This evening I was walking the lone, remaining dog up the drive. She doesn’t care for a long walk really, being fully deaf and mostly blind, but she does still like a good ole sniff along. I spied some neighbors walking by. A mother and adult son by the looks of it. They were thick into conversation, and looked up just in time to wave to myself and little Charlie from afar. And I got to thinking about the silverish lining of these strange and grief-full times in which we find ourselves just now.
Today would have been Full Day One at the Swannanoa Gathering and to be quite honest, I have been a bed of ready tears since the day before yesterday. I had texted my friend Peter on Saturday about the snacks and tunes and books-on-tape we might have shared along the drive south together on Sunday if we had been able to actually go.
Then Sunday morning, the waterworks really began as there were videos available from the Celtic Week Staff (only temporary, so click *here* for now, but not forever…) to wish us all well as we weather this heartbreaking non-time.
Thankfully the weather here locally was remarkably reasonable so I went for a hike and a little bicycle ride with the Hub and tried not to think about what we’ve lost this year.
It didn’t work.
I still had a good sob in the bath upon returning home, in spite of a day well spent in good company.
Grief is a funny country. It doesn’t follow the rules of polite society. It’s prickly territory.
Having had a dance with griefs big and small over the years, I figured, let’s just dance with it again and see what happens. As I communicated with all of my favorite summer and musical soul mates we talked of how fortunate we all are to have one another, if but from afar. To have this music in our lives to give us strength in hard times. We are all sad not to be together this year, but we are all hopeful that we will persevere toward better times. We know what we have here. And we are grateful.
So for now we work on our craft, learning new tunes, new instruments maybe. We weather this grief, personally, collectively. We know our loss of this week together is just one small loss in the Grand Scheme. But we grieve anyway.
There are plans to gather online in coming days, weeks, months, as best we can and we solider on with the help of our loved ones who seem to know how hard this is.
Case in point, I was drawing late this afternoon and heard the distinct sound of Irish music coming from outside. And wouldn’t you know, my Hub, knowing how difficult this has all been on me had set up a little ‘beer tent’ in the back yard in honor of Swannanoa. It’s the most thoughtful thing.
I think about that mother and son from my neighborhood and wonder if he, as a young person, is perhaps stuck at home unexpectedly with his parents in this wild, pandemicly charged time. Might they be getting to know each other in new and unexpected ways? I do not know. But maybe.
Small, unexpected silver linings in what is indeed a very dark time in the world.
As for me, I’ve seen more of my garden this year than in years past and I am glad of it, even if it means the work I do in the world will not look as it has in the past, at least this year. Even if it means my adventures have been tamed for the season. I am glad of the time here at home, fraught as it has been with worry about The State of Things.
Do I wish I were with my musical mates this evening down at Swannanoa? Yes, of course I do. But instead, here I am in a different sort of time, trying to make sense of things as they are. Blooming where I am planted.
****if you haven’t listened to Dolly Parton’s America podcast, you should*****
In a couple of days we will make the quiet drive to Maine. Stealing away like thieves in the night. Before departure, I’ll get the garlic out of the ground for the season, and engage a neighbor to water the rest of the plants while we are away.
I’ll admit to be a bit anxious about the journey. There are no plans to engage anyone or anything once there, besides our extended family. We know how fortunate we are to even have this option of ‘away time’. And this is another prickly level of things. To allow grief for the things in our lives that aren’t happening this year, and joy for the things that are, amidst the complexities of the world at large.
We must make space in our hearts for all of it. To be at once missing wistful tunes in misty mountains outside of Asheville while also making fervent calls to government representatives. To doodle gentle creatures while gardening as if our lives might depend upon it. Perhaps they may yet. We mustn’t lose our capacity for complexity in these times. We must remain richly invested in all of it. The good when we can find it, the difficult when it confronts us, the grief-ridden – especially as a collective of human beans.
In a long ago chapter of our early days together, we were faced with a number of long deployments due to Tony’s work in the Navy. Fortunately, these were in peaceful days and the dangers were relatively few. But nevertheless, the separations were difficult. I used to have a system of whining about it all that gave space for the grieving without wallowing in it. A couple of days of feeling pitiful, with allowances for ice cream for breakfast, an extra bottle of wine or what have you. And then, I’d wipe my tears, and get back to the job at hand. The time eventually passed, possessing its own arc and way. This pandemic is a bit like a long and terrible deployment I think. We have no idea how long it may last. I think it’s vital to let ourselves whinge a bit now and then about the waves of losses that have come in the wake of this thing. To be a bit weepy for a day or two in the midst of it all is far better than to armor up completely under the guise of “being strong” or feeling like our small griefs do not count when others have lost so much more. Armor is not good for an open heart.
I hope y’all are keeping safe and sane in these difficult times. We will get through. Together. Seek joy where you can. Lean on one another. Send letters. Have a good sob in the tub now and then. But don’t lose faith all together.
Here’s one more lovely thing as well. I am ever so grateful for music.