Gentle Rain

I’ve been chanting with the brothers in Taize pretty much every day, at 1:30.  (It’s their evening prayer in France.)  What I love about Taize is that only small portions of it are in English.  There’s Latin, French, Spanish, and German.  I sorta kinda understand the Latin, and I sorta understand the French.  This doesn’t matter.  Not being able to engage my thinking mind means I focus on the music, and singing.

And the fact that there are thousands of people also praying these prayers at the same time.

I love the music of Taize, and I love that it offers almost nothing for my monkey mind to play with.  “The kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Come Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”  I mean, what, is it not justice and peace?  Definitely good things.  Do I not want justice and peace opened?  Let’s do it!  I’ll get the corkscrew!

Another one that is poignant now is “Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray.”  That’s it.  Just that, over and over and over maybe twenty or thirty times.  Nothing to argue with there.  Just the naked sentiment of wanting connection, presence, through fear and pain.

I don’t have a problem with “Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, those who seek God shall never go wanting, God alone fills us.”  And that’s mysterious, because I know I have been wanting, and I know I’ve been full of shit.

Taize doesn’t ever drag me into questions about what evil is, or if there is a heaven, or how the church treats [fill in social injustice here].  For now, it’s definitely what I need.

It’s Palm Sunday.  I bet I have missed a Palm Sunday here or there.  It’s a weird holiday, a weird service.  You’re supposed to be happy Jesus is in town, but then hate the people who were happy he was in town, because they were full of shit.  Jesus has come to town to get tortured and executed.  Yay?

The palm branches are okay.  I guess.  I like free gifts.

What I am dreading is the coming week.  Maundy Thursday, when we wash feet, and strip the altar.  Good Friday, when we kiss the cross, and mourn together.  I save up all my anger and grief from the whole year and bring it to Good Friday.

And then Easter vigil.  I don’t go to Easter morning church anymore.  Easter Vigil is the whole megilla, to mix religious traditions.  You start outside, burn the palm leaves, sometimes burn other stuff (you know I love burning things), then go inside, in the dark.  Pick up a candle for later.

Sit and listen to Bible stories.  This part I like to go on almost forever, until I am like, dude, seriously.

Our candles are lit by the Christ candle.  The glow is incredible.  It’s sentimental-pretty at Christmas.  At Easter, it shows the faces of people who will die, but who also, all other things aside, have hope, and love, and joy while they are still alive.

They turn on the overhead lights, people cheer.  Then we do the whole service, which also takes forever, including baptizing some people, usually.

We get sprinkled with holy water.

We go to communion at the altar, with all of its fanciest fancytown decor, in contrast with the bare altar of Thursday and Friday.

I’m going to miss all of this a lot.

I did remote church this morning, with my church in Lawrence, and maybe I will join them for Holy Week services, too.

It won’t be the same.

What does our annual celebration of death and rebirth mean in this moment, this context?  I don’t know.  We are stuck in a long Lent for a while.

About 541 CE, a plague killed at least 25 million people.

In 1347, a plague killed around 50 million.

Bulbonic plague killed 15 million people, starting in1855 and going on for about a hundred years.

So it’s not like people haven’t done this before.  We have.

“A plague on both your houses,” used to sound odd, coming from Mercutio.  It now sounds like the angry, vengeful threat it was.

The other piece of Shakespeare that seems to address me right now is Portia in Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Part of this is carved into monument at a hospital near here.  I loved seeing it every day when I worked near there.

Good Protestant that he is,  he has Portia go on to say, “in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.”

In the course of justice.  That used to really bother me.  Like, a month ago.  Justice.  The election of this president, and the way he and his enablers insulted and attacked everything I love about my country… like many of us, I am different now.  I have much less faith in the goodness of people.

Now everything is so royally fucked up, I don’t even get upset about the president telling people he won’t wear a mask, or people telling us our tax money belongs to the federal government, as if there is some special program that is supported by The Federal Government, rather than, you know, the citizens of the United States.  Ah, insanity.

For whatever reason, this virus and the tragedy of it make sense to me.  It fits into my understanding of what humans can suffer from, and how we all have to go through, process, and hold that suffering.

For some reason, I do believe that “The quality of mercy is not strained.”  And that “It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”  I don’t know why I believe.  Mercy just stands out more now, I guess.  The same way when we dim the lights, the candles show their power.

This is the Taize page.

This is a great piece on Shakespeare and the plague.

