A post about the thing with feathers

Well, what does one say after the year that was last week?

In the midst of our schools closing, a multiple-day migraine, a child in Europe whose east-coast university has shut down and wants her to move her belongings out, and a clogged kitchen sink line, I re-arranged my living room. I spent an entire evening reconsidering the objects on my fireplace mantel. I bought paint to re-paint the bedroom I painted in December. I put a lot of stitches into a canvas while I watched stupid things on TV that made me feel nostalgic for 2010.

Before I left work on Friday, hoping that we really will return in two weeks but knowing that we likely won’t, I checked out a bagful of books from our school library. Good thing, because Saturday morning I woke to the news that our public libraries are shutting down, which somehow hit me harder than anything else had. Perhaps because libraries are my church, and if ever there was a time a person might need church, it’s now. In the absence of such, I am planning a garage re-organization project, which I’ll start just as soon as it stops snowing.

Because it is freaking snowing, in Portland, Oregon, in the middle of March.

(Well, it was on Saturday morning when I was writing this post.)

Which leads me to ask:

My daughter is staying put in Europe for I don’t know how long, and we reminded ourselves this morning that humor is a key item in anyone’s apocalypse survival kit. As are toilet paper, pasta, and ways to keep productively busy.

Ever since reading Digital Minimalism a few weeks back, I’ve curtailed my social media consumption (going so far as to remove the apps from my phone), but as the wheels started flying off the bus on Friday I found my feeds to be a place of comfort. It was good to hear from people I know and love. It was good to see sound information being shared. It was good to laugh. It was good to be reminded of what can be best in us, rather than what’s so often worst.

Mostly, it was heartening to realize that my feed was full of messages that all said some version of this: We need to do what we’re doing and bear the costs of these actions not to reduce our own risks, but to reduce the risks to others. The ratio of those messages to photos of empty toilet paper aisle shelves was about a million to one, and for the first time in a long time I’ve felt something I’d almost forgotten the feeling of: Hope.

As I’m watching the world around me shift to accommodate the shape of something we’ve never experienced here, there is something that feels almost holy in this moment. I have been thinking for a long time that it would probably take some kind of disaster to turn us around on the path we’ve been hurtling down. That is the opportunity inherent in this unfolding disaster that will touch all of us in some way, if it hasn’t already.

My deep, fervent hope today is that this will propel us to remember how inter-connected we all are, to reach out to each other rather than erect walls between us, to uphold ideas and ideals that have always been the best part of us, and to act more from love than from fear.

We’ll all have to figure out the best ways for us to do that. Right now, I’m focused on staying home as much as possible and supporting those in my personal circle without creating more risk for those outside it. I might write here more often, once I get a little equilibrium back. Mostly, though, you can probably find me (but please, don’t come too close looking) painting a wall or cleaning a garage or stabbing canvas with a needle or sharing something through Facebook–a tidbit of useful information or something funny to make you smile.

Because it has always been true that we also serve, who only stand and wait.


Hope is the thing with feathers

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening

13 thoughts on “A post about the thing with feathers

  1. Marian says:

    “Well, what does one say after the year that was last week?” Truer words were never spoken, Rita.

    A friend in my local climate action group said this week that she hopes this forced pause will cause people to reevaluate their lives—this certainly is my hope too.

    I’m also going to use this time to put my house in order, to tackle some long-overdue projects, and to generally Get Things Done. (Getting things done has always been my self-care method of choice, but humour is right up there next to it. I’ve been enjoying the memes coming out of the introvert communities I follow on IG.)

    I hope your daughter is able to somehow sort the housing/belongings situation and that she keeps well where she is. My older two have also had their universities shut down. My daughter wasn’t in any classes and can continue with her lab work, but I’m not sure what it means for my son.
    Marian recently posted…Small Things for Big ProblemsMy Profile

    • Marian says:

      And I meant to compliment you on the canvas, Rita. I love it—especially the leaves on the tree. I have several canvases that I’ve been meaning to do something with—perhaps I can get my 14-year-old son going on a painting or drawing project to keep him occupied over the next three weeks.

      • Rita says:

        Oh, thank you! I was actually liking it myself, when it was at the stage in the photo. Then yesterday I wrecked it–totally biffed what was supposed to be a large shrub to the left of the house. It ended up looking like a large blob with measles. So I started pulling it out, and now there are holes all over the canvas. I might just chalk it up to a learning piece and let it go.

