On a Friday in March, 2020, the YMCA was rather quiet. There was a feeling of uncertainty as my class participants filed into the yoga studio. There were fewer participants than usual, and before class we quietly discussed what was happening in the world, and wondered aloud what might soon happen. At the end of class, I think many of us sensed a finality. The following week brought changes we could hardly bring ourselves to imagine the week before.
I've written this piece in the form of a Vinyasa; what movement to breath is called in the practice of yoga.
On that last day, that unforeseen but later so obviously last day,
was there a tingle, a breeze, a premonition?
Spacing them far apart on mats, unconsciously enacting the coming normal,
were we rushing towards something, or was it rushing towards us?
Guiding them through pose after pose, tightening, holding, relaxing,
thoughts beginning to crystalize, reality becoming clear.
Sensing the irony of encouraging their full, deep breaths,
no longer quite trusting the air around us.
Bringing them to rest in that final savasana, the corpse pose,
hoping it wasn’t a grim prediction.
Experiencing unity for possibly the last time, for now,
then, goodbye, stay safe, my dear ones.
I've focused on many things during the past few months. Although I've found it difficult to write about much of it, I've had some thoughts. Amazed at the vitriol directed at a simple and effective tool that I was accustomed to using on an everyday basis, here is a brief thought.
We wore masks all day, every day, in the Operating Room.
Paper, with ties.
Adjustable and fitted to the face, no gaps.
Top ties first, bottom gently pulled down, fitted under the chin.
Bottom ties next, in a bow.
Last, top pressed against the bridge of the nose.
Breath felt warm, glasses fogged at first.
A relaxed, gentle breath, and another.
Soon the mask felt like part of the face.
We wore masks all day, every day, to prevent infection,
to keep every person safe,
following trusted, scientific guidelines.
No controversy, no arguments, no mixed messages,
The Island started as a short memoir that I posted in December, 2019. Early this year, I reworked The Island as a poem and posted it again. I then decided to enter it in a competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. I made a few changes and to my amazement, The Island was chosen, along with the works of many other Wisconsin poets, to be part of the Fellowship's 2021 calendar. The theme of the competition was "Home". At the time the theme was announced, I doubt anyone realized just how much time we were all going to spend at home, or how we might long for the places we think of as home but were unable to visit because of the pandemic. For the third, and I promise the last, time, here is The Island.
1970, reporting to naval duty.
Young, newlywed, possessions packed into a car.
Midwesterners, hadn’t even known Georgia had a coast.
Paint-peeling shacks. Tall, proud pines,
Then winding through marshes to the island.
Dunes, spiraling sea grass, long, wide, white beach.
Immense space, sky huge and blue, sunlit water.
Long-legged birds playing with crashing waves.
Salty spray. Wind roaring. Hearts filling.
Didn’t know we would walk this beach
for hours, talking, planning, growing;
drive off island late one night, return as a family of three;
stroll in soft twilight, the ocean lulling a baby to sleep.
Didn’t know we would someday
yearn for this place,
returning in reality and daydreams,
pulled by the tides.