Image: detail of “Scene with Misericordia and Veritas in a Circle at Center,” Theodor de Bry, 1580-1600, Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Today I woke up feeling pretty good.  Either I got better sleep or my other meds are kicking in, who knows?

Like I wanted to sing “The Circle of Life” in the shower.

Perhaps I am just moody.

Yesterday my dad and stepmom came out to see me.  They are both over 70, and have underlying health issues.  “Hey!” I said, and waved.  Super weird.  As I’ve gotten older, and also having known people with dementia, touch has become more important to me.  Family members with dementia may not be able to operate in the verbal world, but in my experience, they always like hugs and kisses, and having lotion rubbed into their hands.

They had brought folding chairs because they are always prepared.  Our haunted porch appears to be held up by the paint that is left on it.  The poor house needs painting so badly.  But I only think of improvements to the place I live as ways the rent will go up.

So we sat at least six feet apart, and we chatted.  I heard about my dad’s business, which is pretty quiet, but he doesn’t seem terribly concerned.  People will need lawyers again.  He told me a story about confronting a dude who was spouting racial epithets at a bar in Baldwin City, Kansas.

My dad’s brother is half Japanese.

It’s a long story.

My dad pulls out a photo of my uncle, and shows it to the guy, who’s like, what?  How?

Reminding me of all the times I have been nearby when someone said something nasty about black people, or Catholics, or Jews.  There’s always that initial moment of, did that just happen?  And then the trying to figure out how to address it.  With my students, it was much easier.  I was like, you’re not going to talk like that in front of me.

My stepmom brought me banana bread.  This is one of her primary caretaking behavior, the making and delivering of banana bread.  It works for me.  Yum.  She also brought some flowers cut from their yard, and TOILET PAPER.  I will say no more.

Sometimes I was closer than six feet, when we held things out to each other, just for half a second.  This will make you crazy.  It’s why I kind of don’t mind being here alone.  I don’t have to negotiate any of these scary unknowns: six feet is safe.  Six feet is not safe.

My dad touched his face, and my stepmom told him not to.

My dad is mixing and pouring concrete with his newfound time.  This is very reassuring to me.  Hard labor makes him feel good.

When we said goodbye, we did another round of weird things.  I put my hands together and bowed.  I don’t know.

I try to think it will not end for a long, long time, but then, these days are long.  Time now moves so slow you can’t see it at all.

We are still in the transformation process.  Not knowing how this is changing us.  Before this began, I was starting to think about what my next phase in life will be.  I do not know.

Living in not knowing is honest.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I want to fill in blanks, to settle.  But that’s not where I am, that’s not where we are.  Not yet.

Image: “The Palace of Donn’Anna,” Jules Coignet, 1843, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Murmur

I’m now living the life I imagined I should.  I get up, spray the plants, feed the cats, make the coffee, and write.  It used to be harder to get out of bed.  It isn’t, now.

I have two horseflies in the house.  They are horse-sized, but as you may not know, I live in part of a very large house.  So they fit.

One set up shop in my bathroom.  I searched for a New Yorker.  Magazines are the best.  I followed him with my eyes, my head.  Took a swipe.  No.  Another.  No.

Now he might be wounded, and he was flying a little crooked.  Or do they always?

I covered my ears.  Suddenly I was afraid he was going to fly into my ear.  Is that a thing that happens?

He landed on the wall near, but not on, a painting.  Bam.  Got him.  The memory of stalking and killing flies in our New York City kitchen came back to me.  I got much better at swatting flies.  I became, for short periods, obsessive.

Scrubbing one’s things, one’s objects, and one’s floor, an act of claiming, and care.

And now when I get on the floor to do yoga, I see the littlest bit of schmutz, and I run for the broom and dustpan.  Usually I’m more of a clean-enough person.  It may not look perfect, but if it’s clean enough, I’m good.

Nothing really ever made sense, but we were better at pretending it did.

I had a giant pile of boxes and plastics, recycling that I told myself I might use for some art project that, once Mardi Gras passed, was definitely not happening.  I got out trash bags and loaded… several.  Like, a lot.  It takes a party or a pandemic to make me take recycling out.  Especially because our one lone, tiny recycling bin is often full.

The fly fell onto the heating vent in the bathroom.  A horse fly has the heft that some insects have, which carries additional grossness and horror.

I don’t remember removing its corpse for proper disposal, but maybe I did.  Or maybe the cat ate it?

Doing what you can.  That was always the case, but sometimes we pretended it wasn’t.

