Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this, and suddenly the air is filled with snow. That is the way the whole world happened —there was nothing, and then…
But maybe some time you will look out and even the mountains are gone, the world become nothing again. What can a person do to help bring back the world?
We have to watch it and then look at each other.Together we hold it close and carefully save it, like a bubble that can disappear if we don’t watch out.
Please think about this as you go on. Breathe on the world. Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evening stroll along, watch how they open and close, how they invite you to the long party that your life is.
— A Valley Like This, William Stafford
Is your reading these days saturated with stories about the pandemic? Mine is. It seems like it takes up the first two hours of my day — two newspapers, my Twitter feed, on and on. I read a piece the other day that re-emphasized that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are at the end of the beginning. Given the challenges of developing a vaccine and producing, distributing, and administering billions of doses we may be looking at two years of physically distancing from one another, two years of uncertainty in our movement and commerce. I ask myself: what happened to January and February, and the time before that? What can a person do to bring back the world? Can my life ever be the same again? Overwhelming.
Now I realize I need to be open to the idea that this time with all of its pain and worry may be a guide from beyond. What is my world? Is it things, or entertainment, or travel? I guess that has been part of it. But what is really essential, what really means something is relationships with the people I love. We need to hold our world close and carefully save it together. When we stay together we can face anything, even if for now we might sometimes have to relate on a screen. We can look across this valley in front of us and see more peaks of shared experience in the distance. We can perceive what the poet Rilke described as a second broad and timeless life. An essential life.
What we are going through isn’t what I expected at this point in my life, but with any luck the long party that is my life will go on for a while yet, and I will gain wisdom from these challenges and uncertainties. The pandemic time will be the time when I obtained perspective and clarity previously unavailable to me. And I will hold the other people at the party closer than ever. We’ll save the bubble no matter how long it takes.
- What do you find most essential now?
- How does this in-between time figure into the long party that is your life?
- What new perspective is required of you now?