May 25th, 2020
A Portal Appears on Your Doorstep:
For Those Unable to Reach Out During Shelter in Place
When our world went into Quarantine in early 2020 an excruciating silence enveloped me. I suspect it has surrounded you too? I see your shadow in the mist. The wind carries the essence of your touch across my skin. I hear echoes of your voice dance along these empty corridors. Your scent lingers in the negative space between us. We’re each in our castle keep – worlds away - where we have retreated to preserve each other’s safety.
We’re in our own fortified towers of last resort, shrouded in this hooded cloak of mist. Here we will stay until it’s time to emerge. The oil lamps are running low, and the dark spells are lasting longer. But we’re safe, here in the blackness, from what lurks out there. (What lurks in our minds is another matter, for another letter).
The longer stretches of dark cause the light to feel harsh, but there is hidden beauty in the shadows. There. What do you see? If you set your eyes free, where do they go? I’ll wait until you see where they lead you. Take all the time you need. I’ll be right here.
What treasures did your eyes uncover? Would you like a glimpse of the ones I discovered? Here, through the looking glass, the world glistens with wand tip touches of fairy frost when the flickering orange lamps are lit. Tilting our gaze up, through dragon’s breath, into the night where puffy castles in the sky are backlit with lunar luminescence. I wonder, do you think the angels are sheltering in cloud keeps watching over us until it is safe?
Bare tree branches reach in a way I cannot; up and out and towards you. Maybe you’ll see them from your shelter and you’ll know they reach towards you for me. Old star light from another time when we were free to move about, to dance and hold each other, waves itself through the atmosphere. It undulates past the dreaming tree, through the lenses into mine eyes, painting a glittering picture of faraway memories.
Loving friends transmit messages. Sent with the best intentions, they are also too much. To engage would overwhelm the pathetically shallow moat I’ve exhausted my body to dig. It’s comforting to know friends are out there even if I can’t reach for them. My hands are occupied holding me together. Words feel just out of reach. These Shadow of Colossus feelings are too epic to see in one frame, too overwhelming to feel all at once, too complex to confine to words. The low vibrating hum of grief shudders through my body like a Volcano and a song bursts into the night. Hot tears roll down the mountain.
“Don’t build your world around, Volcanos melt you down. What I am to you, is not real, what I am to you, you do not need. What I am to you is not what you mean to me, you give me miles and miles of mountains, And I’ll ask for the sea.” [Volcano by Damien Rice]
My keep is solid – the stone walls will hold. I lean into them for support, to feel their stoic cold. The numbing chill is good. It’s comfortably heavy like a weighted blanket. I built myself a sordid nest here in the keep. Would you build yourself a safe space too – so that we might feel safe together while apart? Or perhaps you have already? Will you write to me about it? If you get a moment where it holds you together enough so your hands can write?
Mine is cozy and just uncomfortable enough to feel real – in a corner of the keep. Away from the light and close to the bare tree outside the thin window. Blankets woven by past shadows each imbued with the essence of the place, person, and time that shaped it. One throw feels mossy and occasionally flicks a spray of salty air off the north western coast. The other comforter is especially warm and textured with herbal hints of splattered gruit and specks of cooked animal grease.
A tattered pillow case I’ve had longer than its will to hold itself together, embroidered with cheery blossoms, still strongly exudes dreams of Oolong tea with sweetened milk. The wooden frame of the bed is hard, the mattress on top harder. It feels good to feel the skeleton inside me push against the mattress. The bones that help my hands hold me together. I’ll draw red circles in my mind around the points where my bones resist the mattress (as I fall into fitful slumbers) fighting gravity in consort with my angry muscles. Every moment is a fight – sometimes an easeful flowing Tai Chi sometimes the angry explosive fit of a trapped animal.
I like to hug my pillow (Have you tried hugging something today?), rubbing my fingers across the fraying embroidery to feel something different. Sitting on this rock of a mattress, my back is cradled in the corner of the stone walls. The cold walls hold me up and help me feel the bliss of numbness. Curled in a vertical child’s pose my knees are bent in front of me. I push my feet against the mattress; curving my back further into the corner. Maybe if I push hard enough I’ll disappear for a while, into the empty space in this corner, with the little black spider who weaves their thread for me to follow back to reality.
When I stop pushing I’ll reappear and the world will have changed around me again – but my safe corner will still be here. And you dear friend, will still be in my heart, even if my hands can’t reach for you, even if I can’t find the words, or write you about my safe place. Safe, together, apart. Do you hear the ear splitting silence? Listen for the sound of wings on the wind. Perhaps they will bring another letter, another story, another safe place to retreat to, if only for a moment.
A faraway friend who is still with you