I wonder about the ethics of getting deliveries.  Some Amazon order were my big things to look forward to this week: popcorn, contact solution, Michelle Obama’s book.  It gave me a reason to go downstairs.  I’ve been careful to have plenty of food, including things I wouldn’t normally buy (brownie mix, pop tarts, Rice Krispie supplies), to keep my spirits up.

When I was in maybe third grade, I made a dracula out of construction paper.  I ended up using him as a puppet, like a ventriloquist dummy, sort of.  I put on shows for my classmates.  I made props for him.  It’s a time in my life I have connected forward to seeking attention, and getting laughs, in a very healthy way. People liked my work.

I have on my desk now one of those props.  It is “Blood Basics,” by Count C. Dracula.  I assume the “C” stands for “Chocula.”

It’s made of the art teacher construction paper, thicker than the kind you use at home.

Though I set out to win a Pulitzer prize (seriously), knowing that I can contribute some distraction, some laugh, some consolation, as people read, is good.  I can easily spend time fretting about how I should have, or should, get my writing “out there,” and how I will finally get a book published.  This makes the blog seem less important.

I’m not sure it is.

Just getting to make something of my day, and use words, rhythmic, fussy, slippery words, to show what’s happened to me, and in me, that is a lot.

It’s a strange time to mention it, but one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes is, “I urge you to notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Writing here is nice.  Seeing people have read it is nice.  It makes me happy.

Up the Hill

I hadn’t been outside my house in… seven days.  When I’ve been sick, I probably stayed home that long.  I might have stayed home that long.

I poured oatmeal into boiling water, and then said to myself, could you get the trash out before the oatmeal burns?

I ran the trash out.

This is a hard job for me to do.  I don’t know why.

When I stepped outside, I was shocked that it was 75 degrees, the exact temperature I felt like a fish being let out of my pet store bag into the appropriately equalized temperature of my new tank.

Taking out the trash was the same.  It’s not like I take out the trash to the discord of Times Square or anything.

I resolved to go for a walk later.

It was hard to make myself go.  Staying at home is one of the few things I can control.  But I also know that with my anxiety issues, I have agoraphobia as a possible pitfall, and I want to train my brain to know it’s okay to leave the apartment.

Usually I would do a neighborhood walk, not up the hill to campus.  This time, walking to campus sounded reassuringly normal.  My usual walk to campus is a mile, and then I walk a mile home, and I have a reasonable amount of exercise for the day.  (Especially including the enormous hill I have to climb.)

(Yes, I know.  There are hills in Kansas.  In this part.)

I turned down my street to walk a block parallel to the hill.  The first other humans I saw were four boys sitting on their roof, drinking beer out of cans.  I waved.

“We’re social distancing!”

“That’s a good distance!” I said.

Unhappily, even apocalypse now does not mean everyone will look at you and wave or nod hi.  It’s hard to break this WASP crust, I tell ya.

I was happy for them being in fresh air, having each other, drinking beer.  I wonder how much of our town is drunk, just drunk all the time.

Some girls on a porch.  “Boys” and “girls” meaning they are college kids.  How is this different for them?  Are they more resilient because they are younger?  Or more bitter?  I’m doing apocalypse as part of my mid-life crisis.  Does that intensify it?

Who knows.

I turned to climb the hill.  Once I set down my phone to measure the steepness.  I can’t remember the number.  It satisfied me.

It’s steep enough that I don’t think I know anyone who could walk up it quickly without being winded.

At the top, I turned the way I usually do, past the school of religion, the student union.  They were empty, of course.  I thought the eeriest thing might be empty parking lots.  Parking on campus is at a premium.  Now you can go wherever you want, but why would you want to.

There were quite a few other people walking on campus in the beautiful weather.  Far more than six feet away from each other.  We have a lot of space here.  Joggers.  Walkers.  People a la bike.

I opened up my Harry Potter game.  Am I still addicted to this stupid game?  Maybe.  I was thisclose to giving it up, but it does reward me for leaving the house, so I really shouldn’t.

I “dined” at some “inns” and “vanquished” some “evil” things.  And kept walking.  The flower beds have not been replanted the way I think they would have been.  But forsythia are going.  I had already pointed that out to my niece.  “Forsythia,” I said more than once.  I never knew the names of plants, growing up, so now I heal that confusion by trying to force kids to learn about plants.

I turned to walk behind, instead of in front, of the tallest building on campus, the one with the flags on top.  There was so little other noise, the flapping of the flags was eerie.  There’s an old house with pillars that seems to now be a dorm of some sort.  I got close enough to see that there were flyers on the doors that said, “Please ring, and a staff member will help you.”

