Returning

When people are scared and insecure, they tend to return to the comfortable, the familiar. Last week, the search term “bread” was trending on Google. Gardening centers have seen a 250 percent increase in the sale of seeds, compost and other gardening supplies. Downloads of digital books have increased by 30 percent, according to some eBook reader companies like Libby.

Wendell Berry, in his poem “The Peace of Wild Things,” writes of returning to nature when the world seems overwhelming. Now, nature is also returning. From goats in Wales to coyotes in San Francisco, a wildness is filling the void that humans are leaving behind.

In the quiet we are rediscovering our homes. Some like what they find, others not.

Creative mentor Clare Mulvany, in lockdown in Ireland, has been posting photos taken within the two-kilometer radius of her home, challenging us toward a beginner’s mind within our narrowing circles of physical space.

Christine Valters Painter, in her meditation on pilgrimage, talks of “the practice of coming home” after a journey to close the cycle.

Rumi’s poem “The Waterwheel” describes the cyclical nature of accepting and then returning.

Stay together, friends.

Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made

of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water

and turns and gives it away,

weeping.

That way it stays in the garden,

whereas another roundness

rolls through a dry riverbed looking

for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment

like a drop of mercury.

For years, I have observed a slow trend toward simple pleasures.  Millennials may think they invented stylish wooden racks for drying clothes and the use of rags instead of paper towels for cleaning. City dwellers may congratulate themselves for going to farmer’s markets. The illuminati may forget that organic food used to be just food. Nouveau hippies make their own soap as if they invented the practice.

It has been a slow returning, now with a sharp acuity.

A couple generations ago, this was a way of life. A local zero waste store, which specializes in bulk items like beans, rice, and dried herbs, said her biggest customers were senior citizens who come with their cotton bags and glass jars because it reminded them of their childhood.

Politicians have had to reassure their citizens that the food supply chain is secure. As food delivery services moan under the demand and pressure from workers for better protections, people are turning to their local markets.

As we all scramble to make sense of the “new” world, and how we might emerge from this global crisis, my hope is that much of it will include a return to simplicity of home.

“The only journey is the one within.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

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