. I have seen them love one another, no matter how large the distance. I have seen them reach out to one another in small ways that are not really small at all. And I keep thinking that maybe the way we hold on to one another, the way we touch the humanity of another soul is an instinctual thing. And we might be told for the time being to be distant physically, but we can trust the voice in our heart that helps us to be advocates, that encourages us to be stewards, that whispers to us how to take care of one another. The voice that urges us to look for the generative solutions that help to nurture life within our own homes. The voice that has been for a long time drowned out by the busyness of the world and the demands on our time that don’t allow us to listen or slow down or meander—or notice one small corner of our yards where a lovely yellow flower is pushing its way into the world.
I am eager for these stories, for the connections and communications that have become almost like benedictions—generosity and love and watchfulness and tiny small moments filled with the grace of a thousand prayers.