I’m interested in the signs.  What exactly they say.  Do they explain, do they have frowny faces, do they promise to return, or not?

I sat on some steps and defeated some more evil… somethings.  Don’t know, don’t care.

I could hear, because I sat so long, my ears adjusted and I could hear that there were people in the building, saying something like, “Do you want me to leave it like this?”

A crow perched on top of the building and yelled several times.

“That’s enough,” I said.

I would rarely take the time to listen this long and hard, or be so undistracted as to look hard for where a bird was.

The carillon rang out, the same song.

The sound bounced differently, hollowly, without many soft bodies to mute it.

What is it like?  Chernobyl?  Walking Dead?  The Twilight Zone?  It wasn’t as bad at that.  It was kind of like Chernobyl, nature taking over, and Walking Dead, people staying away from each other, and Twilight Zone, events that we are all, still, struggling to accept as real.  Events that don’t compute, don’t fit with all our previous knowledge of the world.

I walked a little further and saw a huge batch of forsythia just on the other side of a fence.   This was another part of the steep hill, the edge of it.  I reached over and twisted and yanked off some blossoms.  I love their color.  I love that they are early.  That they show up in spring and are like, “Let’s go.”

I carried the two branches home.  Things were paused, rather than finished.

There were a few cars here and there.  Maybe people left them there.  If there are only four people in a big building, I guess it’s no problem.

I wondered about experiments in progress, everyone’s research.

Right before I went back down the hill, I stopped at the hotel at the top.  It looked to be closed, but I wasn’t sure.

That sign said something about how when we were allowed to be in groups of more than 10 again, they would reopen.

I have complained and hated on this hotel because it replaced a charming, raggedy sub shop, and because they flew only a Kansas flag and a KU flag.

Now they have only an American flag up.

It did feel good.  Really good.  Fresh air was good.  The forsythia in my hand, I hoped people saw the color, and knew I would have pretty flowers at home, and that made them happy.

Walking down the hill, I heard someone blasting “Under Pressure.”  Apropos.

It’s nice to be in a college town.  I thought pretty much all of the kids would be gone.  But I saw plenty out, on a nice day.  How is it to be so young now?

I put my forsythia in a blue vase.  I thought they would hardly last a minute.

This morning, though, they still looked fresh.


Hawks and Robins

We’ve got birds here.  They are the only regular visitors.

I wonder when, and how, we will forget this.

The best time is cleaning.  I can’t settle enough to read yet, but I can write, virtual visit, cook, and clean.  Another way I was unwittingly prepared for this is that since I’ve been in grad school, I never eat out unless it’s a social occasion.

And I’m an introvert.  Although I get lonely, and I need human chat time, last night I began to feel a pull to go inside.  Cloistered or hermited monastics are still (in much smaller numbers) doing what they did 2,000 years ago.

It’s, like, not safe for amateurs, but it can be done, and it has been done.

There is possibility for some of us to use this time as a spiritual retreat, as well as a physical one.

After a day or so at my favorite monastery (okay, the only monastery I’ve ever been to), my day becomes a rhythm of reading, taking notes, drawing, yoga, prayer, meals.

At first, it’s always a little weird and scary, but once I open up into it, I never want to leave.

Well.  I only want to leave to go out dancing, to swear like a sailor, to drink a little too much, to go on a long journey.  Without those interests, I might be a nun.

The thinking brain resists this kind of relaxing.  My most anxious time is when I have time to relax.  I wonder if the hardest part of this will be leaving the house again, in a normal way.  I likely will most need meds at that point.  Maybe I should be doing neighborhood walks to prevent that?

Huh.  Who knows?

I’m waiting for the raccoons to really come out and do their thing.  I am hopeful they will form a doo-wop group.  The squirrels I would like to hear hip hop from.

I frequently have trouble getting out of bed, transitioning from snuggle sleep time to awake time.  I use my phone for a while when I first wake up.  I used to fall back asleep after that, but now the phone amps me up a lot more.

What I’m saying is that the pandemic is a great preventative measure for depression.  I know that getting up to have coffee is a must.  I don’t have the luxury of not taking care of myself right now.  It’s temporary, and I know I could have lots of help and support if I needed it.  But right now my brain is like, behave.  I know you can’t do it forever, but behave.

So many strange things this has made time for, made space for.  I listen to services offered by a priest who used to be at my church.  We didn’t really know each other then.  It is a shot of normalcy, comfort, to hear a voice that I know from the past, doing church.  Hello!  Thank you!

