Tag Archives: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Year of Activism #11

Well that was one crazy week …. and this one has started the same. It is nearly 5pm and it is the first time since I woke I am having time alone.  The COVID-19 might be bringing social distancing, but it is ramping up connectivity, creativity and community in virtual places and spaces.

Activism can take many forms and the arts have always given us so much to learn from and in these times we will get to see and hear many more ways the arts will help us through and then be there to help us heal. Famous musicians are holding desktop concerts, offering to play a song from Facebook requests, others are reading stories to children and doing tours of their gardens or record collections. There seems to be no end to all this talent oozing out from screens. The digital divide is real, and for some this isolation will be deadly for their mental health if not their physical health.  The poverty gap will be exposed and the veil will drop from features once considered taboo topics like universal income in Australia and universal health care in the USA. The women leaders around the world are showing how to communicate effectively to build the trust bank and sure up public safety. German Chancellor Merkel gave her address with poise, simplicity and clarity. Jacinda Adern from New Zealand held a conference for children as well so they could ask their questions. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reminded everyone of their humanity and we are not invincible. The death rate from the virus is as high as 70% male; when Tesla said the “future is female” he might well have been onto something!

I have chosen this week to do some sonnets for my post. They were first invented in Sicily in the 13th century and I was most inspired this week by the Sicilian’s who took to their rooftops and little balconies with their pots and pans and musical instruments to cheer each other up during the isolation. They need a bit of work, but to keep my promise to myself to get this out today I am leaving them here.

I am using Elizabeth Barrett Browing’s to her beloved Robert this sonnet which we all can remember a line from as my re-writing guide. Here is what she had to say:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
In these times, our whole species is under attack from something not even considered alive and are mainly thought of as being on the edge of life. When we fall in love the intoxicating effects can leave us infected and we find there is no cure except a barrier, a distance or an inoculation or a joining with the other. COVID-19 has fallen for us and we have to find ways to ward off its overtures. Like a narcissist it only cares for itself and how it can replicate, infect and make us its home. I have been musing on the Sonnet it is making to us:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with anxiety, tears and fright
My nodes reach is far and out of sight
For each virion being finds an ideal space.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and ultraviolet light.
I love thee freely, as a promiscuous Knight:
I love thee purely, with agnostic Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In every age and with age old faith
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost cares, – I love thee with my breath
Touches, coughs, sprays of my life – and if God choose,
I shall love thee more with your death.
I am also reflecting on how the virus might be a gift, called up by Gaia to help knock some sense into us. There will be friendly fire, collateral damage, but it might be a small price to pay for a long term benefit for our planetary home. These dark thoughts fuel fear for many. They are also the crucible of incredible acts of generosity and innovation. I have spent most of this week creating in the garden, in virtual teams, designing new ways of working and connecting, dreaming up ideas and finding ways to feel peace and joy and celebrating the incredible community that holds me. What might
Mother Earth’s sonnet to us, be in these times?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee with all my being, dark and light.
My oceans and land til out of sight
For each one of you unique in place.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need for sun and moon light.
I love thee freely, yet you cause my plight:
I love thee and I ache from lack of Praise.
I love with a passion you do not use
In my hills, valleys and in good faith
I love thee with a love you do not choose
With all my powers, I love thee with my breath
Gifts you throw back – and if Gaia choose
I will still love thee with your death.
I want a sonnet that expresses how I feel about the people around me and people I don’t know even. These people are so varied and are everywhere. This is an incomplete litany:
The lady next door who left a bag of fruit and vegetables on my doorstep, enough to make several meals.
My pals in developer and co-op land who I worked with to create smartcitizenry.com during the week and who have been distributing notices to neighbours offering their free support.
My ‘sisters’ in social enterprises and collaborations who have worked with me to design responses, influence public policy, draft up models for innovative responses to help keep businesses and jobs flowing.
To a senior community member who said how much he wanted my input and common sense and ideas to support an industry.
A young man who is living abroad sharing news of his love and life in these times.
An old friend in Italy telling me about the way her town and friends are using neighbourhood flash mobs (at a distance from balconies) for recognition of health and emergency workers
My immediate family for checking in on me
…. and I could go on and on …. this past week I have had a harvest – a cornucopia of kindness, which leads me to my own sonnet to those extraordinary and ordinary humans who have and continue to enrich my life.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee for your kindness, and to delight.
For what starts with grit and ends with grace
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight
I love thee carefully, as we strive to ignite:
I love thee purely, as we turn to r(a)ise
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my celtic faith.
I love thee with a love twas mine to lose
With my gained saints, – I love thee with my breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and if She choose,
I shall love thee better until death.

jude-beck-ANRuJVFFWgU-unsplash

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash