Monday, March 23, 2020


I find myself craving connection more and more these days, when physical proximity, let alone physical contact, is not allowed. Just yesterday, for example, Ellie and I joined our Laguna Beach sangha, our meditation group, in a Zoom session that allowed us all to share the thoughts and feelings that have been troubling us--or inspiring us!--in recent days. These are people with whom I have been sitting in meditation Sunday mornings for years. Our longest-running members have been meeting for 25 years, and have a close bond of common experience and shared devotion to the Buddhist dharma. There is a wealth of mutual respect, and trust, and love. It was a joy to be able to mine that mother lode of compassionate community.

The arrival of our daughter, Sarah, and our grandson Luka, now 8 years old, was a welcome interruption to our Zoom session. They brought groceries from Whole Foods and left them by the front door, standing back for a while to talk. It happened to be Jake, our King Charles spaniel's birthday--he is now 4 years old--so we all sang Happy Birthday, much to his bewilderment...

... and agreed to take him out for a family walk, observing social distance. We strolled along a ways and found one of the long flights of steps that form a decades-old network in this hilly neighborhood. Leading down from the street where we first lived on this hill, some 50 years ago, it took us down to a street far below where one of Luka's good friends from second grade happens to live, so we shouted outside the house to attract attention, then stood around--at a suitable distance--for quite some time, exchanging news and pleasantries. Another warm connection.

It was sad to see Sarah and Luka leave--with a wave substituting for the usual hug--but it had been a joy to see them and spend time with them. After lunch at home, just as I was settling down for a much needed nap, the phone rang. It was my former wife and the mother of our two sons, Elizabeth, returning a call I had placed to her earlier in the day. She lives in Iowa and is, of course, much of an age with me, so I was naturally concerned to know that she was holding up in our unwelcome circumstances. She is fortunate to have my younger son, Jason, living nearby, and he is a great help and comfort to her. It was a while since we had last talked, so we had a wonderful catch-up chat. Though we parted more than 50 years ago, there is still much we share in common--not least our children and our English heritage.

I had spoken just the day before to an old friend in Chicago, a man now entering his nineties who came to England shortly before the start of World War II and spent those years in the Rectory where we lived. My father was instrumental in inspiring his lifelong devotion to the Anglican faith. Born a Jew, he is a widower now, and is amused to be living in a retirement home surrounded by old Jews! He sorely misses his wife, and nurses a not so secret wish to not survive, himself, for too much longer. We had not spoken for a very long time, and he was surprised and delighted by my call.

So I woke this morning early thinking this is the great antidote to the isolation to which we have been each of us consigned: connection. And vowed to pursue it to the best of my ability in the coming weeks, and possibly the coming months. It is the essential ingredient for a successful passage through these perilous and disturbing times.

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