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Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

One of the things I’ve missed the most in these pandemic times is travel.

I love my little nest in Eastie, but I also love hitting the road or jumping on a plane or train, to see somewhere new or revisit familiar, favorite places. Like so many folks I know, I have mourned multiple canceled trips this spring and summer. My guy and I have ridden our bikes all over Boston, and it’s been fun, but I’ve barely been out of the city for months.

Last week, though, I decided to get out of town – at least for the afternoon – and head down to Falmouth, near the base of Cape Cod. My friend Hannah had invited me for lunch and a walk, so I rented a Zipcar and drove down in the late morning. By some miracle I escaped the weekend traffic (in both directions), and the afternoon was just what my soul needed.

Hannah and I met at a writing workshop years ago, and we love talking about books and faith and catching up on our lives. I sat on her sun porch and sipped tea while she made lunch for us, and we ate at a square blue table in her front yard, trading stories while the skies gradually cleared.

After lunch, we slipped on our sneakers and went for a long, rambling walk, past a local farm where someone had nailed a small box to a fence post and written “Enjoy!” on the side. It held a few cherry tomatoes, so I helped myself. And the dahlias nearby were stunning.

We walked down the bike path, through a sedate neighborhood filled with late-summer trees and flowers, over to Little Island and the beach there, which you reach by walking through the woods. There was a rotting pilot whale carcass on the beach (so smelly!) but there was also sweet autumn clematis, blooming away, and the first red leaves. We perched on the rocks and talked for a while, and then we walked back and I hopped in my rental car to make the drive home.

It was only a few hours, but I’d forgotten how refreshing it could be to see different views, explore a new path, breathe (slightly) different air. Not to mention the nourishing company of a dear friend. In these strange, anxious months, making the effort to get away often feels overwhelming. But I’m here to tell you: it is entirely worth it.

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Happy Tuesday, friends. Here we are in week 11 of this strange restricted life, and the world is turning toward summer. I ran this morning by the water, through haze and humidity and (eventual) bright sunshine. The beach roses are blowing and the purple iris are budding, and I’m wearing my favorite denim shorts and growing herb seedlings in my kitchen window (until I can get some soil to pot them).

We are deep into whatever kind of “now normal” we are all creating for ourselves, and while there’s beauty and joy in that, today I wanted to acknowledge: I miss how it used to be.

Here in Massachusetts, we’re moving slowly into a phased reopening, but masks and social distancing and other restrictions will be part of our lives for a long while. There are some parts of “normal” we simply won’t get back, at least not for the foreseeable future. And that hurts. So, in no particular order, here is a list of things I miss:

  • Hugging my friends.
  • Browsing my favorite bookstores.
  • The library, especially the central BPL branch near my office.
  • Hanging out at coffee shops.
  • Making travel plans, which are all obviously on hold at the moment.
  • Running to the grocery store to grab “just one thing.”
  • Walking outside without a mask.
  • My family in Texas (the Zoom calls are fun, but not the same).
  • Going to friends’ houses for dinner or just to hang out.
  • By the same token: having people over to my house.
  • My colleagues, and the musical chitchat that passes for water-cooler talk at Berklee.
  • Sitting in on workshops and talking to our students.
  • The buzz of commencement season in Boston and Cambridge.
  • Going to yoga classes in a real studio.
  • Going to book events at a bookstore.
  • Walking to Downeast with my guy on a Saturday night to sample ciders and talk to the folks behind the counter.
  • Planning for summer festivals and concerts.
  • Going to the hair salon (they’re starting to reopen, but I’m going to wait a while).
  • My florist.
  • Waking up without the constant low-level (or higher-level) pandemic anxiety.

What do you miss?

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One of the things I hate the most about this pandemic: it’s playing on and heightening all our usual fears.

As a recent divorcée who lives alone, one of my deep fears is disappearing: being forgotten, ignored or simply overlooked. I’ve worked hard to build and maintain my relationships over the last year, and I’m deeply grateful for my community, both local and far-flung – though the loneliness still hits hard sometimes.

Several weeks into quarantine, it became clear I was going to need more than FaceTime dates and Zoom calls to stay connected. Fortunately, several of my girlfriends feel the same, so we’ve been going on walks, either here in Eastie or along the Charles River.

