Siege Diaries 8/9/2020


I didn’t even realize that I was starving until I was 148 days into the siege.

This slow, repetitive ritual of pandemic life is largely solitary. It is often mindless.  And it is mostly lacking in ceremony.   And ceremony, as I have realized over the last few years, is one of my greatest joys  I find ceremony everywhere around me in acts of celebration or sorrow, in observing and partaking, and sometimes, in scripting.  Ceremony connects me with things larger than myself–with the community around me.  And although I lack a conventional believe in God or gods, I can feel the power of religious liturgy in a way I can’t quite explain.  Perhaps that is why I have always been attuned to the rhythms of the calendar, to the significance of dates and the passing of time.  And now, it seems that, robbed of so many of our public touchstones in their former, comforting forms, society is struggling to fill that void.  And I realized this weekend what I had been missing.

To me, attending a concert of any kind is a ceremony, with certain acts and devotions repeated in a certain sequence.  So, too, is attending a sporting event. Even more ceremonial is the SCA event, with its courts and rites of recognition.   I have been bereft of all of these in their traditional formats.

For many weeks during the early part of this siege, I lit a candle every night, in an attempt to establish something meaningful to replace this loss.  It worked for awhile.  Then it became more of a routine, losing what made it special.  It was much the same with these diaries.  I wrote to keep myself alive, in a way, as I learned to deal with the hard realities around me–not just the cancellation of plans made months ahead, but the pain of a world in crisis, the mourning of losses real and imagined.

The future dates have all mostly passed now.  But the calendar, in its circular path, has brought me back to August, and I remembered that August of two years ago, through relics and words and images, a journey that in many ways ended one pilgrimage and began another that I believed had ground to a halt when the world shut down, when it no longer became possible to gather the pilgrim’s badges in physical travel.

But it is not as if I am bereft of words and music and symbol.  Not at all.  They are here for me. And memory.

Last night, as the hours ticked towards midnight, I lit a candle, and at the right time during the music, I drank a toast from the tiny blue vessel, as I had two years before, and, eyes moist at what the world had lost, blew out the candle.  And this afternoon, I finished a book to the sounds of the music the book is about, with memories of a January concert when I had heard that music played, and tears ran down my face, tears of joy, tears of survival, of love for what the world still has.  They are entwined together, neither existing fully without the other, so much so that they cannot be separated.

And the so dullness subsides, and I am free to mourn and laugh again.  I have found the lost key, and found that it opens many doors–I need only let my mind free to find them.  I need only lay down the foundations and open my mind, and the universe will resonate and respond.  And that response is no meagre substitute–it has broken that famine and fed my soul, in a familiar, yet new way.

I know, I know, as much as I can know, that the numbness will creep back, that I will struggle again.

But this feels like a place I can find again, one wholly within my grasp.  The map has been located, and I have oriented myself to true north, and looked up to discover the stars in their accustomed constellations, shining brightly in the early August sky. I know that even if I cannot see the Milky Way shimmering overhead that it is always there to find in memory.