2020: Opera Extraordinaire


I was given to lying prone on the living room carpet, pencil in hand, contemplating my topic sentence. It was a strange luxury: the blank page and a sentence-to-be.  In my mind’s eye, I knew it had to be multiple. There couldn’t be just one angle, one point of view or concept to explore on a sixth-grade paper.  It was a good thing I had a stack of paper handy.

Skipping ahead, how many voices, or topic sentences would we need to write about 2020?  The mind splits under the pressure.  It’s been a behemoth of a year, and any rational attempt at “making sense” is a slippery, doomed adventure, without multiplicity. 

Better to imagine the year as a screaming, overstuffed, opera, exhausting in its sheer number of plot lines and tonal shifts.  You didn’t want to cry but there you were crying at something sentimental that now rang true.  There was sacrifice, there was love against all odds. Death always in the background, or on the other side of the flimsy stage door.  That’s what made the singing so moving, the sorrow, even in love songs, so poignant. 

When the opera quiets at intermission, you are soaringly happy, with inner circle, with friends.  I was happy with a square of grass, a flower, a word.  When I listened to the mute language of things. 

Sometimes from all the screaming and confusion, my mind got fuzzy.  I seethed from the cage of futility.  I raged, scoffed, then laughed at national farce.   I bled, then tried to be nourished by things as they are.  The same image of my physical self on a film strip would be repeated, with only the color radically shifting according to mood.  

One thing I’m grateful for: to have been saturated with emotion, saturated with experience.  Things mattered.  Chaos mattered.  At the edge, we did small things, though we were charged with personal accountability.  We found lightness at the center.  When we pack our suitcases to take forward into the future, they should be lighter and filled with an open weave of memory and desire, of fierce attention, of strong beauty.
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