I won’t lie: it’s weird not to be able to hug them, or invite them upstairs for a cup of tea. But these socially-distanced, masked walks are still feeding my soul. We get to soak up the fresh air and (often) the sunshine, trade small anecdotes about our days and/or talk about the big life stuff. Sometimes it’s work and relationships; sometimes general pandemic craziness; sometimes we dive into books or fashion. Being together in person, even from six feet apart, is seriously the best. (The longer evenings also help.)

How are you staying connected in these strange days?

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Hello, friends. Happy Monday, and happy May.

I’m writing to you from my kitchen floor, where I sometimes sit for a bit these days to give myself a break from the kitchen table. (A couple of weeks ago, I started having serious soreness and muscle tightness – at least partly caused by weeks of sitting on a hard chair.)

I was a bit burned out after 30 straight days of posting stories from quarantine, but I’d like to keep creating and sharing with you during May. To that end: daily tulips, and a daily thought, at least on the weekdays.

It is tulip season in Boston (hallelujah), and I’ve been snapping and sending daily blooms to a friend in California (hi Allison!) who loves them as much as I do. Both the parks around town and my neighborhood are full of glorious, nodding beauties, and I want to share them with you. (I may switch to #dailylilacs or something if we run out of tulips.)

Today’s thought, like so many of mine right now, is related to connection. In this extended time of social distancing, I have been missing time with my people, though I still get to hug my guy, thank goodness. Several friends of mine are feeling the same way: those with kids/partners at home need some additional adult interaction, and those of us who live alone are dying for face-to-face connection, period.

As we head into the next phase of whatever-this-new-normal-is, I’ve got to make some shifts: I can’t count on one person for everything, nor can I spend all day, every day, alone with my own thoughts. We are all taking calculated risks, even if they’re small, and I need some of mine to include community.

So last week I took a (distanced) walk with a girlfriend, and made plans to check in regularly with another on the phone. I FaceTimed a friend from high school, and took a long, glorious Sunday afternoon ramble with a local friend. We stopped by Downeast to buy some cider, and we waved at a few folks I know. It might not be magic, but it’s helping.

My therapist expressed it well: how can I sprinkle in moments of being seen throughout the week? As we head into May, I’m keeping that in mind: how to seek out that space for connection, and create it for others.

Where are you this week, friends? I’d love to know. I’ll be back tomorrow, with more tulips.

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One of the strange gifts of this time in quarantine is the chance to reconnect with friends I haven’t talked to in a while. I’ve had several phone chats, FaceTime dates and Instagram exchanges with girlfriends from college, and am texting with my best friend from high school more regularly. And last month, I spoke to my friend Brent for his coronavirus podcast, You and Me and Everyone We Know.

Brent and I were part of the same friend group in college, and we followed each other’s blogs as I went back to Oxford and he went to the Peace Corps, and then I moved to Boston (after another stint in Abilene) and he found his way to Minneapolis, where he lives now with his husband and their kids. We keep up on Instagram, but hadn’t actually spoken in years. It was such a treat to catch up a bit and hear his warm, kind voice.

The episode I’m on includes two other conversations: one with Brent’s younger sister, Macey, and one with his friend Kedrin. Brent and I talked running, isolation in a one-bedroom apartment, social distancing with friends at the park, the approach of spring, and more. You can listen on his website, on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts. Enjoy!

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We’re in the middle of week 6 (of how many?) of quarantine over here, and it seems clear this is going to be our lives for a while. I am alternately grateful for my blessings and privileges (my lovely apartment, a job that allows me to work from home, virtual connection with family and friends) and really missing the aspects of “normal” life that are suspended right now (in-person yoga classes, trips to the library, hugs).

Like a lot of folks, I do better with a bit of routine and structure, so as I adjust to wearing a mask, doing yoga online and canceling travel plans, I’ve come up with a few daily rules for myself. I’m sharing them here, and I’d love to hear yours, if you have any.

Leave the house twice every day.
I need fresh air and movement like I need oxygen. And while getting out for a run is great (I do this most days), I get tetchy and restless if I’m inside for the entire rest of the day. So I’m walking myself to work, going to the bodega, meeting my guy for a bike ride, walking the compost bag down the hill – whatever it takes to get outside more than once.

Related: Get up and move. 
I’m spending a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table, and my body is starting to feel it – so I’m trying to get up and move around the apartment as often as possible. Even a few steps makes a difference (or so I’m telling myself).

