Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Nothing has changed; everything is different. Routines from before that persist: cleaning up dog poop, laundry, paying bills, meditating, writing, blogging, napping, a big lunch, watching tv at night with Eric, walking dogs, putting clean sheets on the bed, reading in bed at night while Eric and the dogs sleep. New routines: wearing a clean mask every time we go out, washings masks a few times a week so we have plenty clean ones, the dogs “going to work” with Eric which means the room at the end of the hall that used to be my office, the dining room table being my new office, writing in front of my HappyLight while Eric works on the computer next to me, ordering groceries with an app and picking them up instead of going inside, texting my mom and brother almost every day, yoga classes on Zoom, Telehealth appointments with my therapist, regularly flossing my teeth, waiting outside while the dogs go inside to the vet, washing my hands all the time.

2. Truth: We are all tired. Even though it is always true that life is suffering and impermanent, there’s something heightened about that awareness right now. We are having to make space for all the things that haven’t changed, that continue to require our attention and effort regardless of what will happen tomorrow, the forward momentum of our lives. And yet, we also are holding space for grief and anger and confusion, the chaos of experience laid so bare there is no denying it (even though some are still making the effort). We are making a great effort to not give up, to keep going…here at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere. And some days are harder than others.

3. Truth: My garden gives me solace. It’s a gift, a comfort in this confusion, this chaos, this uncertainty to still have the garden, the ground. This still works the same: start the seeds, prepare the ground, pull the weeds, amend the soil with compost, water when it needs it, plant some new things each year to continue to expand it. The timid tender promise that there will be a harvest, that there will continue to be this repetition of seasons in years to come as there has been in the years before, that seeds planted will bear fruit and flower. It is medicine and magic.

One wish: May we find comfort where we can, experience some ease and maybe even joy, and may suffering be eased — in ourselves and the world.

Something Good

1. 12 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Do Right Now.

2. Ethical Alternatives to Amazon, “the most lovingly curated selection of Amazon and Prime alternatives anywhere. We aim to make giving up Amazon easy and to encourage more people to spend their money with businesses that have higher ethical standards.”

3. Moving Through the Day with More Ease on Zen Habits.

4. Why is Everyone Afraid of Boredom?

5. 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.

6. Join Monty Don as he heads out to feed the chickens (video). I want to go to there…

7. Activism As Self-Care: How to Energize the Most Important Work of Your Life. “Tactics to sustain change-makers in overwhelming times.”

8. Emergency Room Diary (video). “Dr. Craig Spencer fought Ebola in West Africa while working with Doctors Without Borders, and now he’s an emergency room doctor in New York City, at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a day in his life on the front line of the battle against COVID-19.”

9. Pixar Short Film ‘Out’ Features Studio’s First Gay Main Character on The New York Times. “The animated film follows a gay man’s journey into acceptance as he prepares to move into a city with his boyfriend.”

10. 30 Types Of Succulents That Look Like Something Out Of This World.

11. Cool Guides To All Sorts Of Cool Things.

12. Remembering the Nearly 100,000 Lives Lost to Coronavirus in America on The New York Times. “America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak — each figure here represents one of the nearly 100,000 lives lost so far. But a count reveals only so much. Memories, gathered from obituaries across the country, help us to reckon with what was lost.”

13. Tracee Ellis Ross Reveals How Her Mom Diana Ross Reacted To Hearing Her Sing In ‘The High Note.’ In related news, LOVE MYSELF Official Music Video.

14. We Can’t Comprehend This Much Sorrow on The New York Times. “History’s first draft is almost always wrong — but we still have to try and write it.”

15. How We Chronicle Our Lives Now from Liz Kalloch.

I’d love it if you’d join me on Instagram or Facebook and post photos of your treasures, your trinkets, your tools and your talismans with a story (or a story in pictures) about your time sheltering in place and use #chroniclesoftoolsandtalismans

What things/actions/activities are helping you through your days? Who are the people that you’re finding yourself reaching out to again and again? What are you making these days? Are you feeling frozen around making anything? Are you cleaning your closets and organizing your shoes, or slothing on the back porch with a book? What are the things that are making you catch your breath? What’s helping you exhale? What helps you stay focused (even briefly) or how are you un-focusing?

