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These times we’re living in are strange. We have the long-term impacts of social and geographical isolation. We have been separated from friends, family, and favourite haunts for a long time. We did it to be safe ourselves, and to make the world safe for others. Now the messaging is changing. It seems like there’s talk about “pre-COVID” times and “post-COVID” times but what about COVID-now?

This post offers two free downloadable PDF resources that we hope will be a gift to individuals and communities working to make sense of our experience of COVID over the past few months and begin to process what has been a pretty traumatic experience.

The first offering are some gentle questions from Dusk Liney from The Listening Squad with artwork by talented Tasmanian artist Elizabeth Braid. The Listening Squad crew offer amazing strategy retreats and have a podcast on contemplative listening. Dusk is also a Doula and Matrescence facilitator and she’s been running Listening Circles for Mummas through lockdown. Her voice here is a quiet invitation to healing that will hold safe space for you – just as you are.

This second offering is mine – I’m Talitha Fraser a NZ/Ngāi Tahu, Melbourne-based writer. I’m interested in theopoetics, radical discipleship and feminist theologies. My contemplative practice brings together photography and poetry, philosophy and theology, observation and mindfulness. Creating this resource was, for me, an exercise in practical theology – I knew I needed this and so I had to make it. Whether you are conscious of it or not, this life experience of a pandemic we are in is an extraordinary one and there is strength and wisdom in you – likely loss and grief and anger too – that is good to hold space for and acknowledge. This is less gentle I’ll admit, but it’s when we look into the shadows, I find, that we can see the play of light.

Plant Seeds

Lockdown #1 happens and I plant seeds. Like a lot of other people. Bunnings sold out of seeds, and potting mix, and all sorts. It interests me that, at a time of great uncertainty, for seemingly many, there was an instinct to connect to the land, to plant – which is always a kind of prospecting of its own subject to the vagaries of pests, weather, and apathy towards watering to name a few. But we default to a deep knowledge that, somehow, the land will take care of us.

Seeds. So much potential in something so small.

My approach to gardening is pretty much to fill in the space: food and flowers good = weeds bad. I trade seedlings on the Inner West Buy Sell Swap page and join the Pollinate the West group and score free things from the Good Karma page. In socially distant ways I’m more locally connected than I’ve ever been. My seeds bear seeds, and then there’s thousands of them: broad beans, parsley, rocket, nasturtium, calendula…

I put packets of seeds in my local Little Free Pantry and seedlings when I have them. It’s hard to picture the reach, the generational journey those seeds have made to me and from my hands to others.

What I was looking for from some groups changed. I joined new groups and left others.

I’m trying to give language to something which we’ve all experienced over the last few months but maybe haven’t given words or thought to….

This is a basic model of a complex community
This is that community being ruptured by a crisis event
This is a new community fusing together out of necessity and proximity and shared experience
This is the ‘altered’ complex community

The ruptures and disruptions have occurred at different levels within: our homes, personal relationships, at work, our city, our state. People have moved: house, state, country. Shops have shut down. Some people lost work and found it in totally different industries or haven’t found it yet. Some people will have long term impacts of anxiety and depression following these exhausting long periods of social isolation. …you know.

You know the ways your life will never be the same again.

There is no going ‘back’ to normal. There is only going forward, into something new.

What do you want to resurrect from what was? What do you want to keep from new fusions and connections? Name a few things or write them down. This isn’t an experience that is happening to you, how can you happen to the experience? How can you bring what you want to bear on it in some small (or big) way?

Do not underestimate the power you have to shape the world you want to live in at this extraordinary moment.

Plant the seeds now. Not knowing how or if they will grow.

So much potential in something so small.

The following found-poem is made up of words entirely taken from words written on people’s headstones. It  isn’t intended to be some macabre or nihilistic exercise… but the opposite. What words of comfort or solace could we have said if there’d be time? What message of love?

Because of COVID we couldn’t be there when loved ones died. Because of COVID we couldn’t remember and gather together to celebrate lives well lived, grieve lives too short. Because of COVID we are hearing daily statistics of those who have died. They are a face to someone. They are family to someone. Almost 5 million dead so far… Worldwide it’s been over 5,000 people a day, every day for months.

