Not Out of the Woods

© Bob Calhoun

“Not out of the woods”,
say the epidemiologists, not yet;
the virus being with us much  longer;
“Until a vaccine”, they repeat,
“We’re not out of the woods…”

And those of us in this second half of life,
awarded a new classification of “most vulnerable,”
however difficult it is to embrace,
finding ourselves hunkered down
safe in place, if not out of our own concern,
then by our children’s insistence…
still deep in the woods
not yet out and about in what we took as normal;
“Not for a long while most likely,”
the epidemiologists again contending.

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Underlying medical conditions,
a weakened immune system or cancer diagnosis,
throw those in the mix,
and it’s double down, triple vulnerability
and the sense we may just be hauled into court
to explain any risk taken.

Where is this “out of the woods” place that is not yet?
On this journey are we ever out of the woods,
free from pathogens, viruses, bacteria, cancers, accidents,
forces of nature, insults, cultural persuasions, shared spaces, death?
Are we not, like the trees of the forest, an integral part
of a complex cosmos of relationships
connected to each other despite our differences,
up against the odds together, vulnerable as one in this life?

Waiting to get out of the woods, even rushing…
could it be chasing an illusion of control,
a great race back to “normal,” to busyness,
overlooking the very woods we inhabit,
yearning for lost or postponed distractions,
including the many that numb us, blind us, keep us
from embracing the rich layers of life and spirit
deep in the woods…?
During this “great pause” as some have called it, what is the gift?
Where might lie opportunities to see more clearly,
love more dearly, be more conscious, more human,
…breathe more deeply?

As second half of life folks,
already on the path of transformation,
a path of letting go, getting back to simple,
shifting from existing to living,
this pandemic time offers encouragement
to keep evolving, making intentional adjustments
to deeper living and consciousness.

Enjoy the quiet moments,
the long walks, conversations allowed to flower,
kind acknowledgements from neighbors,
connections with old souls from the past,
downsizing, closet cleaning,
offering a hand, accepting the hand held out toward you,
precious looks from your grandchild 
even if through the computer screen.

Appreciate and care for the “woods,”
these woods that surround us.  
allow them to be our refuge,
to enliven us, nurture us,
hold ground for us, protect us,
and yes, bury us.

Bob Calhoun, a practicing psychologist and poet living in Fort Collins, wrote this poem in the midst of chemotherapy treatment.