16. After ‘The Most Photographed Dog In Bruges’ Passes Away, People Are Sharing Photos Of Him Throughout The Years.

17. Opinion: The End of Meat Is Here on The New York Times. “If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.” In related news, Why meatpacking plants have become coronavirus hot spots.

18. Wilson Jerman, Longtime White House Butler, Dies at 91 on The New York Times. “Mr. Jerman started working as a cleaner for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957 and retired in 2012 as an elevator operator for President Barack Obama.”

19. Gay nurse shows how six weeks fighting coronavirus ravaged his body in shocking before and after photos.

20. My coronavirus survivor group is my most important medical support right now. “Online support groups are filling Covid-19 information gaps and helping patients arm themselves against discrimination.”

21. Adopted dog takes 97-day walk back to foster mom.

22. Meet One-Year-Old Chef Kobe, Winning the Internet Like a Boss. (video)

23. This Artist Is Painting Beautiful Flowers on All of Her Walls While Stuck in Quarantine.

24. Man whose dad walked out when he was 12 shares his own fatherly wisdom ‘Dad, How Do I?’ channel.

25. Write Like a Dog.

26. Jane Roe’s Deathbed Confession: Anti-Abortion Conversion ‘All an Act’ Paid for by the Christian Right.

27. This Mother And Daughter Duo Is Creating Stunning 3D Chalk Art To Make Neighbors Smile.

Gratitude Friday

1. Yard time. I’m so grateful during this time that we have a back yard, that it has a privacy fence, that the neighbors have big trees. I’m also grateful that we live in an older neighborhood without any association rules so we can do whatever we want in our front garden.

2. Garden season. The risk of freeze and snow has finally passed, so Eric planted the vegetables he’d started from seed. We still need to get basil, pumpkins, maybe some watermelon and those japanese cucumbers I like so much. I’d also like more daisies and some chamomile. I’m so glad Eric likes gardening as much as me, because I certainly couldn’t do all this work on my own.

3. Morning walks. We’ve been taking the new trail they built, the section that allows us to walk down to the school and get on an extension of the trail that now connects to the main one, goes by the field of horses and along one of the ponds. The sky has been so amazing and the river is filling with snow melt. My foot is feeling much better thanks to some massage balls a kind and gentle reader recommended. I got a little sad the other morning because I remembered that soon the mosquitoes will come and we won’t be able to walk along the river until fall.

4. Getting my teeth cleaned. It was the first time I’d been that close to anyone other than Eric in 63 days. It broke my heart a little how careful we all were being with each other, wanting to keep moving forward but also stay safe. I get really anxious going to the dentist normally, so under these conditions it wore me out, but I’m still grateful for the care, for all those risking their safety so that the rest of us get what we need.

5. Good food. Sure, I’d love to eat out again, be served something someone else cooked, but luckily Eric and I are both good cooks and we have access to the supplies we need. Two standouts this week were pizza with spinach, green onion, and roasted sweet potatoes, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with toasted walnuts.

6. My tiny family. I am so lucky to have them, so lucky they are safe and well and we are together.

Bonus joy: writing with Laurie and Mikalina and Chloe’, the promise of so many peonies, my infrared heating pad, that Eric can work from home, his paycheck and health insurance, grocery pick-up, pretzels, ice cream, pancakes, crisp Gala apples, dependable and fast internet, good neighbors, texting with my mom and brother, Instagram, our whole house fan and our a/c, clean sheets, getting all the laundry done and put away, toilet paper, yeast, flour, the XM Chill station, lord help me even the Yacht Radio station, yoga, meditation, mantra, writing in front of my HappyLight while drinking a half coffee half cocoa in the morning, how well Sam is doing and all the people who help him do so well, Ringo’s sense of humor and lord help me even his independence, so many people who aren’t giving up, people who wear masks because they know it’s compassion and wisdom in action, the people risking their own safety for the benefit of others, reading in bed at night while Eric and the dogs sleep.

