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Thoughts and Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemc and Social Unrest
from Shanti Arts Authors, Artists, and Supporters

Choose kindness over impertinence, generosity over selfishness, and compassion over accusation.

From Our June 1, 2020 Newsletter:

After struggling through the month of April, dealing with the far-reaching impact of a spreading pandemic, no one thought the month of May, and now June, could be worse. We were wrong. Now, as we continue to be affected by the pandemic, we've seen yet another black man shockingly and needlessly killed as a result of a policeman's actions. As we pass through feelings of anger and grief, we watch protests erupt all over the country—some peaceful, some violent. We also yearn for our country's leader to show some semblance of understanding and compassion, to make some attempt to bring this country together to reject racism and inequality. Yet again, the most important thing we can do is . . . choose kindness, generosity, and compassion.

From Our March 17, 2020 Newsletter:

Given the risks associated with COVID-19, we face tremendous uncertainty right now. None of us has experienced the kind of disruption to our social fabric that we are now seeing—social distancing, closed restaurants and coffee shops, working from home, canceled meetings and events, limited travel. There is also great economic uncertainty as many people who work in hotels, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, or stores won't be bringing home a paycheck. In my lifetime, I have never seen aisle after aisle of bare shelves in grocery stores; I've never known a time when people were asked not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, especially people over the age of sixty; I've never known a time when people couldn't greet each other with a handshake because of fear of getting sick or dying. Pema Chodron's words seem relevant: “If you're invested in stability and certainty, you're on the wrong planet.”

When life is uncertain, it's often because of things happening in our personal lives, but what we are dealing with now is global uncertainty—a far different experience, an unknown for nearly all of us as something like this hasn't happened since World War II. We're all in this together. Indeed, to get away, we'd have to escape to another planet. Let's be mindful of one very important truth—all we have is now, this single present moment. Every time I find myself worrying about how bad this situation might get and how it might impact people's lives and futures, including my own, I pull myself back to the moment. More from Pema Chodron: “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

We need to do what we can to keep ourselves and our families healthy. But the directives for social distancing and isolation do not mean that we should stop caring about the larger community. We must choose kindness over impertinence, generosity over selfishness, and compassion over accusation. How do we do that? Here's one idea: Call elderly neighbors to be sure they're safe and have food. Use social media or make calls to stay in touch with friends and family near and far. Reach out to let people know you're thinking of them. Though we're physically isolating ourselves, we need not be socially isolated. We have plenty of ways to reach out, and one phone call or text could make someone's day. Please do everything you can to stay healthy and keep others healthy. Keep an eye on those around you who might not have anyone to care for them. Let's be kind through this chaos.


This message from Judith Sornberger:

“A number of wonderful writers have new books coming out during this time and have had to cancel readings and book launches. One way of showing kindness and spreading the beauty of the word is to support their work. I've written and posted two Amazon reviews for poet friends whose newest books will not receive the in-person kinds of promotion they would have had at another time. If you know of wonderful writers who are publishing new work, you could support them in lots of ways, including social media posts and online reviews.”


Writer Art Beck sent the following poem:

Demetrius — whose faithful penmanship
   captured his master’s eager verse in a hand
even the Caesars recognized — is gone. In the
   very bloom of youth, plucked in the autumn of
his twentieth year. Tangled in fever and gnawed
   by plague, I couldn’t let him descend to the caverns
of the Styx a slave. I ceded my rights, praying
   the ceremony might somehow even heal him.
He sensed the gift, smiled, whispered Patron,
   and embarked, free on those sunless waters.

Martial Epigrams I, 101
tr. Art Beck


Elizabeth Spragins, author of With No Bridle for the Breeze, wrote to say: “For those of us with gardens coming into flower, dropping off little bouquets on neighbors' doorsteps is a fun way to share the beauty, provided you are symptom-free and have been self-quarantining. I recycle glass bottles of all sorts (beer bottles are a nice size!) as vases. As a precaution, I'm only using my own bottles for now, and I clean them thoroughly. Add a touch of ribbon, a few stems, and then wipe down with sanitizer.”


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David Zurick, author of Morning Coffee at the Goldfish Pond, is writing a series that explores the value of staying at home during this public health crisis, and he is using excerpts from his book.



