Acknowledging Proust

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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Pam Stone

Just Sayin’

Perhaps it’s because of the lockdown, but really, I can’t remember a more beautiful Spring. Or perhaps it’s always been this beautiful and I haven’t paid the same attention. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

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What I do know is that my life hasn’t changed that much: daily farm chores remain an uninterrupted focus along with weekly trips to the feed store. Only my excursions for carb-bombing biscuits at Bojangles have been curtailed. So, it’s not as if I don’t see the property around me each day.

Or do I?

Driving home from the Hayrack, I caught the tail-end of a podcast called ‘Pure Joy’ on NPR. This particular program featured the travel writer, Pico Iyer, who fell in love with Japan and became a permanent resident in 1992. He was speaking of how one of the graces of suffering is that it ‘cuts through all ideology’ and affects us equally as human beings on a global level. He also added that during this time of isolation, because we have fewer choices on offer, those choices matter more and can offer comfort. As he explained:

“…even now, the tv announcers are drawing our attention to the super moon and just yesterday, my wife and I were taking a walk in our neighborhood and we suddenly came across this thick bamboo forrest, with lines of cherry blossoms in front of it and nightingales teaching their young to sing—five minutes from our apartment. But if not for this enforced moment of quiet, we never would have seen it. We hadn’t seen it in twenty-eight years.”

I turned off the radio and remained in the truck for several minutes, absorbing what I had just heard. The impact was that strong. Finally, I got out, went inside to make a cup of tea and returned with it outside, sitting down at the picnic table in the shade of a Carolina maple and looked upwards. I had been remarking to all and sundry for weeks that the Spring sky seemed so vividly blue this year. Then it occurred to me that what I was noticing was what wasn’t there. Missing were the contrails left from airplanes criss crossing above. Our farm is indirectly on the flight path to Greenville/Spartanburg airport. And yet I can’t even remember the last time I heard a jet begin to descend for landing.

I can’t remember experiencing this all encompassing…quiet. Yes, living in the country is quiet to begin with, but this is a peace that is an absorbing sensation. It goes right the way through me to my very marrow. To think I might have missed it had I not paid more attention. This must be what is was like to have lived before the advent of air travel.

Inspired, I asked friends on social media to share what they, too, have simply noticed during this enforced lock down. Not projects begun or finished, just the things of which they took note that otherwise would have failed to raise interest during their lives just weeks ago. I share those responses with you in hopes that during this time of suffering, of fear, of unemployment, or simply, boredom, it might be helpful to remember that there are gifts around us that are available for the asking.

Martha:  “I’ve noticed the incredibly clear blue sky and a true feeling of Spring…sights, smells that I have not noticed in recent years. And more stars visible at night!! Our planet is sparkling, day and night!!!”

Nan: “I would have never noticed how Cardinals chase each other thru my field during their mating/nesting season. I never noticed that before. And now, I can’t stop watching it.”

Jack: “Senior hours at the Winco are from 6-7:30 a.m, Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I hadn’t bicycled over to WinCo early on a Tuesday, I would never have seen the beautiful sunrise and the gigantic moon we had recently. A quiet, almost ghostly trip. Plus, score! I finally got rice. Big 5lb bag of Mahatma.”

Terri: “How loud the birds are. Ridiculously, amazingly, serendipitously loud.”

Pam: “I noticed that you can smile with your eyes while wearing a mask.”

Carrie: “This may sound silly. I appreciate the sounds of nature, but one thing I have noticed is the sound of my youngest son breathing when he crawls into bed with me…”

Actually, Carrie, that doesn’t sound silly to me at all.

In fact, that is pure poetry.