I’ve come to realize that these days, this experience, this pandemic affects us all differently. Talking to a friend yesterday she said she was doing ok but that occasionally she was overcome by waves of sadness—“what do you do about that,” she asked?
I was silent—waves of sadness, I thought? I’m not experiencing that. My husband, Bobby, was also on the phone with us and just then he said, “I experience it more as fear. I get these moments of real fear.”
And I have noticed since last week that he’s been afraid of this—but that’s also meant that he’s had real clarity about the situation from the very beginning. Last Monday when I got back from LA he said, “you’re not going to the city, we’re not going anywhere, no movies, nothing. We’re buying a bunch of groceries and staying in.” And he was right. And that’s what we did. What we’re doing.
Then yesterday afternoon I was so overcome with fatigue….like in an old animated movie, I was standing looking at something and then a cloud of sleep came upon me and my body slumped slowly down, the power all turned off. I took to my bed and cuddled up with our little dog who loves to be al together but doesn’t necessarily like to cuddle. Sometimes I force her but that never goes well for long. She gives a little snarl and squirms away and curls up into a little black fur donut. She’ll remain close she just doesn’t want the clinging. Anyway, I realized the way this is hitting me is states of high anxiety alternating with deep fatigue. Kind of like my usual self but really amplified.
I dozed off, time passed and my eyes opened. Still light out but my body was leaden. Oh god, I thought, I’ve got to make dinner! Suddenly, this seemed like an impossibility. Does this happen to you? Something that you have done a million times, something that’s not really that hard to do, suddenly seems insurmountable. I lay there marveling at it-- Dinner. How in hell is that going to happen? How am I going to actually get up, get out of bed, put on my slippers, walk to the kitchen and make a meal? For someone who works so much and so often with creativity I can sometimes have a radical lack of imagination.
I looked at my phone—thank the gods for our phones right now, right? I love my phone. I mean, ok, I’m a little bit addicted to it but still, it’s a lifeline.
Anyway, I looked at my phone and there was a text from my friend Nancy: “hey, will you guys eat some enchilidas I made? Pick up service only.”
What’s that Tennessee Williams quote, from Streetcar Named Desire? “Sometimes, there is god--so quickly.”
I texted back, are you kidding? Yes! I leapt out of bed, somehow instantly energized. I slipped into my slippers and drove over to pick up a beautiful Pyrex dish of 6 homemade enchiladas with delicious green sauce.
Driving back home I thought, “Nancy’s a really good neighbor.” What a beautiful thing, a great neighbor. I mean she’s a great friend, too, but she’s also a great neighbor, she volunteers for meals on wheels, she helps with the famers market, she’s been a major part of making The Secret City Revival happen here in Woodstock.
I thought of the Ant and the Grasshopper, the fable by Aesop. I was trying to recall the precise details—but was comforted by the fact that the ant and the grasshopper came to appreciate each other in the heart of winter. They were good neighbors. Was that right? I looked it up when I got home. NO! That’s not what Aesop said at all—in the original fable, the ant is industrious and thrifty, preparing for winter, setting things aside for himself and his family. The grasshopper (originally a cicada) is described as having spent his time singing and dancing and when winter comes, that grasshopper asks the ant for food and shelter and HE REFUSES. The moral being, don’t be a musician or a dancer, I guess.
I fell into an internet hole about the ant and the grasshopper. I thought the outcome was the grasshopper had all of this beautiful stuff to share with the ant, who had food and shelter but no beauty, no entertainment, no magic. They needed each other. But I couldn’t find that version anywhere. Did I make this up?
The fable has been a source of controversy for millennia—it’s been used by right wing folks making the case of no handouts. It’s been used by the left wing to point out the cruelty of the rich. It’s inspired writers and painters who’ve interpreted and changed its meaning.
I’d like to suggest, now that humanity is facing a global crisis, it become a fable about cooperation—how everyone plays a crucial role, neither is better or more valuable. Being a grasshopper myself, I’d like to suggest that we provide the world its color and magic, we remind the world of its beauty, we invite the world to dance. Even—or especially—in winter, when things get bleak and supplies run short. We all need each other—the ant and the grasshopper, the trees and the oceans, the sky and sun. We need neighbors, good neighbors—and we all need enchiladas.