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Mark Blickley sent this image based on a quote by Bertolt Brecht.

 

Lettered by Susan Gaylord.


These three digital paintings are by Robin Eisner:
[top] the model is Theresa Fowler, a healer and coach from London, based on a photo by Kerry Harrison; [middle] the model is Josh Korda, the DharmaPunx
NYC meditation teacher; and
[bottom] the model is Chris Delaney.


Poet Heidi Blankenship, author of Memorizing Shadows, sent the following poem:

Quarantined

Isolated with an illness
whose cause I may never know
for a lack of tests,
all I can do is go out to sit
and watch the hummingbirds
dip, dive, and zip,
zigzagging through bright red aloe flowers,
hovering close as they slide their bills
into the brilliant tunnel,
tiny bodies still, wings a fluttery blur.
They buzz each other off,
threatening, ferocious guardians
of a nectarous pleasure.
They keep watch from high points—
a young saguaro, top of a barrel cactus,
the pads of prickly pear and branches
of palo verde—
zooming in quick
to defend their luscious treat.
Days pass slowly,
each hour a century
as Costa’s, Anna’s,
and broad-bills, male and female,
go berserk over flowers
in the same frenetic way
our nation has lost its mind
over toilet paper.
Iridescent flares of radiant fuchsia
and metallic green
ignite the air as they dart past—
feeding, mating,
gathering materials for their nests,
while all around the entire planet,
the giant egg of human perception,
our lives, our society, our dreams,
cracks open,
spilling us out.
The shiny yolk, a mirror of ourselves.
And in this worldwide forced stopping
comes an awakening
to fresh breezes, birdsong, and light,
to quivers of creation within,
vibrating the air like hummingbirds,
and maybe if we’re lucky
the isolation and separation
will knit connection,
spell rejuvenation,
give us time to see the feathers
flashing before us,
to weave nests with our own hands,
to know our hearts and our neighbors,
allow us to move forward, onward
more slowly, mindfully,
conscious of the dance
that will only bring life.




Joseph Murphy, author of Shoreline of the Heart, wrote and sent a photo of the Colorado outdoors:

“We’re lucky to be living in Southern Colorado where there are dozens of places to hike through the mountains and foothills. Nine thousand acres of open space within the city limits of Colorado Springs, alone.”

        


Good wishes were sent by Anitra Carol Smith:
“Here in San Diego, we are hyperconscious about the virus; I almost entirely stay home, which suits me fine. My 23-year Kelee meditation practice allows me to be peaceful. I'm content to enjoy the chard in the garden backlit by morning light, and the changing blue/purple/charcoal colors of the mountains to the east beyond El Cajon, and, not to be overlooked, the raucous blue jays.”


Leslie Klein, author of the upcoming poetry collection Driving through Paintings, wrote to say that she reads a random page from the Tao Te Ching (an edition translated by Brian Browne Walker) every morning. Recently, she read this one . . . that speaks to our current situation:

The sage has no set mind.
She adopts the concerns of others as her own.

She is good to the good.
She is also good to the bad.
This is real goodness.

She trusts the trustworthy.
She also trusts the untrustworthy.
This is real trust.

The sage takes the minds of the worldly
and spins them around.
People drop their ideas and agendas,
and she guides them like beloved children.



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this image from the cover of Sidney Bending's new book of poetry,  Whether Forecast, written with her friend Margaret

Sidney Bending, whose poetry has appeared in Still Point Arts Quarterly, wrote to say: “I contacted my local volunteer service and they connected me with a woman who is blind and can't receive her audio books because the libraries are closed. I said that I have a home full of books and would love to read to her. I am also a poet and am sharing my own and others' poems with her. She is delightful—she oohs and aahs at the right place. My friend Margaret and i have written collaboratively and love to play with words and write humorous things. So my new friend and I are sharing laughter together. Thanks for wanting to share good news. I will read to my new friend from Stone Voices and Still Point Arts Quarterly—from cover to cover.”



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New Yorkers applaud health care workers
and first responders from home.

New Yorkers took to their windows,
balconies and roofs to show their
support and give thanks.
read more



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Looking for concerts and performances? We found a page that lists all the live streams and virtual performances happening now and in the near future. Find something you'll enjoy.

