Thursday, April 30, 2020

Faces on Zoom

It’s raining outside, which means no Sunshine Break this afternoon.  Since my wife is also working from home, we’ve been meeting on the front lawn with folding canvas chairs and cans of fizzy water, usually in the late afternoon.   

But it’s been a while now, because it’s been raining every day. The ground outside is squishy. The grass is getting long and wild. We’ve been sheltering in the house for a month, and in that time, the bare bones of trees have all sprouted new leaves, growing lusher every day. So the window is a picture which tells me nothing, a sheen of shiny dots on a solid green background.

This pandemic has been all about windows, for me.  I don’t know anybody who’s died from it, and I’m knocking on wood here. So, even though it’s all too real for thousands of people, it seems abstract to me.  From my window, the world is blurry, out of reach, slightly unreal.  

When I do have a social event these days, it’s on Zoom, and I’ve had a few of those, starting with services at my Unitarian church.  Then, not long ago, I was invited to a surprise Zoom 70th birthday party, involving old school-chums from Bangkok.  On the call were six women, all of whom I’ve known for around sixty years.  It was heady, seeing their faces in those little rectangles, each in her own little part of the world. 

After this, there was a second Zoom party for another old friend, and then a third event, a reading about women’s herstory, hosted by Sinister Wisdom magazine.  Both of these were full of women I’ve known for years, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades. It was very emotional:  joy, nostalgia, a sense of reclaiming the past. I was shadowed by old feelings I scarcely remember, and I felt the sharpness of age.

But it’s strange, the Zoom phenomenon.  On the one hand, it shrinks time and space to one small flat surface. All these people, all this history, is right in front of you, living and breathing. All of you are staring fixedly into this portal which connects you. You can see and hear, but you can’t touch or smell, and you can only move within your little square. It feels like you’re all pinned to a page, but you’re so happy to be together than you don’t care.   

Right now, it seems that we’re all a bit abstract, incorporeal, ungrounded.  We humans have become mere representations of ourselves, while the earth is as fecund and exuberant as ever. It’s not natural to us, and I understand why so many people have suddenly started baking bread. The texture and aroma of fresh bread – with the heat of our muscles and of the oven – bring us back to our physical selves, make us real again. 

We are in an earthy season, and currently half the planets are in earth signs.  So the urge to strengthen our connection with Mother Earth is especially strong right now. For a lot of people, that means gardening, too. Suddenly stuck in the house, people are bringing in plants and flowers, cultivating small wildernesses.

People are also looking around, finding a familiar but unexplored reality in their own homes. The house may have been a way-station before, a place to relax for an hour or two before falling into bed.  Now it’s a shelter, a protector, and also a living, breathing creature with smells and textures of its own. It’s made of natural substances, just like we are, and it has its own personality, its lovable eccentricities, like any other family member.    

But what about these strangely abstract social lives?  Here, we have to look at Venus, going through the air sign Gemini this month.  Venus is all about relationships, and all the air signs give distance, perspective, objectivity.  This is a wonderful thing because it allows us to create little kernels of thought, string them together into sentences, and fling them through the air at each other. 

This is the way it works even when we’re in the same space, but there are other little physical connections going on at the same time, an exchange of molecules. This is an important part of being in love, this constant wordless interchange, and for those of us who are quarantined with our partners, it’s comforting.  It’s our ongoing earth connection.    

But we’re still relating to the rest of the world, and when we’re not in the same space, those magical leaping syllables are all we have. Our brains work overtime, making up for the molecular connections that are no longer there, filling in the blanks with our imagination.

Venus usually moves quickly, but this month she is slowed-down, staying the whole month in Gemini. Gemini is generally a sign of nervous energy, and this month, it comes across as a steady field of fast-moving particles. The thoughts and ideas keep circling around at breakneck speed, but they still maintain the pattern.  The patterns of our relationships hold, even though we may always feel slightly buzzed. 

Venus retrogrades about halfway through the month, so we may find ourselves discovering many old friends and lovers, and reconnecting to ideas we once entertained and stories we once told ourselves. And almost all month, Venus makes a square to Neptune, planet of illusion, fantasy, and imagination.  So not only will you make some excursions into your past, but you’ll also find yourself wondering what was real and what wasn’t, all those years ago. You may discover long-lost gold, and also fool’s gold, here and there.  

For myself, this process already began with those Zoom meetings. I can’t go out into the world, but I can delve into my sixty-eight years of memories.  I can see the intersections between my memories and those of others: busy traffic patterns, as well as times when we missed or almost missed each other.

However, our mental travels are not earth-bound, but airy.  Our connections are like the looping circles of a sky-writer: we are riveted by them, though they have no substance.  We look to them for a meaning beyond the physical bounds of our daily lives.  Rooted by what we feel, we look upward for all we can imagine.