It’s COVID-19 in Peru Day 13.
Up at 4:30. Is it better to write about nothing, or to not write at all?
Nothing is what we got. At least, that’s how it feels as the buses begin thundering down the main road outside our window.
Ties That Bind
I switch my morning read to Everyday Zen, and to pre-meditation rather than post. I recognize, much as I hate to admit it, a creeping tide of self-pity in my thoughts. So I read Joko, who wrote Zen, and the chapter I’m on is called “Religion.” She explains that, in Latin, it means “to bind back”; ligare means bind, the re adds a back (think return, regress, recede). You bind yourself to a particular code, to other people in your community and family, to yourself.
But being human, we of course misstep. We feel hurt for reasons imaginary and real, then put up barriers to keep from getting hurt any further. The barriers create isolation, disconnection, alienation from the people and ideas that are bound together.
You know that old example that always get used: If you try to break a big bundle of sticks tightly grouped together, you can’t break it no matter how strong you are. Lately, I’ve been letting myself drift out to a little pond and become a very fragile twig. I’ve indulged certain nonsensical thoughts, have decided I’ve been forgotten. Why oh why, don’t people recognize how special I am? Surely, my problems deserve more attention than other people’s!
Sometimes, you just need to read something from someone calm, who’s walked around a block or two in their life. As I meditate, I get over myself, let the hurt go, forgive people for things they haven’t even done other than in my overactive, isolated brain.
I sit in my half lotus in front of the open window on the balcony. My eyes drift a little. I see two men sitting on the corner, talking away with no masks. It is one of the loveliest things I’ve seen in days, a charlar, which is Spanish for “chinwag.” You have to look carefully. They’re under a tree.
We’re fine. If we’re not out by April 1st, well, we’re not out. We’ll just keep on. We’re not forgotten, we have internet. No one knows what the hell is going to happen today, let alone tomorrow or next week or in whatever “future” means.
I can go on, I will go on. I’m glad to go on. I’m lucky to go on.
I decide to go outside.
Empty, utterly quiet streets in a neighborhood I have so far only seen from the 11th floor. I see this mural. Peruvian street art tends toward portraiture, celebrates the tremendous diversity of its people without whacking you over the head with how wonderful they are for noticing it.
The flowers are going wild. I see these giant butterfly-bird-flower hybrids, and remember how they grow in a park near the first AirBnB that we stayed in. They defy imagination, and also an iphone camera that tries to capture their glory.
Bougainvillea absolutely does not respect any boundaries….
….unlike this cat. Cats are all over social distancing.
…and flowers in general. My brain has been starved for natural things doing whatever the hell they want. Go, flowers!
An old station wagon passes me, its top loaded down with banana clusters. The car stops, and a man and woman get out, masks on. We don’t really look at each other, but if I’d brought cash, I’d probably buy a few bananas.
I have no idea what street I’ve wandered onto. Then I look up. I’ve studied these buildings from above so much, I know exactly where I am. Back to the flat I go.
Steve has been wanting me to get out, and has assured me multiple times that it’s ok for me to shop with him. I have felt a need to hermetically seal myself. Today, we go together.
The giant supermarket, Plaza Vea is literally two blocks from us. We are there right as it opens. No mob, just people waiting quietly and patiently.
I wander the aisles with him. The store is well stocked, orderly, the clerks are focused on their jobs. Most, but not all people wear masks. There is no sense of panic, or of scrambling for the last package of something. There are yet more exciting varieties of potato.
The shelves of butter are completely empty; no one stands around ready to bitch out a clerk or ask, wild-eyed, if there is butter in the back. One woman finds a package of butter hidden in a corner; she simply puts it in her basket. Steve walks back and finds another. You just have to look. You don’t have to fight for it.
I buy some fun-to-eat things: Individual yogurts with cereal topping, crackers, queso fresco, a marmalade cake. Steve is not so good at the impulse buy/fun stuff; I’ve asked him to pick up something fun to eat and so far, not had much luck. Next thing I know, he’s hunting for chips. Just to not be too crazy, I pick up something from nancy naturl.
I turn this corner. I share this not to make you jealous, but just to show you that it is, indeed, possible to live in peace and harmony.
People Send Me Stuff
Oh dear God in heaven. Do not under any circumstances send me links to stories of Peru. I do not care about the football player who got out. I do not know who he is. I barely know what football is. I do not need to read his story. I lived it, Dottie. (That is a Pee-wee’s Big Adventure reference, and that is all you need to know.)
Do not send me Trump tweets. Really? You know me and you think getting a rise out of me will help? You, sir, do NOT know me.
On the other hand, do email me things like this, from a new friend Dave:
“Suggest you listen to the joy in the Drifters song ‘Up on a Roof’, an oldie but a goodie. Sounds like your nightly shout out of Lima residents, pushing back against the darkness of uncertainty from C19, also must capture the pure joy of, collectively, affirming your informal pact to remain strong and united. Marvelous. I’m not much for sloganeering, but consider that it does ‘take a village’ to ease our pains and uncertainty.”
I’ve said it before: I crave thoughtful response. I bet a lot of us do, but it’s hard to know how much it means if you’re not engaging in it. I guarantee you, if you take some of your extensive leisure time to write someone an electronic letter, their heart will warm.
Another Reason I Love the Internet
There are also responses that just show people are reading, which also means a lot. I am sent many terrible jokes in response to my question if people had heard any, and I love them all. The hands-down winner from my friend Shirley in England:
“Heard some advice on the radio yesterday, it said to have inner peace, that we should always finish things we start, and we all could use more calm in our lives. I looked through my house to find things that I’d started and hadn’t finished, so I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Whiskey, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiumun srciptuns, an a box a chocletz. Yu haf no idr how feckin fablus I feel rite now. Sned this to all who need inner piss. An telum u luvum. And two al bee hapee wilst in de instalation.”
Perhaps the best part is that even in the throes of bacchanalia, Brits still say “whilst.” And almost spell it correctly.
Embassy News, but only sorta
We are sent an email; more US citizens have gotten out who are not football players. Meanwhile, we need to know that we will be required to reimburse our government for the flight—though not til we get home.
We don’t have a seat yet. But we do have a form so the government can collect that money. Gotta pay those corporations back any way they can!! Every little bit helps.
Wishing you all inner pis.