I don’t know if it’s true, but I once heard that an ancient Chinese curse was: “May you live in interesting times.” I think these times count as “interesting.”
A couple days ago an Italian anti-Covid decree was passed: no public gatherings. We’re all to stay home, except for urgent reasons of work, health, or sustenance. What we decided here at la Luna, was to throw ourselves into the planning of our summer festival. Already a political choice: planning a summer festival, when the first thing forbidden is theater. We’ve baptized our next season “ReGeneration.”
Events have given us the gift of time. It seems that together with the decree, spring has arrived here. Natascia has thrown herself, literally, into the garden, accompanied by Pia, Ester and Angel. Alessandro is finishing the new, improved chicken ranch, helped by Michael. (Some weeks ago we had a visit from a fox, and we lost 8 of 9 chickens— the last was in critical condition, but is now recovered. We’re calling her Soul Chicken.)
I’m dedicating myself principally to writing, something I’ve always dreamed of, but never found the time for. Of course, we owe Shakespeare’s sonnets to the plague, but I’m moving backwards — now, in plague time, I’m writing theater.
The gift of time: time, to study the haze of bloom floating delicately in the trees, time to learn to read the thoughts of the dogs, the way we did as children, time to reflect on whom and what we love— love made more intense by the truth that one day it will all pass.
I remember a Buddhist meditation: “Given that my death is certain, but the time of its arrival is unknowable, what ought I do?” I suppose that any poetry worth the name is born in this thought: how unbearably beautiful life is, when you recognize it as a temporary loan, not a permanent purchase.
I remember one of my fears when our daughter was just a baby. Much of the town we lived in was without sidewalks, so a walk with her in the stroller meant pushing the baby out into the crossroad before I advanced enough to see the traffic.
There was very little traffic, and I was certain I would hear it in time to react, but… sometimes I turned around and backed to the corner, pulling the stroller, so I could see what was coming before putting her at risk. My mind said it was exaggerated, but my heart said to do it anyway. The thought of disaster was too clear.
In Italy today the disaster is in the numbers: number of illnesses, the number of deaths, the demographics. Yesterday we surpassed 1000 deaths, which seems like a sign to anyone with 10 fingers to count on. [Unfortunately since this writing that number has increased exponentially.]
And yet spring is here. As we lose contracts, we gain contact: the birds sing, pairing up to make nests. The toads have started chirping again, and the garden is bursting with life. Green shoots push through the loam of last year’s death. Throughout Italy, parents are spending all afternoon with their children, painting, talking, doing things people did when they weren’t chasing the GNP. In China, the disease rate is slowing: this too, will pass.
Who knows what poets are finding their voices in these interesting times?