Something Good

1. Wild Writing Family with my dear friend and beloved teacher Laurie Wagner. “Over the course of our time together you will deepen your writing practice, becoming a better writer – someone who is more free on the page, and who is grounded in the sound of their own voice. You’ll be tethered to a practice that invites you to unmask yourself, tell the truth about your experiences – how you feel and what you’re longing for. Your Wild Writing pieces may get turned into poems, essays or blog posts – pieces you can share with your community. You’ll receive over 10 poems a month, you’ll get real time with me, as well as stay connected to our rich Wild Writing Facebook group.”

2. If you are having trouble reading… from Austin Kleon.

3. Sara Bareilles – A Safe Place to Land (Live at the Village) ft. John Legend. (video) So many songs take on a whole new meaning in light of COVID-19, and this is one of them.

4. How to Grow Your Own Produce From Kitchen Scraps. In related news, The 10 rules for freezing food.

5. ‘It Seemed Apocalyptic’ 40 Years Ago When Mount St. Helens Erupted. We lived in Oregon, and I can remember our cars getting covered in ash from the eruption.

6. Deer enjoy Japan’s cherry blossoms. (video)

7. Tatum the talking dog on Instagram is my favorite thing on the internet right now.

8. Ten practices for the liminal space. “How do we stay in this waiting place, when there is still so much we don’t know about what’s on the other side? How do we maintain our sense of well-being and not spiral into despair and fear when we don’t yet know when we can see our loved ones, gather with our communities, or send our kids back to school? Here are some of my thoughts about ways to sustain ourselves in the midst of liminal space.”

9. Ordering delivery? Here’s 6 tips on how to avoid coronavirus. (video)

10. Misinformation has consequences. In a pandemic, those consequences can be deadly. In related news, Colorado suspends license of Castle Rock restaurant that defied coronavirus public health order.

Day of Rest: Open Space Practice

Even during this timeless time, Sundays maintain a particular quality. They are still a reminder to rest, to slow down, to recover — which is important, no matter what day(s) you choose to honor it. And yet people, including me, are struggling right now to find the balance between effort and ease. Some feel frozen, fatigued, stuck. Others can’t stop moving, struggle with the need to “stay in place,” feel agitated by the isolation, the restrictions. My husband, in high demand right now because of his experience with online learning, worked close to 60 days without taking a full day off.

As a contemplative practice guide, this time has both limited and expanded my opportunities. I can’t teach in person right now and don’t know when I’ll be able to again, yet still long to offer something to ease suffering. I knew I could offer practices online, could record things and share them, but I’d never done that before, didn’t even know where to start.

Then one of my students from the weekly yoga class I was teaching “before” called with a request. She told me how much everyone was missing me, and asked was there a way we could put something together for them, so they could practice with me again? I had already been considering it, and told her I’d put something together.

It took longer than you might expect, as everything seems to with me. First I had to sit with my resistance. I was grieving my opportunity to teach in person. I am used to putting my body in front of a room full of people, having them watch me move, watch me sometimes struggle to move. Old me, with all of my body issues, still lingers, sometimes cranking up the judgment, even spiraling into shame, but I overcome that, am buoyed by the connection with other humans, comforted by their effort and openness, and I know that when I teach, it’s not about me. Teaching on video felt like it would put the focus back on me, my body and voice, the way I move and what I say, centering me, isolating me in a way I thought would feel lonely, weird, uncomfortable. I needed to work through that.

I decided the only way forward was to lower the bar. I’d start with a seated meditation practice first, then a seated asana practice before I did a full Hatha asana practice. I also kept in mind this was not a project or a product, and it didn’t have to be perfect. I’d been thinking about creating some teaching videos before, so people who weren’t geographically close could practice with me, and this seemed like a low stakes way of trying that. Also, who knows how long “this” will last, and, not to be morbid, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be one of the ones to survive it, so this could also be something to leave for those who love me and might miss me later.

