A million forms of peace and solace
I have just emerged out of two weeks of quarantine after being in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (he has now fully recovered, thankfully). On the other side of the two weeks, after testing negative, I notice that I had done kind of burrowing underground for that time, and I am still unearthing myself from the isolation and constant wondering if or when the symptoms will start and what will be my experience of it. Will it unearth some hidden “comorbidity” and kill me, or will it just make me feel like shit and then leave me behind with work? It was kind of like the real, known possibility of getting COVID made me crouch down like a buck in the grass when it sees a potential threat, keeping deathly still until the chance to safely flee looks promising. Except there is no chance to flee because there is nowhere to flee to.
So, another day comes where I walk the dogs and then sit down at my laptop to a world of work that continues with no acknowledgement or account for the deaths, the underlying fear, the collective grief that’s starting to feel like an avalanche of mud or snow that feels impossible to move out from underneath. My head is out, I am breathing, but my body is stuck. And perhaps it should be for a while, buried under the realities of the world that I would have rather ignored in the past. The reality and ever-presence of death and heartbreak and loss that meets everyone, no matter how good, or healthy or kind they are. No matter what their potential contribution to the world. No matter how loved. That suffering is life, and it cannot be avoided.
And that the way we are living as a species right now is going to cause a lot more of it and does already, every day, for ourselves and the millions of other species we share this planet with. Our species, Homo sapiens, paradoxically, in Latin, means “wise man”.
Every human life lost, every one of the reported 2.5 million deaths worldwide to COVID alone, has loved ones now buried in grief; has stories made with hundreds of other people in their life who now need to find a way to painfully stitch these stories together to closing. I can’t ignore it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am well, I am grateful, I am fully functioning, seldom anxious, even happy on most days, but I am weighted to ground by this global grieving. I recently learned of an indescribable tragedy experienced by a family in my community, not COIVD related – these are still happening too – that left me wondering how one survives with such volumes of grief. In a short note to the family, these words found me to offer them: May a million forms of peace and solace find you in your darkest days.
When I wrote this line, I felt the words speaking back to me, and every day since, they continue to speak back to me, serving as a balm for my broken heart and an offering I make now every day to every broken heart and body in the world, human and non-human. On Monday, another human soul close to our family left us after weeks of prayer and hoping and holding on to a miracle. I really thought there might be a turnaround for him. But there wasn’t.
I have found peace and solace in the early morning darkness, in the sun rising and the colours of light it brings, the smell of earth on my dog’s feet after their first-morning walk around the garden. In WhatsApp video calls from family and friends with smiling babies, and in song. In singing my heart out (sometimes terribly, through tears) to old hymns and songs that speak of faith and grace and surrender - my poor neighbours. I have found it in listening to my partner’s two-fingered tapping away at his computer while I meditate. In praying for everyone in hospital on a ventilator and all those who are helping them - in my own way. In being grateful every day and giving thanks for my health and the health of my loved ones, my home, the water from my taps.
And in my ability to bring compassion to a world that so needs it right now.
May a million forms of peace and solace find you in your darkest days.
When life brings you to ground, there is always the sky Maclear, Eastern Cape, South Africa 16th January 2014 Photo: © Simone Dale