Thursday, April 9, 2020

Groundhog Day

For many of us, this life in quarantine is like the movie Groundhog Day. The same day repeated over and over again. Without the markers of varied routine that give weight and character and color to each day, we’re spinning around in a 24-hour unchanging loop. For me, Tuesday used to be jazz with 8thgraders and games with 5-year olds and Singing Time after lunch and staff meeting and that made Tuesday wholly different from Wednesday’s 6thgraders and 4thgraders and so on. The weekend was an event to look forward to and the evening at the restaurant or movie theater or jazz club gave a welcome change to the constants in the week. 

Then, of course, for me, the weekend workshops or courses in Singapore or Sao Paolo or Salzburg made February or March wholly distinct from September or October. The Spring Concert in May was a whole different feeling than the Holiday Show in December. You get the idea. 

Being creatures of rhythmic routine and comforting habit, we’re creating our quarantined markers to the day, but with so much fewer choices for the needed novelty. I can bike ride to the ocean or choose to go to the Bay, Zoom in with my men’s group still on Wednesday night and my grandkids on Sunday morning, sing with my neighbors on the street on Friday’s and Sunday’s, but the scope is so much more narrow. 

If the routines are life-giving, fun and meaningful, it’s not wholly bad. Reminds me of eating in Guatemala, where beans, rice, tortillas and eggs were the main offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was delicious and nutritious and the occasional addition of an avocado or a mango added just enough variety and saved a lot of time trying to decide, “Shall we go with Chinese or Thai or Italian food tonight?” Very similar to my 7-day retreats at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, where each day was an unvaried regimen of sitting zazen meditation, walking meditation, chanting, interviews with the Zen master, meals, a little work, repeat. By limiting choice, we were freed to experience each moment more deeply than the norm, to be released from the often dizzying whirlwind of constant choice—“this show or that? this mustard or that one? this friend for coffee or the other one?”—with FOMO by our side. As we all look for life lessons coming out of this weird epoch, some of us might see the wisdom of limiting choice while also more deeply appreciating choice. 

Meanwhile, the one indication that we’re not imprisoned in the Groundhog loop? The wisteria in my back yard. It is preparing itself for that beautiful moment in its own large cycle of exploding into purple blossom and each day shows a change that reminds me that time still can move forward and bring new things. So for the rest of the month, my plan is to take and share a daily photo as a reminder that the world may be broken beyond recognition, but Nature’s cycles still mostly hold steady. Here’s the first.

Happy Groundhog Day!

PS On the other hand, the bananas I bought two week ago are still not ripe! If Bill Murray starts knocking at my door, I will be worried.

PSS  For the first time, the server rejected uploading my photo! A sign that something doesn't want proof of an alternative to Groundhog Day reality? Hope to try again later!

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