Do you ever find yourself longing For the beginning of the world- That unimaginable openness When the earth awoke - all quick, and fresh, and teeming?
I finished this poem, oddly enough, the same day that I read an article by Margaret Renkl in the New York Times about how “The Pandemic Shows All is Not Lost.” “Covid 19,” she writes, “will not reverse the ravages of climate change, and it will not interrupt our progression toward an even more desperate future. But it is allowing us to see with our own eyes how ready the natural world stands to reclaim the planet we have trashed, how eagerly and swiftly it will rebound if we give it a chance.”
This pandemic, this end of our world, Stifles us in our houses, while the houseless Cower in abject fear of invisible menace- Those silent microbes sundering us from each other. Never mind - did you see the little birds, Like tiny grace notes, cross the moon last evening? At dawn, they land to feed along our rivers. We find joy in their beauty, and faith in their returning.
When I was a little girl I attended a school where we stood on our feet every morning chanting “Praise him and magnify him forever” as our headmistress read from a wonderfully apochryphal psalm listing all of the glories of creation, one after the other. “O ye Fire and Heat, O ye Dews and Frosts, O ye Green Things upon the earth, O ye Whales, and all that move in the waters” – on and on she would go about the glories of creation as the voices of children called out our response in the morning of the day and of our lives.
The beasts of the field are suddenly among us: Coyote lope along our empty sidewalks, Foxes drop by for curious backyard visits, Impertinent skunks on our lawns ignore us entirely. Kangaroos lollop down streets in the center of Aukland, Mountain lions walk fearless along the forest verges, Black Bears loll in abandoned Yosemite campgrounds, While toads and frogs migrate across empty highways. The birds and the beasts and all things that move in the water Rejoice in creation thown open by our absence.
This morning my friend Ashok sent me photos of the sky over the Himalayas, clear and blue for the first time in decades, and told me that the Covid 19 lockdown has brought thousands of flamingos back to Delhi. Of course we environmental activists don’t want to indulge in a “There, I told you so” attitude, but it is striking how very quickly nature cleanses itself when we bring ourselves to a halt for another reason entirely. The virus is an aspect of Mother Nature too, and if the only way to refresh the air we need to breathe is to live on a smaller scale, we have shown to ourselves that we can do it
“And so our first task when we emerge from this isolation,” concludes Renkl, “will be to remember to sear into our memories that pure pageantry of wildness, of life in its most insistent persisting. And then to try in every possible way to save it.”
They say that there are schools of dolphin at play In the canals of Venice, now that no gondolas Chockablock with tourists, roil the dazzling waters. They trill merrily to each other in high-pitched music. All the rest is true, but there are no dolphins in Venice: It's just a story, a legend we have invented Out of our terror, and out of our deep yearning For a verdant world where we are in tune with the music Of the beings of the earth, having found our place among them.