Write it down.
I journal regularly anyhow, but those morning pages (and sometimes evening ones) feel important right now. Sometimes I’m just whining on the page, but sometimes it helps to think things through, remember moments of joy or make lists. I stocked up on journals right before our stay-at-home order hit, so I’m set for a while.

Drink more water.
However much I think I’m drinking, it’s probably not enough.

Pick up the phone.
I’m alone most of the time right now, but I need my people, and I want to be there for them, too. So I text a friend (or three) every day, FaceTime my sister, call my mom, trade Marco Polo messages with a couple of friends. Hearing a friendly voice, or just getting a text update, helps.

Wash the dishes.
Because if I don’t, they tend to pile up quickly – plus it’s often oddly grounding.

Tackle at least one book from the long-unread stacks every week.
While I’m bemoaning the temporary loss of my library, I’m trying to see this as a chance to catch up on the books that tend to linger on my bedside shelf. So far, I’ve picked up (and loved) an Ivan Doig novel, a quirky collection of Boston-themed comics, and now a memoir about life in Alaska.

Make a list.
I’ve been making “Today I…” lists each night, as a way to reassure myself that yes, I did the essential things today, and to capture some memories in list form if I’m too tired to write it all out. It’s a (mostly) reassuring practice.

Give myself a break.
My friend Jen Lee keeps reminding us to “go gently” in her Morning, Sunshine videos (they are so good, y’all). I tend to be hard on myself at the best of times, and it’s helpful to remember that we are all dealing with a lot right now. So I’m giving myself a break: curling up with a book (see above), taking a leisurely walk, going to bed early if I want/need to. This rule (and the first one) may be the most important one on this list.

Do you have any rules/practices for your daily routine during this time?

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rock-heart-hello-friend

Paul Robeson

That time
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.
The adult Voice
forgoing Rolling River,
forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
and other symptoms of an old despond.
Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
harvest:
we are each other’s
business:
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.

I’ve been seeing this poem everywhere recently, particularly the last lines: the current crisis has reminded us all how interconnected we are.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

—Bertolt Brecht

The thing I miss most about church is the singing.

I enjoy other parts of church: the community, the prayers, communion, a thoughtful sermon. But the thing that often gets me in the door is the chance to lift my voice and sing. And while most of us are quarantined, I’ve been missing the faith communities I love, whose music moves me.

But the singing, like so many aspects of “normal” life, hasn’t disappeared altogether. One of my neighbors is a musician, and I can often hear her singing as she comes in and out the front door, or when I go down to the basement to do laundry. When my guy comes over, he sings as he moves around the kitchen: Motown or gospel or classic R&B. We know some of the same hymns, too, and once in a while we sing one together.

I’ve been streaming the occasional church service during this time, and tuning into the weekly chapel service from ACU, my alma mater. It’s not the same as being present with others to sing, but I like at least hearing other voices. I’ve sat at my kitchen table singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” or hummed “In Christ Alone” while I’m heating up lunch. On Good Friday, I streamed the afternoon service from St Aldates, and sang along with “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

A couple of weeks ago, ACU put out a call for video submissions of a song all of us know and love: “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” It’s our unofficial school song: we sing it at graduation, at the end of Sing Song, at the beginning and end of every school year. Our college choir used to sing it at the end of every week, and it was the final piece in every concert we performed. (My ex and I even had the congregation sing it at our wedding.) And now, you can hear more than 500 of us singing it on YouTube.

Whether you are religious or not, I wish this for you, and for all of us during this time: mercy and peace, hope and love. With an a cappella sevenfold Amen.

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Hello, friends. Here we are, staring down week 5 (say it ain’t so) of what my former colleague Juliette Kayyem calls “the now normal.” It is also Easter Sunday, and the middle of Passover – and if you are celebrating, I hope you’re finding ways to do that.

These days are edged with worry and fear and loneliness, but also deep gratitude, and I still believe the small good things are always worth sharing and celebrating. In my quarantine stories I am trying to be honest about all of it, but today I really want to focus on the good.

So, even while this is hard (and it is, y’all), here is what’s saving my life now.