We don’t have eucharist at home, of course.  But wait!

I do have bread and wine.

I’m totally down for casting the spells in front of my fat cat Tybalt.

He will probably watch.

Miranda will want to watch because she likes to eat/chew/explore bread.

The idea that all things are authorized actually fits in quite well with my world view.  Yes, I was always like this, my parents will assure you.

I’m happy to have my books here.  I put books on the mantle for the first time.  I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me earlier.  Now I have the books that feel most solid to me lined up:

I’m moving Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art to the mantle.

“All means are sacred which are called for by the inner need.  All means are sinful which obscure the inner need.”

We are all artists of our own lives.  We all have to find means to make them.

Previous to this, the birds I noticed most were the hawks.  Their claws curl around the aluminum edge of a sign that says SPEED LIMIT 70.   I only see them for a second, at 70 miles an hour.  They perch up there like they are waiting for a car to pick up, carry to a nest, and dismember.

I will now spend more time on a robin who hops on the roof of the first floor.  He lands and stay still as a toy.  The cat and I watch, on our bellies, on the bed, waiting for him to move and show he is real.

Image: Hawk Tied to a Perch, Ryuryukyo Shinsai, Edo Period, Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Are you Sir Isaac Newton?

You are not.

I like the story about Newton and the plague.  Sometimes weird circumstances unlock new ways of thinking, or seeing.

That’s good stuff.

I am still not quite ready to jump into more serious creative work.  (Working on essays for publication, working on one of the books I have written, starting a new book.)  That’s okay.

For many people, they need a certain level of safety to create.

Other people need the wind and a whip at their backs.

We have all, now, gone into this dark and fearful forest.  What’s intriguing to me is that we will all be changed by this, and that change could be for the better.

You could be softer, more empathetic, more patient.  You could finally have time to think about where you are, and what you want to do in the future.

This is all creative work.  Creative work isn’t just painting pictures or writing books.

We will be changed.  We do not have control over all of the change.  I’m still mad about it, but we don’t have control over anything, fully.

We have some choices about how we are changed.  We can open up to change.  We can dance through change.  We can nap through change, and get a better idea of what our subconscious wants to say.  We can argue with change, and get engaged with it.

I’ve said it many times, but for me, it was a big step toward maturity to accept that I am not Shakespeare.  I was an ambitious child.

It’s okay though.  Shakespeare was Shakespeare.  Nobody else has to be him, or do that.

There are other things you can do and be.

Know that this is a reasonable time to fall apart, to let things fall away, and keep your spirit patiently watching.  Your spirit, your soul, is still quiet and peaceful.  That’s its nature.  It’s in there.  You might now get still enough to hear it.

I hate change.  One of my saddest days was the day my regular coffeehouse closed.  I spent so much time there, my mom would call there looking for me, and the staff were like, “Here, Liz.”  I drove up and the door was locked and closed.  I had no idea what to do.

Here’s what to do: the next right thing (as Anna and others say).  Seek out the art that speaks to you, and to now. Love what there is to love.

Watch apples fall.

They’re meant to.

Image: “Young Woman Peeling Apples,” Nicolaes Maes, ca. 1655.

The Woods

In some ways, I have been preparing for this disaster all my life.

My first catastrophe was my parents’ divorce.  That wasn’t a happy thing, but it was the first time my entire world changed, and I had no control. What I did was retreat further into books.  Become as self-sufficient as possible.  I was ready to move out.  I was ten.

There were some disadvantages to those strategies.  I missed out on some social understandings.  I became a distracter rather than a feeler.  I stuffed and numbed my sadness and fear.

There were advantages, though.  Books are a healthy escape.  I learned a lot about ancient Egypt, Agatha Christie, science.  So much.

And I am adept at distracting people in times they can’t act.  I know what to do when visiting a sick bed, or waiting at the hospital: play marry/fuck/kill (particularly great with your siblings, FYI).

From the moment my family broke, I became the person who knew suffering, and I felt like I knew how to be there for friends when they were suffering.  Even back then, I read self help books about listening and hugs and all that.

This doesn’t mean I can never be knocked off balance.  I haven’t had a sibling emergency, or a continuing parent crisis, since.

