A Stillness of Space

When I left Albuquerque just before the state-wide lockdown, the leaves were about to pop on the cottonwoods and I’d just seen my first dandelion. Nearly every day, I walked my neighborhood, investigating what was newly sprouting. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I tell you this: I adore Albuquerque springs. When the wisteria blooms, and the hummingbirds thrum, and the cacti shoot up brilliant red and purple flowers, THEN it is spring, glorious spring.

Ahem.

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Ice melting in the junipers

The decision to leave Albuquerque came fast. Rumors a lockdown was about to happen were all over social media and, while rumors are rumors, I had a gut feeling it was coming. It made sense. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has struck me as being on top of things since this outbreak started. It’s likely she’s helped prevent a lot of infections with her quick actions. Unfortunately, no (wo)man, and certainly no state, is an island during a worldwide pandemic, and infection numbers are still rising there, like everywhere else.

So why was I leaving?

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Brave irises

I knew I couldn’t spend the lockdown in ABQ alone. I was already having issues with anxiety and I knew isolation would be a problem. I also knew I’d have more needed resources (i.e. family, food) in Superior, my hometown. So away I went, mourning the spring I wouldn’t see and nervous as all hell to be traveling during Covid-19.

I took a lot of precautions on my trip home: I packed all my own food; I used a Clorox wipe each time I got gas–on the pump and on my hands; and I slept in my car instead of a hotel. (I’d always considered my Camry roomy until I had to sleep in the backseat. Oof. My LEGS were dying to stretch out. I want a van before the next pandemic rolls around.) Normally, I’d never sleep in my car while traveling. Too dangerous. But I never felt unsafe. There were plenty of other cars and trucks and loads of semis at the travel center I chose off a toll road in Kansas. It was a misty night, but not gloomy. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt connected to the others parked there that night, but perhaps there was solidarity in the proximity. There were certainly moments of stillness that felt uplifting despite everything on this strange night in an even stranger month.

While getting gas the next day, I got sneered at for using the wipes. A lot of people, especially in the red states I traveled through, still weren’t taking the virus seriously. (Though at a station in Logan, New Mexico, a handwritten sign telling customers to use gloves and wash hands afterwards was at all the pumps.) But what did I care if someone laughed? I had no desire to get infected or potentially pass around the virus. Since returning home, I’ve quarantined myself and will remain that way for the time being. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has given the “safer at home” order. That means, well, stay at home if you can. And I can. For now.

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A windful of time

Which brings me back to here. To now. In northern Wisconsin, where spring is more of an idea–a wistful hope perhaps–rather than a subtle and then bountiful blooming like it is in Albuquerque. Snow storms are no stranger to Aprils here. And they happen in May and June. Our four seasons are: winter, winter-lite, mosquito-summer, and sometimes, oh sometimes, a drawn-out fall. Blessings.

When I did finally venture outdoors, I had to look hard for signs of spring. But seek and you shall find: A few green sprigs of grass, a weed or two under the fall debris I cleared, a brave patch of irises poking up, and a few knuckles of peonies just visible in the topsoil. It’s not a lot, and shortly after I took these pictures we had another inch or two of snow.

But soon enough there will be more. Each new plant, each new sign of spring, an offering from that space of stillness we all carry inside. I suspect a lot of us will be needing that space, turning to it in little captured moments.

A bud. A song. Look, there, a windful of time.

 

 

Writing prompts from the end of the world

Some awesome writers have been offering prompts for fellow quarantined writers in these unprecedented times. I found this one on Twitter today:Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 5.48.41 PM

I didn’t end up following it exactly, but when I saw it, I figured I’d give it a shot. I mean, why not.

I haven’t been reading or writing for almost two MONTHS. For good reason though. (I was sick and couldn’t read.) And, now? Well, I’ve been having a bit of trouble concentrating. The Coronavirus pandemic has my attention, along with my financial situation and health and …. We’ll leave that alone.

Since this virus may last for months, we need time away from the chaos. Time to regenerate. To breathe. To create.

Writing prompts seem like a good idea.

Kathy Fish, who is probably one of the greatest flash fiction writers alive (and also the kindest) has been offering prompts. (Checkout her Twitter.) Aimee Bender started today, but I’m sure there are many many more. If you see some, let me know.

Stay safe, people. Good health to all.

 

My response, for kicks.

Surprisingly, the anxiety–the acute needless fear of the future, the brain looping, looping, looping, on, always on, that endless tract of worst-case scenarios, that jailer for your mind–is what saved her.

From walking outside into the bright blue. From meeting that woman with the shy smile. From touching that door handle with the smear of post-nasal drip.

No, she was too tired to leave her house that day, made half-crazed by the need for sleep.

She imagined vapors in the streets, particles, dirty, clinging to the skin. The fingernails. The shoes.

To shoes? She eyes them, quietly lying at the door like innocent pups. Eager for use. No worries about wear. No idea of the contagions underneath.

Is it on shoes? Is it in the air? Her neighbors, she has noticed, have gone dark. Blinds drawn. Did they take off for …

Where? The mountains. The Mexico borders. Dreamscapes. Cabins. Second homes. The rich, always the rich, causing the problem, then leaving it to others to fix. Servants to buy their food, their lives.

Shocking how little we have that matters. Medications to keep us moving. Medications to love and endure. But stop. No need. I will send love. To you. You that woman with the shy smile. To the old man breathing his last. The athlete on a ventilator. And to the woman at the bus stop who hugged herself because there was no one else.