Monday, May 25, 2020

These first steps

I wish that I could say that I really knew what I was doing. Except that I don't lie to you, so I can't.

Yesterday morning, when I woke up...I felt literally pressed flat. Like a paper doll. And it wasn't just that weight that I have felt in my lungs since I was sick. Oh fuck, I really have been fighting against it for so long. But this isolation, so extreme, is one tough battle.

And yet I wrote the first of my twice-daily lists of gratitude. Five things that I knew to be good. Yes, even then and now. I do it everyday. No matter what.

Can you imagine that just seconds after sending off those thin, thin needles stitching appreciation, words of hello came scrawling across my screen. Exclamation points included. It was my dear K, checking in because she was in town and happy to meet.

So, what does that mean? I sent a text back to see. As this was her very first foray outside during the duration of the lockdown, we felt at ease to spend time together. And so we did. Take out sandwiches and social distancing by the empty fountain at the Place des Corps Saints. Under the shade trees, we talked for hours. I started to breathe into my full shape again. She admitted that she was no longer sure how to be social and I knew what she meant for I had already experienced that as well.

A few days before, I had received my first invitation, also via text. My friend V, who lives on a péniche, or barge on the Rhône, invited me over for une verre. Oh. I held my breath in thought for a moment. What is right? Was it worth it? I knew that we would be outside, so the risk was fairly minimal. I also knew how much I was suffering internally. And so I said, yes, yes, thank you. Merci.

I followed his directions over the bridges and down a dirt path until I arrived to this boat abracadabrantesque. Something of a gentleman's pirate ship. His cat, Manouche, was on guard. Truly, right at the end of the gangplank, me voilà, eyeing me skeptically. I did my best to be quiet and not overtly seek approval. I failed. Of course. I am a dog person.

V led the way to his upper deck which was dusty with lack of use. He briskly wiped down a table, brushed aside fallen leaves. It surprised me as this was exactly where I would want to be. Always. Sleeping, eating with only this open panorama for my eyes.  I perched on the folding chair a bit shakily, aware of the sweat stains under my arms from the brisk walk on top of nerves. Everything seemed too expansive and contracted somehow.

Down below he went and returned with the pop of a champagne cork.

I wasn't sure what to say to him. Suddenly, my french seemed more stunted than usual. So, between my jangly-boned outbursts, we were quiet. And it felt wonderful. To just let the river flow. It stretched out languidly, with confidence. The light shifted into subtleties. The trees sighed. Or...that might have been me.

Admittedly, I was willing to own my awkwardness. It was ok. It is. So many months of solitude have gone by.

I left as the clouds started to blush. It felt a bit bumbling of me as I did, excusing my departure although there was no need. Overly thanking him for that moment of peace. For a brief moment, I wondered if he was going to kiss me. He didn't. Just friends then. And safe. So, good.

This new not normal. Until we find ease, it will be touch and go. Maybe.

Tonight, one of my anges gardiens, invited me up to dinner on the roof. It was just us two ladies. And the sun did an exaggerated show; a slow, swan song as we each spoke of our respective...past. The Rhône, just beyond the fortified walls, seemed to carry our words away as needed. Others were left like scattered stars below the table where they fell. Venus rose, bone white and benevolent.

While D went to bring up pears poached in sweet syrup, I traced the echoes of a burning sky that spoke to all that we feel in this moment. I held my breath and silently laughed with joy when she returned, carrying a tray with candles, burning. Burning, to light up the dark.

These first steps. They feel so new. Will we arrive?

If you would like, you can hear an audio recording of this post: here.

Je suis désolée, mes amis francophones, il y a tante des idées que je ne sais pas traduire cette fois si. 

It's Memorial Day. I sat with this post for a while before publishing it. 
I am sending such gratitude for all of the men and women who died in battle. 
This is not the first day of Summer. It is a day of remembrance.

I will finish with this photo. It is of my main lettre d'attestation that I used for taking my "sanity walks" during the lockdown. Normally, we were supposed to fill out a new one each time that you went out but I am old school and liked the idea of having a document that was a testament to my First Steps into the unknown but with belief in my heart.

So much Love to you all. Truly.
As Edgar says, "Stay strong, stay safe, be well, be kind."



  1. So beautiful. As always... ❤️

  2. I am no where near ready to return to socializing. We went to get some honey from a beekeeper friend who lives about an hour away and it was so incredibly awkward. He wanted to sit and chat, and so did we, but we had come from the city carrying who knows what, and he and his family were safe in the country. What if we were unknowingly carrying the virus? We left with honey and 20 DOZEN eggs (The local food pantry where he normally donates them to was closed, and his girls produce over a dozen a day) which we quickly arranged to drop off with various friends. It was a lot of socializing for one day, and it sort of shook me up. I'm not ready. I love chatting with friends, and I'm doing a lot of that via phone and zoom, but I'm not ready for being in person yet. This makes me question: have I become agoraphobic? And what about people who really do struggle with agoraphobia? This must be so hard for them.

    Wishing you faith, and courage as you go forward. Looking forward to the day when we will meet in person. Warning: I'm a hugger.

    1. Warning: I hug the hardest. ;) It will happen and until then I think that it is really wise to just listen to where we are at, what we are feeling. And being safe. I feel ready to start seeing other people. But then again I am pretty sure that I had the virus. I definitely really scared that first time. But it is getting easier with time.

  3. We have cautiously, selectively, begun to socialize with friends. I have had a couple friends, separately, come by and join me for une verre in the garden. The first visit felt awkward, despite the friendship. Isn’t that so weird. We were being so careful of our distance that it kind of got in the way of the relaxing part. If that makes sense. I’ve been over to her garden since and it was more normal feeling. So, we are saying yes to meeting with friends in the garden, or on a terrace, or patio but no to group gatherings. One friend, two at the most, at one time. We were invited to a Memorial Day bbq at neighbors’ house and said no.

    1. Oh, I can't imagine doing more than one or two people at a time as well! I have had only one meeting indoors and we were careful. But yes, I totally hear you about the awkwardness of something that we have been looking forward to so much!

  4. What kind of a world do we want to return to, 18 months from now when, hopefully, there is a vaccine and it is safer for all of us to interact with others? My hope is that this gives us all a new start and that we can build a world that shelters and nurtures us all. I know it is a pipe dream, but it is a hope that keeps me going. And, of course, we will all have to do the work to make that happen. Here in the U.S., greed rules -- for now, anyway.

    1. You know Judith, when I first read your comment on the 25th. I was feeling really hopeful. Not today. I am not today.

  5. I fear that I, too, have forgotten what being around people feels like. These past weeks of solitude will soon just become a memory of a time when the world was quiet. I fear I will miss the silence. But then, silence is something I crave and search desperately for.

    1. With good reason, Loree. We both live in tourist-overrun areas. I already miss the silence.

  6. When this thing is over I'm going to put on my tuxedo and stroll up Madison Avenue to my favorite bar at the Lowell Hotel. "Make that a double." he said.

    1. And I can absolutely imagine you doing so, Daniel. But keep an eye out, I just might be the redhead at the other end of the bar.

  7. Cautiously, hopefully ... those are my keywords. We are visiting, distanced, with our kids ... not hugging is so hard ... and close friends ... those we know are treating life in the same way we are. I don't feel fearful except when I see photos of crowds ~ called covidiots here. But we can avoid those types. I'm proud to wear a mask for now. Baby steps ... and your always inspiring words to help guide us, dear Heather <3

    1. Thank you always for your kindness, perspective and generosity beautiful Patricia. Baby steps. Agreed.


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