Day 10. Presumably we are halfway through this time of government- & neighbor-enforced house arrest. Probably … hopefully … and whether that light at the end of the tunnel is real or just a lost lightening bug, these ten days have taught me three things about the world and one thing about myself.
There is a reason why solitary confinement has been used throughout time and across cultures as a form of punishment. It’s torture. Lesson #1: We are not made to be alone. Even the introverts among us know this in their souls. We need each other. And not just virtually. We need each other in the here and now: standing on the same square of earth, holding the hand the pulses life, hugging the heart that brings us joy.
Speaking of earth, there is also a reason why most prisons are entirely indoors and separated from growing things. I doubt strongly whether many ‘prison yards’ have trees and flowers, and I would assume that to be intentional. Lesson #2: Nature is our first home and we are meant to live in it. To separate a person from nature is to sever of one of the fundamental elements of our humanity. We are not just created beings. We are beings created in a living space. Cities of stone, steel, and glass — with all their pressed in humanity — are the least humane of civil spaces. Oh, and Agoraphobia is rightly considered a mental illness.
And while we are talking about prison yards, it’s a good thing that prison reformers advocated for things like spaces to walk and even work out. Lesson #3: The body is made to move, and a sedentary life will kill you. Not that I’m very disciplined about moving mine. I struggle to want to exercise. I struggle to keep exercising once I’ve started. But I always feel better after I have done it. The only kind of exercise I have always loved combines all three of the above: a long and energetic ramble through woods, or a long and exploratory paddle across water, or a hike up a hill or down a ravine, all with at least one friend.
Which brings me to the one thing I know now about myself: I’m a wimp. Utterly without strength or stamina. Here I am in a comfortable apartment, with water and electricity, warm blankets inside and a bit of green space outside. In the mornings I can make myself a cup of tea and then stroll the ten steps around my garden to examine the state of my sage and bok choi, rosemary and spinach — to see what damage the snails and crickets may have inflicted in the night. I can cook my own meals and spend the day online if I want, chatting with friends and family across the world. Or if no one happens to be free, I can read or sew or write or bake some bread or work on a new creative project or just swing in my hammock listening to birds. And even with all these comforts, I struggle under a heavy weight of grief, loss, and despair. My hope and my faith are small things indeed.
A while back, a reporter who works for one of the news sites that I read regularly was “detained” by a middle eastern government. Very soon after this, his news agency posted a little clock at the top of their site. They were advocating his release and trying to maintain public awareness about his situation. I remember when that clock was in the double digits. 35 days … 45 days … but as of today, he has been held for 1199 days. Over three years confined. Anne Frank and six other people lived in a space not much bigger than my apartment for two years before being shipped off to concentration camps. What do I know of suffering and perseverance? Nothing.