Give Me Shelter

It’s a partly cloudy late Thursday morning. I’m sitting on a patch of grass on an inlet shore of Lake Merritt near Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, CA, a couple of blocks from Whole Foods. People pass by at various speeds on foot or wheels.  Cooing pigeons forage on the grass.

Day 3 of Sheltering in Place.

I’m having a hard time starting this piece. My last post about three months ago (at the conclusion of my three-month stay at SF Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm) seems three lifetimes ago. My brain feels slow, in repose, reluctant to be bothered with the task of retrieving thoughts and penning them into words.

And yet there’s things I want to say.

I imagine that some of you now – for the time being – have more time for reading in your day. And so if you’re reading this, I want what I write to matter. To not be a waste of your time, despite the fact that there may be more of it.

For the time being.

So here goes.

Despite the epic reason, I’m savoring these days – at least so far – of Sheltering in Place. Before corona, I had a pretty simple life; living solo in an Oakland studio apartment, working a good percentage of the time at home, usually preparing my meals at home.  Now, in the midst of corona, with the exception of work stopping and how and where I move my body for exercise, the routine of my life remains fundamentally unchanged.  I’m not feeling the sense of disruption and fear that so many others with families and children are feeling. I have savings, so I’m not feeling the financial stress that so many are feeling (at least not yet).

A woman taking a moment to sip on tea while sheltering in place
Taking a moment to just be still and sip on tea while sheltering in place

What’s different now is that Sheltering in Place has given me a blessed opportunity to essentially flow through my days. I don’t plan anything because, well, I can’t. We can’t. I have a supreme excuse to live in the moment. To stay in bed later in the morning after waking up.  To ride my bike.  To watch Netflix. To make cream-of-whatever-I-want soup.  To walk nearby Mountain View Cemetery listening to Spotify. To blend a smoothie. To read a book. To pick ripe lemons off the lemon tree outside my apartment door.

A lemon tree is solace while sheltering in place
Thankful while sheltering in place for small things like fresh lemons outside my door

To just be. To just breathe.

Such a relief.

That we’re all in this together.

I feel a sense of hope that has strangely arisen in me from this pandemic.

Like a lotus from the mud.

Or a phoenix from the ashes.

I know hell is breaking loose elsewhere.

I know people are terrified.

I know people have died and are dying.

I know people are suffering.

I know everything has screeched to a halt.

I know our world is changing.

Right now, at this very moment, I don’t need to be reminded of these things.

In my previous post, I spoke of impermanence and suffering in the context of Zen Buddhism. Who knew then how starkly relevant those themes would become three months hence.

Statue of buddha at SF Zen center's Green Gulch Farm
Learning about Zen Buddhism puts sheltering in place in perspective

I’ve lost track of time.

Now the sun is out. Most of the clouds have dispersed. It feels so good to be sitting here, feeling the sun on my ear, listening to an older gentleman sitting on a lakeside bench exuberantly talking on his cell phone to someone about his latex gloves and the take-out lunch he will be retrieving from the nearby senior center as soon as he hangs up, smelling the grass, watching all the people moving about their day around the lake, keeping their distance.

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