Weekend Reading

Today, I am homesick. I rose at 5:00 am, feeling sadness and fear, feeling isolated and helpless. I will always have mornings like these, I know, but knowing does not lessen the intensity of them as they are happening.

It is still dark here in LA. With the window open, I hear the songs of birds echoing down our block. The house smells unfamiliar today, like a place I haven’t really lived in.

This year has not been an easy one. Within the span of ten months, Jack and I have contended with three moves, a house flood, fire evacuations, a gas leak, stolen mail, a broken car, a problem with carpet beetles (as if the world didn’t have enough problems, there are also nuisances like carpet beetles). Now we are quarantined in our home because of a global pandemic. And within the last month, one of the people closest to Jack in the entire world is battling terminal cancer, while it is dangerous to get on a plane and visit a terminally ill patient.

This year has felt like whiplash. And yet nothing has really moved forward. Underneath it all, I feel stuck. My heart is anxious and tired at once. It is carrying the knowledge that New York has less than six days of ventilators left, while our “president” is completely incompetent, more concerned with lashing out at journalists than preserving life, more concerned with his own reelection than informing the public. It is carrying the knowledge that we will be alone like this for most likely many months. It is carrying the knowledge that my partner is grieving, and I can’t do anything to fix grief.

I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss sharing meals with my brother every week, being closer to him was after all, one of the primary reasons we moved here. I miss feeling like things were possible, like maybe the tension of feeling stuck would maybe be relieved soon.

I am longing for home, for a world that makes sense, for something that feels known and familiar and safe. Instead, I find, this morning, a world that is still turned on its head, and today, unlike some other days, that world looks less like a world being made anew and more like a world falling apart.

Because now the sun is rising again in California. The sky is periwinkle. Though it doesn’t solve anything, it somehow feels like a miracle. Evening, then morning, then evening, then morning. The sun still rises, every day, on pandemics, on heartbreak, beckoning us into something new.

*

We’ve all received enough suggestions of what to read in the news. Between our podcasts and the New York Times and our local newspapers and social media and the myriad links being shared between loved ones about how to fashion a mask out of clothing, I think we’re saturated with those kinds of insight and information for now, as important as they are.

Instead, I offer you this poem – one a friend shared with me this week.

“Insha’Allah” by Danusha Lameris

I don’t know when it slipped into my speech
that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”
Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.
The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.

So many plans I’ve laid have unraveled
easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.

Every language must have a word for this. A word
our grandmothers uttered under their breath
as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon,
hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes,
dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.

Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah
the rice will be enough to last through winter.

How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way a mother would, carefully,
from one day to the next.