What does it look like for you to recognise and acknowledge the presence of Death? Do you place flowers somewhere for remembrance? Float something out into the river water? Bury something under a loved plant in the backyard? Use water to cleanse your hands and head? Hold a series of ceremonies, dances and songs? Whatever rituals of grief you observe – take the time you need to reflect and grieve.

You might read these words and be comforted, be solaced, be loved now. Hear them deep in your soul, take them in and let them nourish you. For, although intended as words for those who are gone, they have something to say to those who remain.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will know the essence of life.

v1 bw
v3 bw
v4 bw
v5 bw
v6 bw

Peace, perfect peace,
let your song be delicate,
the flowers can hear.
In God’s care.

In the midst of life we are in death.
Let not your heart be troubled
neither let it be afraid.
In God’s care,
not here but risen,
Love’s Tribute.

Always loved, always in our hearts.
Sadly missed.
Behind all shadows standeth God.
Some time, some day, we’ll understand.

So deeply loved, so deeply mourned,
till we meet again, at rest,
in heavenly love abiding.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Thy will be done always in our hearts.
Loved and always remembered.

Resting.
All losses are restored and sorrows end
in God’s care.
Those we love don’t go away
they walk beside us every day
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Love lives on.

COVID Now

These times we’re living in are strange. We have the long-term impacts of social and geographical isolation. We have been separated from friends, family, and favourite haunts for a long time. We did it to be safe ourselves, and to make the world safe for others. Now the messaging is changing. It seems like there’s talk about “pre-COVID” times and “post-COVID” times but what about COVID-now?

This post seeks to collate a few activities that will allow for some reflection, processing, escapism, nurture that meet you where you’re at…now.

Why creepy little skeletons?! This has been a time we are confronted by our own mortality, the mortality of those we love, the mortality of those we do not know and will never meet who are a statistic in our daily COVID status briefing. These characters engage and relate beyond gender. In many ways, enduring this pandemic has seen us stripped back to bare bones, laid naked our vulnerability – what is essential? what do I need to do to live?

What do I need to do to live?

Mint. Deadly. Fierce. There aren’t even words. You, you my friend, are a survivor. This pandemic took things away from you, you didn’t know it was possible to lose. You had never put a back stop or safety net round those things because it was inconceivable the world could change so much in so many, myriad and drastic ways. And here you are. Breathing still. Being-still. You are all over this. Well, maybe some of it’s on you, but you are HERE for it. You are PRESENT. So much stopped and you’ve kept going. Eat your heart out Energiser Bunny, I’ll show you who’s still going, and going, and going!

Maybe this strong, resilient, survivor-triumphant thing isn’t really your scene but – just for a minute – lean into it.

What’s one thing you’ve learned or done in the last year or two that you couldn’t have conceived of before? Learned how to make cinnamon scrolls? How to use Zoom break out rooms? New level on Halo? Made, then broke, and broke again, the records you set for Netflix binging? Moved out? Gone back to Uni? Homeschooled, cooked, cleaned, worked fulltime and paid the utilities? Way to adult!

Mentally, or literally if you’re feeling crafty, create and give yourself an award certificate, or a medal, or a trophy, or a flower crown.

You’re really great.

Where’s your energy at today?

A: GOING FOR A WALK?

As you walk today we encourage you to pick something up (or several things) that represents what you feel like you’re holding right now. Is it sharp? Is it heavy? Rugged? Smooth? Beautiful? Ugly?

Carry this with you for a while as you walk and as you come for the end of your walk, we invite you to consider is this something you can put down? Is this something you’re able to leave behind? Do you want to throw it? Or perhaps it may be that this is something you take with you and in your home find a place where you might see it – maybe on a dresser or on a windowsill where you will see it every day.

This is something you are carrying. It’s outside of you. It’s not all of who you are. You are not defined by what you are carrying. It is apart from you, and actually rather small as you look at it now in the grand scheme of things. It’s something you can hold in your hand. You are able to pick this up and put it down as you need to.

