03 April 2020

This is a temporary state. It helps to say it.

In the late 18th century, Matthias Claudius (poet) wrote the Abendlied (evening song), a hugely popular poem to this day. A couple of years later, a composer of popular ditties at the time, Johann Peter Schulz, set it to music and this tune is part of our national DNA so to speak. It goes on a bit, seven verses.

Last week, the RIAS chamber choir from Berlin met for a physical distancing recording of verses 1-3 and 7 to warm our hearts.

There are many English translations of the lyrics, I just picked this one at random.

The moon is risen, beaming,
The golden stars are gleaming
So brightly in the skies;
The hushed, black woods are dreaming,
The mists, like phantoms seeming,
From meadows magically rise.

How still the world reposes,
While twilight round it closes,
So peaceful and so fair!
A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day's distress and sober care.

Look at the moon so lonely!
One half is shining only,
Yet she is round and bright;
Thus oft we laugh unknowing
At things that are not showing,
That still are hidden from our sight.

Lie down, my friends, reposing,
Your eyes in God's name closing.
How cold the night-wind blew!
Oh God, Thine anger keeping,
Now grant us peaceful sleeping,
And our sick neighbor too.
So much for music on a Friday. (RIAS btw stands for Radio in the American Sector, one of Berlin's radio and tv stations during the cold war, discontinued obviously, but the choir continues to this day).

Who would have thought that working entirely from home can be so tiring. I had been dreaming of a scenario like this as a super good thing for years and now?
I fly through the first two hours in my PJs with the bowl of cold porridge and the pot of tea for company before I take the shower-and-back-exercise-and-getting-dressed-properly break and let me tell you, it's all downhill after that. I am doling out the stuff and keep track of it all but, whoa, it's a struggle.
And we all know (because we are realistic and grown ups, aren't we) that this will go on for a bit.
Anyway, this is only the first week, there is room for improvement.

The garden is coming along gloriously, not just with all the fruit trees in flower and tulips lined up in colourfull formation, but also because R is there on his knees hour after hour fine tuning the weeding and replanting and literally carving out neat corners. It's Kew Gardens standards, honestly. Every so often, we cram into the greenhouse to get high on the flowering lemon trees and to nip the fresh spinach leaves and dig up a crunchy radish or two.

I could go on in this chatty vein but no matter what, there's this serious dark heavy stuff sitting on my chest. I try to compare it to the weeks and months after Chernobyl but that time was infinitely more dangerous and we were utterly helpless. Which is not the case now. And when I get as far as this in my thoughts, I feel almost stupid. First world impatience etc.

Because what do I have to complain about? I can't go out and shop. But, but, but. I never do that anyway. I can't go out and meet friends. But instead, tons of friends and others have been in touch one way or another, much more than ever. The larder is stacked. We even have fresh asparagus.
Basically, the only thing I could complain about is that our comfortable life is currently somewhat repetitive and that the seaside is an awful long and, let's agree on that, impossible drive away.

Meanwhile, this here from Louise Erdrich's blog:

When people say "this has never happened to our country before" I want to say, "yes it has."  Indigenous people suffered wave after wave of European borne epidemic diseases, which killed 9 of every 10 people.  The trauma continued through the Flu of 1918 and the scourge of tuberculosis.  When treaties were made it was thought that Native people were going to vanish, but no.  We are still here.


Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. My parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. (. . .) You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.
You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.
Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways.  (. . .) be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
David Kessler


Barbara Rogers said...

Yes, the anxiety is blooming just as blossoms come forth. Thanks for speaking to it. Acknowledging that fear is natural with unknown futures, but leaning on the present, the wonderful sounds we enjoy. For me it's Yo Yo Ma...I've got 2 hours streaming right now...bliss!

Ms. Moon said...

Beauty and wisdom. Poetry and sage advice. All right here.
Thank you, Sabine. Sniff that lemon tree for me. I'll do the same with the tea olive here for you.

Steve Reed said...

Your greenhouse sounds like a wonderful place!

ellen abbott said...

my mantra when the kids were growing up and I was running my business and (sometimes) fighting with my husband and it would all seem like it was just too much was...this is only temporary. I would tell myself that over and over. in our over stimulating world and culture people are now having to relearn how to be still, be here now. that's a good thing if they can do it.

Roderick Robinson said...

Welcome ecumenicism.

Was it the third verse when the basses were let off the leash and allowed their little grunt? Basses (plus their bastard sons - baritones; that's me folks) are not thought to be so ditzy romantic as those glamour-puss tenors, sopranos and - to a lesser extent - altos. But they add bottom to choral singing and we all need bottoms. How else would we...? Whoops, I must remind myself Interim Arrangements is a serious blog, very serious, and coarseness is frowned upon.

Also if you're inclined to use the word Donaudampfersgesellschaftskapitänswitwe make sure you spell it correctly A ton of bricks is waiting.

beth coyote said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. Yes, right now the tulips are blooming in my yard. I'm healthy and making masks for my work mates and any others who ask. The awakened state of our mortality and impermanence is a learning edge. How can we not love our brief lives and the lives of our fellow beings?

Tara said...

A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day's distress and sober care.

That's the stuff, right there. Beautiful singing - it made me feel peaceful. Thank you for that.

I first learned about anticipatory grief when a friend was dying from cancer and I was working with the hospice counselors. It serves a useful purpose in helping our minds prepare for the inevitable, but it also can be destructive and divert us from what is right in front of us. I really appreciate the excerpts for Louise's blog. She is one of my favorite writers.

Pema Choddron's book "When Things Fall Apart" is another touchstone for me in difficult times. Staying present is a useful exercise, again!

Tara said...

beautiful and meaningful comment, Beth. "The awakened state...." So true.