Issue #11 - A Lesson. A Warning. A Flare: Voices from the Pandemic
Issue #11, October 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Lise Weil, Kristin Flyntz, Jane Caputi, Andrea Mathieson, Anne Bergeron, JuPong Lin, Kim Trainor, Shante’ Sojourn Zenith

Editorial

Alexandra Merrill

A Quarantine Lamentation

Kristin Flyntz

Imagined Letter from COVID 19

Azul Thomé, Katrine Claassens, Debby Black, I. Rose, Kathryn Smith-Hanssen, Elizabeth Pecoraro, Irene Reti, Sara Wright, Jane Barboza

What is Coming Up for You?

Anne Bergeron

Pandemic Diary

Jane Caputi

Call your “Mutha”

Andrea Mathieson

Lilith’s Return

JuPong Lin

My People Sent me a Canoe,
1000 Gifts of Decolonial Love,
Foldboat for a Pandemic

Shante’ Sojourn Zenith

Fruiting Bodies: Collapse as Medicine, Liminal Portals, Mycelial Engagements

Kim Trainor

Shelter

Sharon English, Lise Weil

AfterWord: Doris Lessing’s Shikasta

Kristin Flyntz

An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.

Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.

Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.

It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.

But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now. Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it guide you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk,
beyond the threat of personal inconvenience and illness?

As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health,
what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers,
the trees, the sky,
and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop.
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.
Stop. Just stop.
We will help you, if you listen.

NOTES

This poem/letter arrived one morning before work. I had the inclination to empty my mind of a few thoughts that had begun to coalesce, and fifteen minutes later, there it was, without forethought or much of an attempt to edit it. Posting it to my Facebook page felt personal and risky; I figured it would be ignored entirely, or folks would decide I’d finally gone ‘round the bend—turned into a new age whack-a-doo who wants to assign meaning to every cloud that passes overhead. Yet I felt there was alternative way to view what was descending upon us, one that didn’t demonize the virus or promote the mind or language of war to meet it. So, up it went—and then I went to work.

I was shocked when it went viral, circling the globe and spurring multiple videos, several narrated recordings, inclusion in countless digital publications, making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. I waited for a backlash which, rather miraculously, never really came. Oh, there were a few complaints and snarky comments, to be sure—but overwhelmingly, the response was positive, and it gave me such hope. It seemed that many others were listening, as I was trying to do, for the bigger Story—or were at least open to the possibility that Coronavirus could be ushering in something new, something that deserved some time and space to reveal itself more fully.

Many people experienced having far more time in the ensuing weeks and months than they had before—maybe ever. Depending on who you are, this may have been a blessing, or a challenge, or painful, frightening. This may be/have been a time of illness, profound loss, profound grief. Or shedding, breaking down, letting go, rediscovery. Some were unable to pause because they were required to work out of economic necessity or because they were deemed essential. Others kept their ears to the ground or tuned to the dreams. I have never seen such a profusion of gorgeous, soul-stirring, thought-provoking writing and art. The responses to the virus seemed as varied for those who did not contract it as for those who did. For me, work was busier than ever, so I was busier than ever. In my busy-ness, I didn’t see that I was, in fact, making a choice by adhering to my status quo.

July found me on the back porch, quarantining from my husband and three cats after being exposed to the virus.

While the possibility of having the virus was real, I sensed that my time on the porch was never about whether I had COVID-19. It was about whether or not I could fulfill the mandate of the letter—at least in part—which I had failed to do in any meaningful way since it had come in March. This weighed heavily on me; the world is on fire, and I had been given clear instructions on how to meet it. But I had been too busy hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold my life to allow the moment to change me.

Sometimes, the Universe does for us what we cannot or will not do for ourselves, and I believe that my time in quarantine was ultimately about being with—being present to—the earth, the sky, the trees, and the elements.

Photo of candle outoorsMorning, noon, and night—through cool, misty dawns, through heat wave afternoons, and even through a tropical storm—I took my meals, worked, and slept outside.

I watched the changing of the light in the sky, over the distant hills, moving across the swells and slopes of our yard; felt how the qualities of the air—sight, sound, feel, smell—changed throughout the day and night. Some mornings, half asleep, it seemed the air smelled pink—suffused with a sweetness reminiscent of cotton candy; on certain evenings, it smelled green—sharp and fresh and edged with a peppery pungency I couldn’t name. Sleep rode in on the song of Peepers, and mornings were broken with the song of Wood Thrush, which began each day at 5:30 a.m. Living amid the steady presence of Trees was perhaps the most profoundly altering aspect of the entire two weeks. Being with them for such a sustained period of time was to feel recognized, held, happy. Genuinely happy, consciously happy, as one feels when one is among good friends. These are just a few examples of the experience. It was an immersive, up-close-and-personal two weeks of falling more deeply in love with the ecosystem, the community, of which I am a part—of being a part of it in a new and different way, a deeper way. I think it was the kind of encounter that works on a person—this person—and will continue to change me over time.


About the Author

Kristin Flyntz

Kristin Flyntz is the assistant editor of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, and content editorial director at a recordkeeping services company. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, their feline beloveds and shares land with a diverse and delightful community of trees, birds, and four-legged wild ones.

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