A walk after rain is often enlightening. A walk after rain in the spring never fails to bring to mind e.e. cummings. A walk after rain while thinking of e.e. cummings will either bring inspiration…or make you feel like a dullard. I’ve had it both ways, but I still like to try.
April 9, 2020
Inspiration After the Storm
By Michelle Garren Flye
This is my favorite part.
After the storm,
When the world comes back to life.
The birds sing their
I walk quiet
Through the mud-
Cummings warned me about.
Careful. Feel it?
For the words
For the waiting photo
But all I see is the mess after the storm.
Leaves and branches
My dog stops to watch as a bird bathes in a puddle—
Humans, as a whole, have a difficult time seeing clearly beyond their own noses. I’m guilty of it, too. Some have a gift of empathy where they not only see clearly what is happening to others beyond their own experience, they feel it, too. These poor creatures are definitely the exceptions.
Look at what’s going on now. Here in southeastern North Carolina, we’re dealing with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our entire nation, we’re watching the news and seeing the numbers tick steadily up—but the people around us don’t appear to be sick. Maybe some of them are, but their cases must be extremely mild. We know that there are more cases out there and we could be next. We know it, but we don’t, for the most part, actually feel it.
And so we go on about our lives. We’ve taken up new hobbies, returned to old ones. The kids go to “online” school every day. Some of us are chafing a little at the restrictions. My kids can’t see their friends. My oldest is missing the second half of his sophomore year at college. But over it all, right now (and it may be short-lived), I have a feeling of profound peace. I’m not rushing anymore. I’m not feeling guilty for devoting so much time to the theater work I love instead of making dinner for my family. I have time to fold laundry and wash dishes. I’m enjoying this unanticipated vacation.
And I know it shows a lack of empathy that I can feel peaceful right now. Maybe this is the end of everything, maybe it’s the ruination of our country, maybe it’s the apocalypse. Anyway…
Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)
By Michelle Garren Flye
If this is the way we go, I think it’s the way I choose:
Family all around, safe in our home, with love as real
As the things I care about—the only things I have to lose;
Maybe that’s wrong to say but it’s the way I feel.
It’s an odd war we’re fighting, of that there is no doubt.
The enemy is hidden, you can’t even see the rubble.
There’s nothing to show on the nightly news, no bout
Of bombing or flattened buildings—maybe that’s the trouble.
Instead of fighting, we’re asked to sit still and quiet
Don’t go out, stay home with your loved ones, they say.
There’s a special joy in that if you’ll only find it,
A life you’ve not given yourself time to live—until today.
I know how lucky I am. I get to go into a bookstore every single day. In these coronavirus days, that’s something special. Admittedly, I know this time is a setback. I certainly never imagined I would end up closing down for weeks and possibly months this soon after becoming the owner of a bookstore. But life’s lemons make sweet lemonade if you know the recipe, and for me, that recipe includes a lot of books and time.
Today, I will go back to the bookstore. I will sit behind my desk and do paperwork and hope the phone will ring. I will spend some time dusting and rearranging shelves. And I will spend some time just sitting silently. But I won’t be alone.
Today I sat in my silent bookstore hoping for the phone to ring with someone wanting to take advantage of my Covid-19 remote shopping option. The silence is of my own making. I closed to the public at the end of last week. It felt like the right thing to do.
It’s very difficult right now to know what the right thing to do is because it’s difficult to know what to focus on. Medical experts who say this epidemic will not end well if we don’t continue to isolate ourselves? Government hopefuls who expect real life to echo the movies and miracle cures to materialize out of thin air? Economic brains who anticipate the further shutdown of the economy to be more catastrophic than thousands of deaths?
And truly, it’s hard to see the true danger. It’s invisible until it hits you or someone you love. The medical community understands this. They’ve given us the tools to defend ourselves (wash hands, don’t touch face, remain socially distant), but they warn if we don’t use them, the effects will be devastating.
The truth is, though, this silent and invisible enemy will be the most devastating one we’ve ever faced if we don’t listen to facts. Scientific facts—something we’ve been trained to disbelieve in our recent alternative fact universe—are what can save us, but how likely are we as humans to listen now that so much is at stake? Our lives depend on it, but are our pocketbooks more important?
What do we focus on? We can’t focus on any one thing, really. We have to see the whole picture. All at once and from every angle. And know that what we don’t see—the invisible—can harm us.