It has been approximately 63 days since we began our corona quarantine. I didn't need to count. I had a fairly good idea because yesterday I read Psalm 62. I began reading a Psalm a day right around Oregon's shelter in place order.
I read Psalm 62 and scribbled it into my journal.
He's solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul.
I gulp deep breaths and let it out slowly. I wonder if my feet have been on the ground.
Everything I've read or done lately has had a different texture, a ray of light coming through my window at a tilt so I can see the dancing motes. The slant is just so I can see both the beauty and the dust.
In the last 63 days and counting, I have filled up my car with gas only once at the beginning. My gas tank is still full. I have not had coffee with girlfriends. We have not been to the movies, concerts, museums, or in-person church. All of our trips are canceled with no replacements on the horizon. Within my family, some of us are working at home more than ever, some have taken a pay cut, some have started and paused a brand new endeavor, some are going back to school, and some who were looking for work are still looking.
Over 160 years ago, this kind of quirky, uncertain, roller coaster ride sort of time was captured in the opening lines of Charles Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities".
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
I think we feel all of that, together and alone.
All of the clichés prove true. We are in a turbulent season, a defining moment, a fork in the road. These are times and places that shape us if we allow it, if we want growth. Our Covid19 quarantine is not over yet, but as we are slowly, wisely (hopefully) opening up, it seems time to take stock of a few things before we rush ahead.
I have noticed 5 things I miss, 5 things I do not miss, and 5 things I hope to keep from this Covid19 quarantine, Wave 1.
5 things I miss (honestly, lightly, deeply):
*these photos by Monica Conlin
Trips to see my faraway family - I have not seen Mike's Mom and sister's family, my Mama and Daddy, my siblings or their families, or our son, his wife, and their three kids. Kids do not stop growing when we all stay home. I have missed Blueberry turning 5 and learning how to ride a bike without training wheels, my son turning 32, and their newest Ray of Sunshine do so many firsts: rollover, smile, sit up, crawl, wave, laugh and make raspberries with his juicy baby lips. I have missed so much that will never repeat.
Browsing for books - There is a whole art to browsing for books - feeling the texture of a good title roll off my tongue, delighting in the cover art, feeling the weight of the paper, noticing the page edges, reading those first few lines aloud to myself and feeling them catch (or not). A book store with shelves of used and new books together is all the sweeter to me for the thrill of the hunt. I miss thrifting too - old linens, discarded canvases, vintage books. Ditto for farmers' markets.
Being together to hold hands, hug, and hope - Distance-keeping muffles our celebrations and our mournings. Life keeps rolling along, but we don't get to fully mark our defining moments. So far during this quarantine, I've graduated from Seminary, had a birthday, anniversary, and Mother's Day. My Daddy, my brother, and both brothers-in-law have all had essential surgeries or chemo during this corona pandemic and they had to go it alone. Even the waiting wives have had to wait in parking lots which seems just that much farther away and alone than a hospital waiting room. We had a sudden death in our church family and while we are doing our best to mourn together, we are sad not to be together to share tears and good memories. We are awaiting babies being born into our extended family and we desperately want to hold them and smell their sweet whorled heads.
Getting all the way dressed - I realized the other day, I have barely worn shoes (other than running shoes) or dresses. I may wear a dress tomorrow just because it might rebel against needing a reason. We are more than what we wear, but do we really only dress for others? When it comes to getting dressed, let's not forget our hair. Sadly, my hairdresser and friend of 15 years had to close her salon for good. I need a haircut, but I am finally getting happy with my silvery hair which thanks to my daughters' encouragement, I was already let shine through before corona. Quarantine is helping me come into why I do what I do and for whom (and how much help I need to do it).
Worshipping in person with my church family - I do savor the old days when I got fully dressed, put on tearproof mascara, and went to a church building to worship God alongside others. I knew I would cry, raise my hands and sway with the Holy Spirit, lock eyes with someone looking for a smile, bend down and talk to a child, fill a few pages of my journal with hard questions, new prayers, and doodles. I would make plans to meet someone for coffee or a walk. Hopefully, someone would hand me a chunk of bread and a sip of wine, look me in the eye and say my name. Or maybe I would do the handing and naming.
5 things that I will not miss:
Return of traffic - When I finally venture out in my car, I can get where I'm headed in about one-quarter of the time. This would be the perfect time to pick up someone at the airport across town in the rain at rush hour. But there are no trips to the airport to pick anyone up or leave on a trip. I won't miss the return to traffic.
