Zoom healers, a beach trip, and a campanile with canned chimes.
“I can’t help but feel I’ve done something wrong in bringing them, that I put my own sanity before others’ health.”
I stayed up too late on Zoom for Wendy’s fiftieth birthday dance party. I don’t remember the last time I danced like this with other adults. Now, not only could I feel my body’s lumpiness after having two kids, I could also see it, or at least half of it on the screen, so I closed my eyes, tried to lose myself.
On more impersonal Zoom meetings, such as the weekly one I like to attend with the eighty-year old Jungian healer, I simply turn off my screen so I don’t have to see myself blinking back as he guides us through deep breathing exercises — tapping our third eye, pulling the skin on either side of it with our fingers, as if we’re trying to eliminate wrinkles.
Other participants seem eager to show their faces; he remarks they’re beautiful at the end of each call. One woman tells him she’s undergoing chemo, that the calls have helped her so much — she’s in a dark room, but she turns on a light right before she speaks. I see the faint sparkle of her tears coming down her cheeks.
The healer’s eyes are ice-blue, and his white hair is shoulder-length — I wonder how long he’ll let it grow. I wonder if I should just let my sons grow their hair out. There’s a real lack of interest in hair washing, or in baths in general, so into the squeaky chair at the children’s barbershop they go, where a kind woman repeats “such a handsome boy” to each of them as soft chunks of hair fall to the floor.
There are no Zoom haircuts — no Zoom baseball practices — no Zoom school plays — but there are Zoom circle times and Zoom “friendship theaters” with their beloved teachers — none of which, like baths, the boys have any desire to dip into.
“It’s weird, I don’t like it,” my six year-old complained after two weeks of trying to get him to sit through online school. So we mostly jump on the trampoline under the Rastafarian trees in our yard, shaggy green beasts now full of the happiest birds on Earth. Two sing back and forth to each other every evening, so nakedly and sweetly. It’s clear they’re friends, or would-be mates. Or maybe they’re just playing with each other invisibly, never having met before. The traffic always muffling their chance meeting.
After a month at home, I take the boys to a beach I heard was vaguely open. I put on their masks, printed hopefully with the night sky, but my youngest rips his off. My eldest gamely keeps his on — a lover of costumes, maybe that’s why he complies, or he’s just “on the team” today, as I keep pleading for him to be, on more difficult days when his defiance bursts through the halls like annoying confetti I can’t even begin to clean up.
Yellow tape, ruptured at the entrance to the beach. I fear the man moving toward us will reprimand us — but he just moves past, slightly dazed looking.
Maybe the few here are those who so badly needed a reprieve, who know one more minute at home will result in someone getting hurt, spiritually or physically. As the boys run off into the waves, totally oblivious to freezing water, I ruminate on the few times this past month I’ve tried to feel my hands and feet, as I learned on one Zoom meditation with a doe-eyed Buddhist. He wanted to help parents navigate irritation with family during this time. So I clench my hands and feet after one son licks me, or another fishes into the cabinet for more jelly beans, or my husband asks me yet again where the iPad charger is.
Maybe the few of us here today are just never going to be the goodly “pandemic parents” making homemade Play-Doh, gardening with their children, or hosting family meetings to ask our kids what they think the rules of the house should be.
My sons get lost in their own world at the beach, are filthy and happy and free, but I can’t help but feel I’ve done something wrong in bringing them to the ocean, that I put my own sanity before others’ health. But two of us wore our masks — and the yellow tape hadn’t been replaced yet — and besides, we were closer to the seagulls than the humans.
In a gravel bed inside the UC Berkeley campanile, a falcon hoists her plump body over newly hatched babies. A live cam lets us watch how one dented egg did not make it; how the father left the dead bird, the babies’ first meal. I’d been checking in every day until they hatched. Now that they’re here, I feel a little sad. Every year, another falcon mother, another round of babies, always streamed for viewers, but this year had the most viewers, for obvious reasons.
Then, the noon bells of the campanile. We could never hear them this well before the traffic stopped. I ask my sons to count — but they drop off at three. I keep going to twelve. The mechanical clock triggering the bells keeps the time for the humans of Berkeley, who are so out of time right now. I wonder if the bells startle the baby falcons, but doubt it, what with the impervious nobility of falcons and all. Gone missing is the carillon player who sometimes — in the days before this odd sojourn into the quiet — performed brief, celestial passages of melody at odd times of the week. Some of these are his own compositions, I learn, when I look into his repertoire — silenced for now. The compositions even have names like “The Big Bong” and “A Little Sweet.”
Bless that absent bellringer! Bless those ugly pink falcon babies, their faces broadcast to thousands of us, so hungry for a ripple, any ripple, of change.
Jenny Gillespie Mason lives, writes, and mothers in Berkeley, CA. Her poem “A Couple In” was published in Broad Street’s latest issue, “Birth, School, Work, Death.”