It never felt so green
Week 5 of the lock-down. Looking outside, from my window this morning, I have not seen the sky so clear, since I was seven years old. I notice the leaves on the branches are so green they smell of green apples. Like when you put your teeth in for the first bite and the apple, a little unexpected, explodes in your mouth. You didn’t expect it had so much juice, it oozes freshly from the corners of your mouth, smelling green somehow. You crack a smile as you realize you can’t hold all the juice in. More dripping! With your hand you wipe your chin and you lick your sour-sweet fingers clean!
There is a peacefulness lately in the attention I am able to bring to what is outside. Looking out of the window. Connecting somehow the green leaves on the trees in the square before me to ‘greenness’ living inside of me, in memories, and imaginary flights of fancy. That’s one experience of being alive these days. As if things out there, are connected to things in me.
Every new object, well contemplated, opens up a new organ of perception in us.
And there is the other experience. This voice within me, pounding on my conscience. Do something! Be useful. Even if you can’t go out, you can write, you can offer your services, think of something! Be creative! Envious of those that act, this pounding goes on for days sometimes until my entire body shuts down. Frustration, anger and mourning get the better of me. How will I ever reconnect to what’s needed? And I resent even that despair, comparing it to suffering, much bigger and sadder elsewhere, close and far away.
Agency: feeling the pressure to act
For a while now, I have not been my assertive self, even on a ‘good’ day. I am so used to the pressure of getting ahead, pursuing what I think I need to achieve. Exiling myself sometimes from participating in what really matters. Sitting in the window, I sometimes want to give in to the pressure of ‘getting ahead’ rather than ‘getting along.’ Be busy achieving, doing stuff that seems relevant, but not in the same way as before. This agentic part of me, that part that used to make me feel I belonged, that masculine side, is panicking. What is it you can do? So, go out and do it, it says, Do it now!
I am conflicted between connecting to the trees outside and getting busy. I notice the green leaves, I listen and take utmost care not to be in someone’s way. I wait before I speak. What is going on, here, I wonder? What I am learning? I have a sense of getting back something I seemed to have lost: A part of paradise.
I wonder if there is a gendered thing going on inside of me? A shift in balance from an agentic goal-pursuing dynamic concerned with individual achievement, to a participatory bond-forming energy concerned with the world at large.
Communion: releasing into participation
The only reason airlines fly out nowadays is to take expatriates home, so I hear. I am suddenly aware of a strong home-bound energy in the world. Are we summoned home, to where we belong? I read how frontline professionals think of home as they put their lives and that of their families at risk to provide help. I am at home too, sitting in the window. I find myself foregrounding a sense of ‘communion’ in a way I have never done. Just by looking out and being connected to what’s right in front of me. In the square. Observing the leaves, taking care of my family, friends, others I don’t even know.
The council of being
The silence is all-pervasive now. In me, in the city. A silence familiar from the village I grew up in and escaped from to succeed in life. The village where the green apples grew. And now more than fifty years later, I sit here pondering how useful it is to try and stretch my entire being out to the green leaves in the square. I connect with the living earth this morning. For a while I joined the council of all beings, ‘thinking like a mountain,’ as Joanna Macy suggested already in 1988 as a practice.
What to remember?
I will remember this struggle, today. Or is it a dance? How I eased into a private ritual of seeing, feeling, remembering, writing to balance out the agentic with the spirit of communion. A taste this moment has. Smelling sour-sweet of a past that I hope to remember when all this turns into something else again. A taste of innocence.
- John Seed & Joanna Macy (1988). Thinking Like a Mountain, Towards a Council of All Beings.
- Andrea E. Abele & Bogdan Wojciszke (eds.) (2018) Agency and Communion in Social Psychology.
René Margritte, Le fils de l’homme (1964)