Comfort and crisis – A letter to New York

Dear neighbour,


You’ve spent so long in your apartment that you want to scratch your skin off. Fire-bomb folks still jack hammering and drilling in the construction site across the street, while you are holed up in your ‘cozy’ apartment with partner, pet and child—or just you, and your rage. You try to distract yourself with work: fruitless efforts to write a blog as a child flings apple sauce at the walls. Straining to hear meeting interventions that are inadvertently muted, or mixed with the sound of a barking dog, or small boy seated behind your colleague in a red and blue tee-pee, battering a plastic drum with a wooden spatula.


Your spouse doesn’t do the washing up, and there are no clean cups in the cupboard. The coffee shops are closed. After those few hopeful days of take-out service, even that little ray of sunshine disappeared. And here we are: in days darker than the Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat, fretting about that heavy feeling in the chest, family, financial freefall, political failure, and impending social crisis, as we wait for the apocalypse in our pjs.


So you search for ways to strengthen your immune system, but fall down a rabbit hole of news about COVID deaths and re-usable toilet paper.


Oh, how we long for untroubled days in the world that was. Days of unicorn lattes, self-heating eye masks, and lines at the bar for smoky mezcal margaritas. Carefree days before the ‘black swan.’ Yes, that’s the technical term for this unpredictable event: a big black beast that flies in from nowhere, craps over everything, then casually coasts off as we swoon and scramble to clean the mess.


And yet. Outside, there is birdsong, and we can hear it in carless streets. Magnolia blooms, and we can see it in the afternoon stroll afforded by a cleared calendar. Purple hyacinth blossoms, and its perfume can fill our homes with the sweet scent of Spring. Notes—on mail room message boards, shop fronts, slipped under doors, taped to lamp-posts—offer help, food, flowers, free online singing, psychotherapy, every kind of kindness.


As we survey the same scene, with the same horror, we see that we stand on the same earth. We turn to each other, and find that we are not quite who we thought we were. We are generous in adversity, and we are kind: we give what we have; we offer what we can. We are vulnerable to each other, and resilient with each other. We are creative: alone-together through song, dance, and poetry on digital stages and in streets, at a distance. Distractions diminished, appointments cancelled, cafes closed, we can pick up a pen, paintbrush, old project, new venture imagined in this space between. Nothing grand: a letter, a poem, a sketch, a game, some way to enjoy this peaceful place, a forgotten simplicity, and the part of us that is nourished by it.


This too shall pass. The seclusion will end. The bars and restaurants will open again. We’ll wait for tables and queue for coffee. The sound of birds will again be drowned in horns and jackhammers. The magnolia leaves will fall to the earth; feeding a fresh cycle in which we are new: newly immune to this virus, and attuned to the beauty around, within, between us.


As unseen yet real; as ineffable yet mighty; as contagious and consequential as the virus itself, this awareness will be medicine for our time, and what lies beyond it. A diminished world, to be sure. But one to which we bring bigger versions of ourselves.


Yours,

Lucy

 

Corona kindness: This letter was inspired by many examples of corona kindness –

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