        Hope you will share whatever creative projects you do. I love seeing photos of your knitting. Reading about how you started 16 years ago with that was encouraging to me.

    • Rita says:

      You and I are, in so many ways, two peas in a pod. I also have a long list of things I hope I will get to get done, and yes–it’s also my coping method of choice. I feel as if the best thing I might do is get out of the way of others who are really necessary in this moment. Or maybe that’s just my anxious, introverted take on what’s happening.

      Will your son be coming home to stay with you? I hope that will all work out for you. Grace is in her final semester; my mom and I were supposed to travel to DC for her graduation in just two months. I doubt that will be happening now. Grace will have to return to the country by May 1 (under current conditions), so…who knows?

      In spite of all that is so worrisome, it is also sort of weirdly liberating to be free of certainty about the near future. And I am hopeful that we realize some things we don’t forget as soon as life returns to “normal.” Normal hasn’t really been cutting it for me for a really long time.

      • Marian says:

        Oh, we really are two peas in a pod—I completely understand the feeling of wanting to get out of the way when others who are necessary take charge. Unless, you know, I think they’re doing it wrong or are overlooking some key facts 😉 . I hope that by May things have calmed and we’re on the downward slope of those curves and our lives can carry on—but yes, in a smarter and more sustainable way—but I think that’s probably overly optimistic. My son’s courses will now be happening online, so in theory he could come home, but his girlfriend lives in Toronto (he’s in Hamilton) and he thinks our small city is boring. He’s going to be moving to Toronto in May, as he has a couple of work terms lined up (he’s also in fourth year, like Grace, but he’s in a five-year program and has a co-op to do as well). I’m worried that there will be a problem with those jobs now, but there’s simply no way to know at this stage and all I can do is hope for the best.

        Darn—that’s too bad the shrub didn’t work out on the canvas. I wonder if you could use the same holes (and new ones) to turn the shape into something else instead. (Maybe tall grasses?). Or maybe you could use a bit of hole filler (the kind you use for small holes in drywall) to fill them in, and then touch up the canvas with paint?

        • Rita says:

          I hope things are better in May, as well. Such a strange thing we’re all living through. Grace also had some job things coming up, but everything is up in the air, now. I am doing my best to stay focused on the day I’m in. Anything else feels futile right now, when it is so hard to know how things are going to be even a week from now.

          So, I’ll be painting a room and doing some stitching. I am going to try to stitch over the holes. I appreciate the encouragement. 🙂

  2. TD says:

    Is it possible to use those same needle holes to accent the piece with tiny glass green beads for foliage with pink, white and a tiny yellow to image spring azaleas? … for the spring forward to your beautiful house outline so pure. As a mix media.
    Or has the therapy of the piece come to an end?

    From your needle art designer…

    As far as the other, there has been just too much!

  3. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    OH FRIEND. I don’t know what to even say anymore. It is just a literal shit show outside.
    I wake up each morning to birds chirping and I forget for just a moment what is going on. Then I come to my senses. It has made me actually miss last winter’s anxiety if you can believe that. Although I think you can believe it because we are all in this together.
    Sending you love, peace, and good health.
    I will keep sharing random stupidity in the Facebook group.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…It’s a Literal Shit Show Outside, So I Got TipsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I love your post. It should be required reading. So many great ideas and resources. We need random stupidity right now.

  4. Kate says:

    You (as usual) have masterfully hit the nail on the head. I’m guessing the snow has gone? Ours is mostly (we’ve had such warm weather) but there is rumor of a return this week. Today is certainly grayer and chillier than it has been.

    The kids and I sat down and set a schedule this morning for how we want to live our days and made a list of different ideas of things to do when we are bored. It reminds me of the days when they were younger and it felt a bit like running a day camp – outside time and art and lunch and chores and quiet time and play time and dinner. I have so many projects that I wish to tackle. I hope I don’t waste this time (though being home with my kids doesn’t seem like it possibly could be.)

    I hope everything works out with Grace (both with her stuff and her graduation). It’s kind of nice to have to wing it, but logistics of those things can probably feel pretty frustrating!

    • Kate says:

      (By nice to have to wing it, I mean that I feel a huge relief at not having to worry about next week or the week after because at this point it’s really just about doing the best we can!! Not that it’s nice that she has to wing it because she’s in another country and everything has just upended….)

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