I have a chronic struggle with anxiety.  I have spent the last decade (annoyingly) figuring out how to feel, prevent, process, avoid, or work with anxiety and panic.  Partly that means I am medicating myself right now (you bet I am), but also it means I know some things about myself: when I feel super anxious, it’s okay to go to bed and snuggle up with “Law & Order.”  I know some tricks to get myself to eat when I have no appetite.  At this point in my life, I have a much better understanding of when I need to be strict with myself (GET UP, CALL SOMEONE), and when to give myself room (it’s okay to watch a lot of TV).

As a teacher, I am used to the weird feeling of sudden disconnection from people who were your whole world.  That happens at the end of every year.  It always means I need to take some hermit days, and make plans for fun things, so my moods don’t float away with darkness or anxiety.

Unlike 20-year-old me, I know it is good for me to play dress-up and read stupid celebrity news and do other such frivolous things.  It’s not a distraction from The Important Things.  It’s one of the important things, enjoying your life, having pleasure, not taking anything too seriously.  The last time I lived here, I vowed to not buy any clothes, or magazines (this was when magazines existed), I got all ascetic, and all that did was make me so depressed I went to a therapist for the first time.

Live and learn.  I’m way better off as a Benedictine, who balances work and prayer, the world and the spirit.  Offering hospitality nourishes me.

From my work with children, my first instinct in any crisis is to make plans.  Define the problem, then make a schedule and divvy up responsibilities.  When my niece came over the other day, we listed what we wanted to do, and scheduled the whole evening.  I’m like a kid in that schedules make me feel safe.  I’m more knowledgeable now about how much wiggle room I can allow myself without risking an emotional crash.

I know now that hugs are like food for your skin.  I live alone, but I decided to share time and space with my cousin and her kids, who are also isolated.  It would be better to see no one at all, but my mental health is also important.  The calculated risk of getting hugs from my cousin and her kids is probably worth it to me.

I also have spent an incredible amount of time thinking seriously about how to spend my life, and what’s important.  So though I am anxious now, I maintain a very strong sense that I have done good with my time, with my life, and I’m proud of that.  I don’t feel a great need to reevaluate my life now that I have time to.  Well, I do this periodically, but I don’t feel I’ve left a big pile of emotionally dirty laundry.  And that feels good.

I have connected with a church and spiritual traditions that nourish me.  The monastics I know pray three times a day.  Every day.  Every day.  Yes, every single day.  That is a model I can take up, if I want to.  And the prescribed words work for me.  I love the poetry of The Prayer Book.  I love knowing that whatever happens, we will say the same stuff over and over and over and over again.  I love knowing that our tradition is more than 400 years old, by one count, about 2,000, by another count, and by the most expansive definition, 4,000 years old.  It’s old.  Stuff about it works for human minds and souls.  It works for me the way it worked for my ancestors.

This is just luck, a gift.  I know not everyone has a tradition they connect with.  And if you know me, you know I have zero desire to interfere with your spiritual life, or lack of it, or whatever.

Am I freaking the fuck out?  You bet.

But it seems like a healthy thing to assess what we bring to this moment in time.

I watched “Frozen 2” with my niece.  That is some dark stuff!  Olaf singing about impermanence.  I was like, is this a Zen Buddhist movie?

What resonated with me was that they talk about how going into the enchanted forest will transform them.  We are in the misty, enchanted forest now.  Today I realized what piece of art speaks to this time for me: Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Into the woods,

Who knows what may

Be lurking on the journey?


Hard to see the light now.

Just don’t let it go.

Things will come out right now.

We can make it so. Someone is on your side–

No one is alone.

Though it’s fearful,

Though it’s deep, though it’s dark

And though you may lose the path,

Though you may encounter wolves,

You can’t just act,

You have to listen.

you can’t just act,

You have to think.

Though it’s dark,

There are always wolves,

There are always spells,

There are always beans,

Or a giant dwells there.

Into the woods, but mind the past.

Into the woods, but mind the future.

Into the woods, but not to stray,

Or tempt the wolf, or steal from the giant–

The way is dark,

The light is dim, 

The chances look small,

The choices look grim,

But everything you learn there

Will help when you return there.

The light is getting dimmer..

I think I see a glimmer–

Into the woods–you have to grope,

But that’s the way you learn to cope.

Into the woods to find there’s hope

Of getting through the journey.

Into the woods, each time you go,

There’s more to learn of what you know.

Into the woods

and out of the woods

and home before dark.

Last week, “South Pacific” was the greatest musical, but this week, “Into the Woods” is.  Don’t tell Sondheim. He’s already insufferable.

Image: “An Allee in the Woods,” Sir Edward John Poynter, 1859, Metropolitan Museum of Art.