The next step was to find a place where I could film. This is harder than it may seem. Our house is only 1080 square feet, not “open concept,” so finding a space big enough to fit my mat and for me to move around but also where I could place a recording device far enough away that I could be seen standing or lying down wasn’t easy. And, Eric is working from home right now and is home most of the time. I did a “location scout” and there were two places where I could teach asana, one other I could use to teach meditation. This meant some clean up and rearranging of furniture and negotiating with Eric’s work schedule, but ultimately workable.

I spent a day cleaning up my practice space (so much dog hair and dust!), putting clean sheets on our futon and moving my yoga stuff into the garage, cleaning up the last bit of junk in the garage and putting a load of stuff to take to ARC in the car. I cleaned it up to use as a place to film meditation practices, but also just in case one of us gets sick and needs to quarantine ourselves. At first, Eric said that was dumb cause we’d probably both get sick at the same time so what’s the point, but I told him even if we could stagger it by a few days, so only one of us would be in the worst of it at a time, it would be better. I bought a humidifier, a pulse oximeter, acetaminophen, tissues with lotion, cough suppressant, chicken noodle soup, frozen orange juice, and Gatorade. Next I need to get a few folks to agree to take care of our dogs if we can’t and put together a file with our living wills and information so Eric could pay our bills and instructions about the dogs. I’ve been putting this sort of prep off because even though it will mean I’m ready, I’m so NOT ready, and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.

Finally the day came when I was ready to try and record something. It took some time to figure out the best camera to use and the placement that would allow the best view. I still had no idea when I started recording if I could do a longer video on my phone and if I could do it without a secondary microphone. I was nervous, did one short test video before recording the real thing. I was totally sweating (an unfortunate side effect of the Zoloft), they were working on a gas line right in front of our house, and Eric was waiting until I finished to take a shower because our main bathroom is right across the hall from my practice space. Even with all that distraction, I recorded the video in one take. Any time I felt distracted, unsure of what came next, I simply paused and took a breath. I fairly quickly and easily settled into “teaching mode,” imagined my regular students watching, there with me, and I felt okay about it, was satisfied with how it turned out.

Here it is, kind and gentle reader. “A short practice (including a body scan, calming breath exercises, a heart-centered loving-kindness mediation for ourselves and as an offering to others, ending with ‘breath of joy’) to cultivate a sense of well-being (safety, ease, comfort, joy, etc.) to counter the unpredictable and stressful nature of current times.”

I had planned on waiting another week to do another video. But then Eric decided to take Ringo hiking yesterday, so I knew I’d have the house all to myself, that Sam would spend the time quietly sleeping on the couch, and if I was going to do another video, it would be a good time. I already had an idea for a seated asana practice with meditation, so I set up in the dining room and stared to record. Again, I was super sweaty, like one long hot flash, and I felt more awkward than during the first video. At one point, during the meditation, I mistakenly thought the recording had stopped, got up to check my phone only to see it was still recording, so there was about 30 seconds I’d need to edit out before posting, and for some reason the camera kept blurring and refocusing so the visual quality overall isn’t the best. It also turns out I didn’t have enough memory on my phone for the full 40 minute video, so I was going to have to splice two videos together. After a day filled with frustrating tech issues where I learned a lot about what not to do next time, I finally posted a finished video.

Besides technical issues, I had some more personal issues with this video. Old body shaming voices came up as I watched what I’d recorded, the ones who five years ago would have convinced me I should never share the video because I was too disgusting to look at, that people were going to judge me. The judgment came up but it didn’t lead to a shame spiral, I didn’t smash myself to bits because of it. I didn’t act on that feeling, didn’t make a plan to change my body, didn’t accept that there was anything wrong with me or that my body needed to be a project.

Here’s that one. “Practicing staying open to what arises, even when it’s difficult. A shorter, seated asana practice that can be done sitting in a chair or on the floor, followed by a short meditation.”