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What can we do to show we choose kindness, generosity, and compassion?
Send us your ideas, and we'll share them here. Email us now.  


Read “Words, and Black Lives, Matter” by author Dorothy Rice. (The Reluctant Artist, 2015)   


Artist Nancy Wolitzer sent the above image. This piece was made, using scratchboard and ink, in response to the death of her mother-in-law on March 25th, her father on April 11th, and the recovery of her mother—all had Covid-19. The virus hit her family very hard and art offered some relief. See more of Nancy's work on our website.


Artist MJ Edwards sent the above photo. She wrote to tell us how she's coping on the island she lives on in New Brunswick.

“No cases here yet and we are trying to keep it that way by restricting ferry traffic, closing non essential businesses and schools, and keeping households apart. No one who doesn’t live with you is allowed to visit and 6’ is the minimum distance in public.  I normally do a lot of substitute teaching, so I’ve lost a lot of income there.

“I’m staying isolated, but making the most of my extra time home to take long walks in the woods and around beaches with my dog, taking photos, of course, and posting a daily photo diary on Facebook. Two of our beaches are now closed as they are provincial parks. Seems silly to us because we are so few people, but they will make no exceptions.  

“Our local art gallery has cancelled its season so my solo show of paintings is postponed until 2021.  Our museum may be able to open by July, but our summer programming will likely be postponed a year and we don’t expect many tourists, so even if we do open it will be hard for us to pay our bills for the museum because our revenue will be much reduced.

“I hope the USA pulls through this okay, but the situation everywhere, and especially in the US, is looking quite bad to us here in Canada. I have visited NYC for three of the last four years, usually in April, as my nephew was living on Park and Madison by 5th avenue for 5 years working as a medical researcher with Mount Sinai and I loved those vacations and my gallery cramming and Central Park in April.  He got out in mid March before he got infected, but many in his building were already in quarantine.  He was to leave in April anyway.  He’s working for them still, however, now from Ottawa. His apartment has been abandoned, essentially, and he and his wife don’t know when they will get back to move their belongings.  Chaos everywhere.  

“We’d like to have our American friends able to return to our island this summer; many of them summer here regularly and many Americans have since the mid 1800s, including Willa Cather, whose summer cottage, where she did a lot of her writing, is right down a heritage trail from my house. Her cottage is one of my closest neighbours, actually.  She summered here from 1922-1940.  We have her typewriter, many of the book’s she wrote, some of her dishes, her writing desk, a rubbing from her gravestone, and a large portrait of her in a small exhibit in our museum.  I visit her cottage frequently n the off season, sit on her doorstep, and think of her as I enjoy the view of Whale Cove where I live and she summered.”


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Shebana Coelho wrote to say that her response to the pandemic has been to start a blog called the View From My Window: Sharing Moments in a Season of COVID-19. “I wasn't sure what the core of my intention was in doing this but then yesterday, as I was drafting suggestions for possible contributors, this phrase came that got to the heart of the matter: The invitation in creating and writing your moment, I hope, is to be fully present in this here, this now, with the consciousness of all your senses. Perhaps writing down one moment may help transport you, for now, to an island of creativity in a difficult time—and provide some degree of catharsis or comfort.” Shebana invites you to read and possibly share a moment.
https://www.farawayisclose.com/views-c19



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Read Bob Royalty's post, “When Lightning Strikes Twice: Of Prostates and Pandemics.”


Naomi Beth Wakan, author of On the Arts (and several other books in our catalog), wanted to do something to raise the spirits of people on the island on which she lives. Given the requirement for social distancing and the fact that Naomi is 87 years old, she decided to offer to edit people's poetry. Not knowing what to do to raise the spirits on our little island as we are mostly on shut-down, I offered to edit folks poetry in April, which is poetry month in Canada. Here's a poem she got from Charlie Cheffins:

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
I’m staying home
and so should you.

Naomi's response: “A little didactic (though excusable in these times), could be more original (but then what is originality except copying at a distance?), on the whole gets the message home.”


Elizabeth Faubert wrote to say: “I’m making cards . . . one each day when I rise, as a meditation, to remember all the blessings, practicing gratitude.” Here's an example:

 

 

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