  • Watching the birds in the apple tree out back – there’s a pair of cardinals, several blue jays, some tiny house wrens, what I think are yellow finches.
  • That same tree, leafing out and getting greener every day (with a few blossoms showing up, too).
  • Online yoga – with Adriene, the crew at Savin Hill Fitness, or Renee at the Point. My old green yoga mat is getting a lot of use these days.
  • Daffodils, crocuses, early tulips and cherry trees, which are blooming away, oblivious to anything but the light and the warmer weather.
  • The saucer magnolias in the neighborhood, which are pure pink-and-white glory.
  • Tea in my favorite mugs – I stocked up on my favorites from MEM Tea just as all this hit.
  • Texts from friends near and far, FaceTime with my sister, phone calls with friends and my parents, and the occasional video message on Marco Polo.
  • Running – my usual route along the harborwalk and greenway here in Eastie is keeping me sane.
  • Walks, when I’ve been inside all day or even just for a couple of hours.
  • Juliette’s smart, pragmatic commentary in the Atlantic and on Twitter.
  • Occasional trips to the bodega for necessities and human contact.
  • Fresh flowers – my beloved florist has closed for now, so I’m getting both my flowers and groceries at Trader Joe’s.
  • The #LivefromHome music performances online, spearheaded by Chris Thile and multiplying beautifully.
  • This video, made by students from Berklee, where I work – it has gone viral in the best way, and it’s sweet and wonderful.
  • Good books: the last few (for now) physical review copies, the last of my library stack, a reread of Rilla of Ingleside.
  • Seeing my colleagues’ faces during our weekly Zoom meetings.
  • Long walks and bear hugs with my guy.
  • Sidewalk chats with my friends in the neighborhood – we are all staying home/staying six feet apart, but it’s good to be together in person.

What is saving your life in these strange days? Please share, if you like.

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leaves-blue-sky-eastie

I don’t know about you, but this is one of the strangest Holy Weeks I can remember.

Navigating this pandemic has either been the most fitting or the most terrible way to walk through Lent: isolated, alone. I struggle with Lent, anyhow: the focus on grief and penitence is difficult to sustain for that long. (Real talk: it’s even harder in the years where we have tough winters.)

This year I have been (loosely) following some of Sarah Bessey’s kind, pragmatic Field Notes Lent practices. And I have been extra glad I went to the noon Ash Wednesday service at Old South Church, because – though I didn’t know it then – I wouldn’t get to go to church again for a while.

I have heard a couple of mini-sermons this week, from an acquaintance back in Texas and from my friend Simon, in Oxford. (I don’t have much patience for sermons these days, but I will listen to him preach any day of the week.) Both talks included exhortations to hang onto God, who has not let go of us, and reminders that Jesus, of all people and all deities, understands fear and suffering. I also heard a little looking ahead to Easter Sunday, which to me seems premature. I know it’s coming, but I am not ready yet; we are still sitting in the darkness after that earthquake on a Friday afternoon, not knowing what the hell just happened or what might be coming next.

Tied up with the general isolation grief is my lingering church grief: I lost my church community here in Boston, abruptly and painfully, in the fall of 2018. I have tried to move on, to forgive and let go, but the wound has not fully healed yet. I had heard stories of churches hurting their members and their ministers, treating them badly, but I never thought it would happen to me. Palm Sunday used to be a glorious day at Brookline; the kids would march around the sanctuary waving palm branches while we sang every song we could find that involved the word Hosanna. I could hardly face the thought of it, this year.

I’ve been streaming bits of the Sunday services from two churches that are still mine: Highland, in Abilene, where I spent my college, post-college and newlywed years, and St Aldates, in Oxford, where Simon preaches and where I went every Sunday (sometimes twice) when I was in graduate school. I couldn’t stream anything on Palm Sunday, though: the mere fact of it broke my heart. We are usually together, singing Hosanna, and this year so many of us are alone.

We are sad and aching, fearful and weary, and on the days when I can muster up a little faith, I know this is where God meets us. I also know that faith resists all our attempts to write it into a tidy narrative. I grew up among tidy narratives, alliterative three-point sermons, questions and answers easily matched with Bible verses. My adulthood has brought doubts and change, messiness and grief – they do not fit into those neat boxes. Neither, I have to say, does the joy that comes bursting out when you least expect it, found in the most unlikely of places.

I am often full of fear these days, and I don’t have the answers, either for the current crisis or any others I might face. For now, I am holding onto the words my friend Christie wrote on Instagram earlier this week: “the good news is that ours is not the last word. The Word has spoken—is always speaking—and the message is mercy and love.”

If you are marking Easter or Passover or simply the arrival of each day, I wish you joy, mercy, and love where you can find it, in these days.

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