I still have a lot to learn, especially about how to make something of quality but with ease. People who do this more professionally have all the equipment to “do it right” but I just want it to be simple. I hope I never have the need to monetize my teaching in this particular way, that I can just give it away for free or not do it at all. It might be a mess but it’s true, take it or leave it. May it be of benefit, may it ease someone’s suffering — at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere.

Gratitude Friday

1. Working in the garden with Eric. I am so happy that Eric loves to garden as much as I do. We had to take a few days off because it’s been raining, but we’ll get back out there this weekend, keep at the weeds. It’s also getting close to time when we can put the seedlings he’s been tending into the ground. We still need to get Japanese cucumbers and basil, and I’d like more daisies and some chamomile, as well as some more bulbs. I also wouldn’t say no to more peonies.

2. Grocery pick-up. It’s not a perfect system, but so much better than having to go in. This week, I screwed up our grocery order. Let me explain: They do substitutions if something isn’t available, but it has to be a pretty exact match. For example, if they are out of the organic sharp white cheddar I like, they won’t substitute the Tillamook sharp white cheddar because it’s not organic, even though to me that’s an appropriate alternative. So, to “fool” the system, if I really need the cheese, for example, I’ll put both on my order, the one I prefer and the one that is acceptable, and in that way, I usually will at least get one of them, and if I get double, no biggie. Well, we had a hard time getting dish soap so in my initial order this week, I selected multiple options, never intending to leave them all in my cart. You can update your order up until midnight the day before, so my initial order when I reserve the pick up time is never the final version, but somehow this week when I updated the order, it didn’t go through so when we picked up Monday morning, we got a whole lot of dish soap and not much else. I tried again and did better. Fun fact: Dot’s pretzels and frozen pancakes and Caesar salad mix are my pandemic foods.

3. Online yoga classes. I miss being with people, in the same room as them, practicing together, but I am not complaining about being able to show up just a few minutes before class starts and still get a good spot, and being able to practice in my pajama pants and no bra because no one can see me.

4. Preparing and eating food. I feel really lucky that Eric and I are both good cooks, and that we have the supplies we need to put together things we are happy to eat. He made me English muffin bread this week and I’m going to make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

5. My tiny family. Thank goodness we enjoy spending time together but also know how to give each other space in this tiny house.

Bonus joy: Being back in Laurie’s Wild Writing Friday morning class, figuring out how to make a meditation video and finishing it in one take (more on that on Sunday), hanging out with my aqua aerobics pal Janice, hanging out with Mikalina, singing with Ringo, cuddling with Sam, texting with my mom and brother, toast, clean sheets, so much good TV, good books, good podcasts, getting the garage cleaned out, laundry done and put away, stimulus checks, thunderstorms at night, how green our backyard is, dandelions, lilacs on my meditation shrine, naps, tacos, drinking a cup of hot half cocoa and half coffee while I write in the morning, tater tots, reading in bed at night while Eric and the dogs sleep.

Something Good

It’s hard to see, but the ripple in the water on the right is a beaver

1. A situation vs a slog from Seth Godin.

2. Good stuff from Dances with Fat: International No Diet Day And The Life I Could Have Had and When Celebrities Lose Weight, because this:

…while people – including celebrities – can do whatever they want with their bodies, their choices have meaning and consequences. And choosing to participate in intentional weight loss, or to celebrate weight loss of any kind, supports weight stigma and perpetuates eating disorders by promoting the idea that a thin(ner) body is a better/more attractive/healthier body, which is at the root of fatphobia.

3. Judith Butler: Mourning Is a Political Act Amid the Pandemic and Its Disparities.

4. ‘Heads we win, tails you lose’: how America’s rich have turned pandemic into profit. The things that are “wrong” now, “happening” now, were actually already wrong and happening, it’s just that this crisis is highlighting it. It’s so simple: we have to do better or none of us will survive what’s coming, not even those sitting on a pile of money.

5. After the deaths, holiness from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat.

6. 10 Life Lessons Learned From a Decade of Blogging from Be More With Less.