B: NOPE. JUST NOPE.

One reason it might be hard for some of us to feel ‘hope’ and ‘possibility’ right now is that the inchoate rage and unrelenting grief we haven’t expressed might be taking up all of the room.

I suggest getting lots of strips of paper or post its and writing down whatever thoughts, feelings, resentments are pent up inside of you and spewing them onto each piece then disposing of these in the most satisfyingly melodramatic way possible for you: tear them into little pieces; cut them up with scissors; stab them onto a cactus plant; let them burn; make a TaskMaster episode by giving yourself 10 mins in a plastic lined room with a range of assorted props with points for most creative destruction.*

You have missed weddings for this, not seen family for months/years, this was going to be your OE, you don’t even LIKE sourdough…all of us hold dreams and visions of how we thought our life was going to go that have been derailed. Most of us have been socially isolated from the friends and fam who might have helped us process this, and regulate our feelings about it, along the way. We’ve just been pushing it down and away because we can’t get into it right now. Today is your lucky day!

*Observe OHS and stuff. There will never be another you.

“I don’t know how to start healing when the wound is still being inflicted” – Katie Wheeler

Read this brief article/comic series by Katie Wheeler and see what resonates in it for you.

Meditative exercise:

Take a moment to seat yourself comfortably.

Take a deep slow breath. And another. And another.

Tune in to your own body. Are you carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension? Where is this located in your body?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to what this part of your body is telling you.

Imagine for a moment, someone else you care about. Where in their body are they carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to recognising the other.

Imagine for a moment, someone you don’t even know. Are they physically safe? Are they financially secure? Have they lost someone to COVID? Are their family in another country? Where in their body are they carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to recognising the other.

While we are all having different experiences and these are impacting us in different ways, we can recognise in this moment that we are all experiencing pain. Our pain connects us together. How can you have compassion for yourself today? How can you have compassion for others?

Did you know that trauma-informed recovery suggests that we can ‘trick’ our unconscious brains? The Old Brain (the lizard) is the primal ‘fight, freeze, or flight’ response. All action and not a lot of thought. Sound familiar? Whether we are conscious of it or not, it is likely our brain is operating currently under messaging like: This is a really big problem. I can’t do anything to change it. We’re all Feeling Unhappy Chocolate Kinder Egg Dropped.

By stepping outside and taking a few shots using macro on your phone you can very quickly observe up close many small universes that are continuing merrily uninterrupted by the events that touch your own life. The bees still buzz, the ants march up the hill and down again, it’s spring as I write this and the sight, and smell, of new flowers opening are all around me.

If you are able to travel you might find that the ocean offering a wide horizon is what you need to feel possibility. The mountain top view might help you feel on top of things. Experiment with bringing your body and attention into a different space today and observe whether your mind moves to a different space too.

If you were a child and there was someone there to take care of you, what would you want them to do for you?

Today, do this for yourself.

  • Wear the softest, rattiest, oldest thing you own if it comforts you. Or a superhero cape.
  • Make delicious, nourishing comfort food that fills your heart and your belly. The home food your Grandparents taught your parents, and your parents taught you. Eat the honey you brought back from NZ or the Chicken ‘n’ Rice Chilli Sauce your family post from Malaysia. Feel connection to people far away.
  • Have a bath. Take toys.
  • Play outside.
  • Do something for no good reason like spin until you’re dizzy, roll down a grassy hill, make a daisy chain, blow bubbles, or find shapes in the clouds.

Blessed are you who expect God to be more intimately revealed in exile, for you shall behold the risen Christ.

Blessed are you who finds abundance in scarcity, for God will give you everything you need.

Blessed are you who are hungry for God’s grace, for you will find and recognise it in strange forms in which comes along.

Blessed are you who realises incarnation happens in the world as it is, for you will find relationship anywhere.

Blessed are you who thinks the future is always bigger than the past, for you will always be excited by what God’s doing next.

Samuel Wells. Heartsedge session 3. Wednesday 10 March.