A rainy day, crows caw and a damp chill steeps the last Tuesday in October with dreariness. This weekend we push the clocks back an hour. A dark winter lies ahead. That's what we hear, anyway. Poets have written about winters of despair. In “Snowdrops” Louise Gluck writes:
Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you
I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring–
afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy
in the raw wind of the new world.
(Two weeks ago the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Louise Gluck. She received it “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”)
In “the raw wind of the new world" we're now living, a world none of us has ever before lived, the news media tells us one in four young adults has considered the possibility of suicide. A friend recently returned from visiting a loved one at the hospital where nurses say they have been overwhelmed by people incapacitated from drug and alcohol abuse. Still, I believe that with a purpose to our days, making the small moments count, we stay sane and healthy. The ordinary days infused with a touch, a smile, lunch with a friend ....
I appeared on a local author’s Zoom call organized by the library. It was the first time this year I had the chance to connect with my readers, other than through this blog, which is why I accepted the invitation. As I talked on Zoom to those little squares of faces listening to me share my thoughts about writing fiction and memoir, I noticed that my eyeglasses looked like headlights. They had caught the reflection from my dining room chandelier. I hadn't been prepared for my eyeglasses looking like headlights. Had it distracted my listeners, few as they were? Looking back, it was actually pretty funny. I’d show you a picture of me with the headlights for eyes but the librarian forgot to tape the interview, which is just as well.
Fire up the laptop. Hop on Zoom. Talk to your doctor and financial advisor on Zoom. (Unfortunately, Zoom spelled the ruination of legal analyst, author and journalist Jeffrey Toobin's career.)
The church I attend apparently received a grant to install audio equipment and cameras in the sanctuary to expand its Sunday Facebook audience. Maybe this is the way it will go now, I think. This is how we find God. Online. No one has to dress the kids for Sunday School. The memory returns ... him and me teaching Bible Study to preschoolers in a sunlit room with crayon-colored pictures of Jesus surrounded by children taped to the walls. At the church, Zoom is the preferred method to discuss the pressing issue of racism as it relates to our spiritual journey.
Writing allows us to make “individual existence universal.” It offers intimacy with others through sharing our stories. Our stories form a collective. We experience much the same. We are in this together.
The acknowledgement in Gluck's poem is that we all experience despair. It's what we do with that, what we learn from it and how we survive, despite it, that tells our story. When this is over, will we take the risk to 'open again'? Will we survive the 'raw wind of the new world' and find the intimacy that brings joy?