7. ‘Double-Rainbow Guy’, Paul L. Vasquez, Dead at 57, most likely from COVID-19. “Yosemite, California, man became an early 2010s internet sensation with his ecstatic nature video.”

8. Castle Rock restaurant reopens to Mother’s Day crowds in defiance of statewide public health order. This is TERRIFYING. You hear how “we are all in this together” or “this virus is the great equalizer,” when clearly that’s not the case. There are both economic disparities and racial divides that mean some people are suffering more, have lost more, and are at more risk. This restaurant opening against orders, the people flooding in, smushed in there together with no one wearing masks, makes me realize we are experiencing this in very different ways, and there’s a large number of people who don’t take it seriously at all, some who even think it’s a hoax or that we are overreacting, that it is “just like the flu” and that the risk to them is small. This is what willful ignorance looks like, and sadly these people aren’t just harming themselves. The choices we all make have consequences, and some outcomes cause harm to others, even as those others are doing everything they can to manage their risk. Either you are helping or harming, and it’s clear the choice these people made. I suppose they most likely watched and believed this: Seen ‘Plandemic’? We Take A Close Look At The Viral Conspiracy Video’s Claims. They should have read this instead: The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them.

9. An 11-Year-Old Girl Writes To Thank Her Mailman. Postal Workers Write Back.

10. Not everything will be okay (but some things will) from Austin Kleon.

11. Write = right? from Paul Jarvis.

12. How ‘Anticipatory Grief’ May Show Up During the COVID-19 Outbreak. “There’s a lot to be grieving right now with the recent COVID-19 outbreak. There’s a collective loss of normalcy, and for many of us, we’ve lost a sense of connection, routine, and certainty about the future. Some of us have already lost jobs and even loved ones. And most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come. That sense of fearful anticipation is called ‘anticipatory grief,’ and it can be a doozy.”

13. Here are the top 10 coronavirus safety tips for groceries. (video) Most of these tips are related to actually going in the store to pick and pay for your own groceries.

14. hi.this.is.tatum, a hilarious video compilation, a dog talking in the funniest voice.

15. Workers Are No Longer Heroes, Kroger Concludes. This is so disappointing.

16. Mom Shares 30 Times Her 6-Year-Old Boy Cleverly Stalled Her With Questions Before Bedtime.

17. 10 Books Recommended by Pulitzer Prize Winners.

18. Meet Magnolia, Gerber’s New Spokesbaby.

19. Comedy Clubs Are Closed, So To Reach Audiences, Comics Have To Improvise.

20. Two penguins at the Oregon Zoo, Nacho and Goat, went for a hike earlier this week. (video)

21. Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over.

22. Mom forgot to give her adorable son a kiss before she left for work. (video)

23. They are the most popular mariachi on TikTok. (video)

24. Nikole Hannah-Jones, Creator of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, Awarded 2020 Pulitzer Prize. In related news, ‘This American Life,’ Now a Pulitzer Winner, Is Once More a Pioneer on The New York Times. “This week, the venerable radio show and podcast received the first Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting.”

25. Susan Piver: Buddhist Wisdom to Meet the Challenge of the Pandemic on Economics & Beyond with Rob Johnson podcast. “Susan Piver—a writer on meditation and Buddhist teachings and founder of the Open Heart Project—talks to Rob about how Buddhist ideas of being grounded in the present can help us get through the uncertain times of this pandemic.”

26. Grocery Worker [of 32 years] Has Never Seen Shelves Being Emptied Like This.

27. The morgue worker who buys a daffodil for each body bag. May she continue to be safe and well.

28. 13 Ways To Stop Your Glasses From Fogging Up While Wearing A Face Mask.

29. Yoga alone, together. “The rise of at-home fitness made Yoga With Adriene a YouTube sensation. Then the pandemic hit.”

30. Humorist Lightens Depression’s Darkness By Talking (And Laughing) About It.

31. More interviews with poets by Laurie Wagner: Marie Howe and Lauren Fleshman.