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Presence

A Poem

Published on:
October 19, 2020
Read time:
2 min.
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It was pajama day, right before the world stopped.
We ran our final errands in slippers.
I barely remembered to take the sleeping mask off my forehead.
I bought books and champagne
To beat back the impending boredom
And toast our continued survival.

After a couple of days, our meals go silent.
We run out of things to say
And I start reading aloud
Just to hear a voice.
To remember that we are here,
We are together.

My pandemic survival skill is presence.

The days I can’t get out of bed
My prayers are the simple act of dragging my fingers
Across the velvet of my blanket.
I am here.
We are here.
Here is good.
Here is another day.

I produce nothing.
Nothing but my presence.
I offer it up
Amazed how sweet this small offering smells
On the altar of Him who wants for nothing
And so wants nothing from me

It’s less than a week before I start noticing birds.
It takes just one cup of coffee to see seven kinds
My own aviary in the small rectangle of my yard.

A heron nests in the tree across the street.
One morning after the babies are born, we surprise each other on my porch
Both seeking a moment away from our young.
Waves of air crash over me
As she retreats, grumpy, to my roof.
We sit for awhile in silence, listening to the neighborhood wake up.
Eventually the children need fed.
Life keeps growing in a pandemic.
The fish still hatch in the stream.
The days still grow warmer and longer.

I try to rest in the rhythms of nature, as she does.
I take my daughter to the woods.
No map, no clock.
Us and the trees.
We listen for woodpeckers
Fighting for silence
So we can hear.

I reach for my phone to snap a picture
And my fingers absently find another screen.
The peace growing green like the canopy above us disrupted
by more news
More hate
More dead
More masks
No masks
Whose life matters?

My foot sinks into mud.

And I remember--presence.
Pushing the enemy of presence into my pocket
I return my focus to our path.

Soon our trail opens up to a stream, then a pond, then a lake.
I pause
In delight
And in longing.

A heron swims into view.
She is alone
But not my grasping, searching alone
An alone that belongs to this lake, to these woods.

Her body stills on the water.

My body stills on the shore.

We sit for a moment until my mind clears
Until I am full
With the goodness of growing things
With the grace of their presence
An offering of beauty I’d been moving too fast to notice
Before the world stopped.

Jillian Hazel
Jillian Hazel grew up halfway between a conservative Dutch farming town and a city of artists and hippies, and it shows. She got her bachelor's degree in English, with minors in business and Bible, and somehow landed in Oklahoma, where she teaches pre-K. She ministers in her church through teaching, mentoring, art, and lots of cooking for crowds. She sometimes tweets at @jilllianhazel.

Cover Image by Luke Porter

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