No trips to anticipate - We want to get moving again, to see the ocean, to visit friends, to see another culture and landscape. I like my routine, but I do miss being a rebel to my routine. I miss the perspective gained from leaving home and the excitement of an upcoming trip. Even trips to the grocery store have lost their shine; we go alone, we wear masks, we stand apart, we don't touch or sniff the produce. It is purely practical now.
Gotta go, gotta have, gotta do - Jerry Seinfeld says we are obsessed with going somewhere else. If we're home, we have to go out, if we're out, we gotta get home, if we're at the airport, we can't wait to get on the plane, but as soon as we're on the plane, we want to land. Corona quarantine is teaching us to stay put if not for ourselves, for the sake of others. I am driving less, buying less, treading on the earth less. Jubilee! Instead of all the gottas, I'm being still, playing board games, gardening, dreaming, dabbling with watercolors, cooking, making lunches for the houseless, and praying for essential workers, those with fragile health, and those who need to work.
Crazy busyness - I now have a permission slip to stay home, drive less, and be more. This homebody loves a slower pace of life to think, pray, rest, and listen. but there is stress, too. I haven't liked all I've heard in the slow and quiet. I am hurt too easily. I feel my insecurities and my deep need for friendships and belonging. I need to work less, get out of my shell, and take creative risks.
Taking gathering for granted - I might be a homebody, but I truly do like to get together with my friends, take communion with my church family, attend a concert, visit a museum, farmers' market, library, or thrift store. I miss all the incidentals of being together in person - children's quirks and smirks, shadow and light fleeting over faces, kaleidoscope flecks in your eyes, handing you communion, maybe seeing the shoes on your feet.
5 things I've added that I hope to keep:
Creativity - painting, bread- baking, cooking at home, reading poetry, Sweet Pea's jumbled words (Pajan), gardening, and noticing whatever is outside my window or splashed across the sky.
A Psalm a day - This was an idea seminary professor Eugene Peterson gave his student W. David O. Taylor years ago. Eugene told David read through the Psalms, one per day. When you reach 150, begin again. In this way, you will read through the Psalms about 2 1/2 times each year. I am reading them aloud to myself and staying near the psalmist's feelings whatever they may be. It is a practice that is helping my process the collision of feelings - happy and sad, selfish and generous, mad and merciful, gain and loss, fearful in my heart and confident in my Shepherd.
Childhood pace of life -When I was a girl laying in St Augustine grass, I watched the clouds two-step across the sky. After work, I've been staring out my window watching the wind through the trees, whatever is in bloom, wild bunnies, one bewildered deer, and birds crisscrossing the yard. One day a red-throated hummingbird fly right in front of the picture window while I folded laundry, lingering so close I could see the scalloped feathers on his chest.
One of my favorite sights were two adolescent boys riding bikes down by the river, their wild hair flying out of baseball caps, fishing poles whipping in the wind rising high out of backpack zippers. I know the pace of life will pick up, but I plan to resist much of it. I still have my permission slip for a slower pace of life. I signed it myself.
Making room for old and new ways to connect - I have received hand-written letters from friends and family, shared old-fashioned phone calls with local friends when we couldn't meet for coffee. Left plants on doorsteps. Facetime is sweet with my faraway family. My Mama has even learned some techy ways to communicate. Zoom has given me time with spiritual directees, space for creative collaborations, and taking communion with my church family. I don't want these to replace face to face times, but they have their own goodness of communication when we are separated.
Church was always more than a place or a gathering - Church is people living and sharing the gospel life of Jesus in the world. It was never a building or even only a gathering, though getting together in Jesus' name holds exponential power. The Spirit is not bound by place or time. Jesus talked with the woman at the well about this very thing. God's people have been scattered before during persecutions, wartime, famine, and plagues. Imagine God's people after being rescued from Egypt, crossing the desert, and entering the Promised Land. After being gathered. they spread out in the land. This rhythm of gathering and scattering repeats throughout the history of God's people all the way through the Epistles. Here is Paul writing to the believers in Thessalonica,
Do you have any idea how very homesick we became for you, dear friends? Even though it hadn't been that long and it was only our bodies that were separated from you, not our hearts, we tried our very best to get back to see you. You can't imagine how much we missed you!
Perhaps we are the scattered church in this season with different work to do and new ways to love the world. How will we live for the flourishing of the whole world?
I leave you with 5 quarantine questions:
What are you missing?
What are you not missing?
What are you keeping?
How are you changing - inside, outside, in your daily routines?
How has your idea of church grown and deepened?
*Cover photo by Kate Sanders. All others by Terri Conlin.