It’s been a few days since I last posted, because things got busy, even so.
A very old friend, Michael Cheeks, passed away from cancer. I’ve known Michael since I was eighteen. Born in Guyana, Michael ended up, with his beautiful wife, Linda, in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. Michael was a big man, well over six feet, with a heart sized to match. In the past few weeks, whenever I thought of Michael, I was reminded of the quote from Sojourner Truth – “I’m not going to die; I’m going home like a shooting star.” Michael’s wonderful soul ensured that journey. I’ll miss our phone chats. Linda told us, even after experiencing such a long period of illness and pain, that he was an example for us all. He died peacefully at home, with a smile on his face, in spite of everything.
And, of course, as with all of us, other people have been taken by Covid-19. A neighbor, the father of a friend, someone’s sister, someone’s friend. The circles, once so wide, grow tighter, even as there are those who say it’s a hoax, or who insist it won’t affect them, and so on. I stay inside with my husband and dog (no hardship here, we are obscenely privileged), while my friend, Erich Kussman, Vicar at St. Bartholomew’s in Trenton, spends his days gathering food from anywhere he can and delivering it to people in terrible need. Eric’s one of my spiritual heroes. After spending 10 1/2 years in prison, he graduated from the Princeton Seminary and now offers hope, and practical help, to the poorest and most forgotten in our neighborhood, while fighting against injustice and racial inequality. His story is amazing. Watch a video about his journey here. He, and others like him, keep the fires of love burning, even so.
Times are tough for friends of mine who are artists, writers, actors, and musicians. Venues are shuttered. Gigs are gone. Actor friends wonder whether theater will ever again be theater if there are no audiences. But we try to find new ways to work. I was delighted to have a virtual conversation with Dani Shapiro, talking about her memoir INHERITANCE as a fundraiser for the Princeton Public Library. Over 200 people paid to join us, in the isolation of our respective homes. And we laughed and talked, and I for one felt as though I was having a cup of tea with a new, and wildly interesting friend, in spite of everything.
What else? Well, the wee tomato plants survived a weird cold blast coming down from my native Canada and the asparagus is making bold strides upward. My Best Beloved had a birthday and we zoom-dinnered (is that a word now?) with friends from Nova Scotia we hadn’t seen in years. There’s a crow who’s decided our garden is where he wants to come for drinks of water, causing the pup no end of consternation, and me no end of delight. I made an apple cake (does that count as creativity?) and yes, we ate it all and enjoyed it, even so.
I ask that question about creativity because, other than these few musings, I don’t seem able to write. The stories I wanted to tell, stories that seemed so important once, seem trite now. So be it. I think I’ll have to wait, watch, absorb, let this experience compost, if you will, as whatever is being born in this pain and blood and worry comes into the world. (What birth is not messy?) Will we continue to fight and destroy, or will we rise up, wiser, more compassionate, new and brilliant, gentle and respectful of each other and of this miraculous planet on which we live? Just for today, I pledge to believe in the latter. Just for today, I will believe in us, because I’ve seen so many wonderful examples of all those qualities, and more, in spite of everything.
What about you, Beloveds? What do you see dying? And what do you see being born?