Teri Orr: Just give me one thing…
It has been a holy week. Determined by the first full moon in the spring as a touchstone for both Judaism and Christianity and this year by Anderson Cooper’s nightly tributes to the fallen from this biblical plague. And by the damn robin. It has been the week that left me the most saddened and humbled and confused.
The robin wasn’t a regular visitor until this week. Maybe three weeks ago he showed up early one morning tapping at my dining room window. I thought he had just lost his way. I threw open the front door and shooed him. And for a few days he disappeared. I felt badly because by now — any other year — I would have all the feeders full and the yard would be a cacophony of birds waking me up and singing from start of day. And I have the seed — it is in the garage buried under so many other things that are living there now. The man — who for 20 years — has helped me with all this — is quarantined in Heber. Yard work is not an essential service. So I threw out some berries and bread from my kitchen. And for a few days the robin disappeared. But this week he has returned every morning around 6 a.m. Like a messenger more than a soloist. There have been red-winged blackbirds back in the yard and an owl at night perched in the tallest pine that hoots in a haunting cadence. And little ground birds when I have been outside — who are looking for nourishment in the flowerbeds of last summer.
This week, the damn robin has not missed a morning.
And I haven’t missed a night watching Anderson Cooper on CNN at the end of his broadcast tell the story of two people — two very real people who passed away from the virus. Young/old, male/female, professionals/homemakers. And with a total now of more than 16,000 people who have died in this country and about 800 a day — this week alone — dying alone, in New York — the numbers are dizzying. The stories are dizzying. The capacity to absorb the sadness is not something any of us are hardwired for. And some days the weight of it all pushes me down. Corners me in my small home.
In my long life there were years I followed Holy Week completely. In my 30s, here in Park City, I remember doing the steps each day — starting with Palm Sunday and the holy days leading to Maundy Thursday that included the washing of the feet and the Last Supper. Which was Seder supper in Jesus’ lifetime — praying the evil plagues would pass over the home. Good Friday followed and some years — a real sunrise service for Easter. The year my friend talked me into the sunrise service at Snowbird and it snowed as we stood on the top of that mountain, I was reminded God often has plans that don’t match our own.
This week the weight of this global catastrophe felt real as confinement was proving to be too much for many of us. The lack of interaction beyond screens and phones. The sunshine that seduced us outside but made us distance (appropriately so) when we saw someone on the trail or the street in front of our home. Yes, we are grateful for having this stunning open space place to shelter in, but we have been spoiled by decades, even lifetimes, of full freedom of movement.
This week when singer/songwriter John Prine died from the virus and Anderson Cooper brought his longtime friend Bonnie Raitt on to talk at the closing of the show, I sat down and watched fully. I listened to his words and her words remember John’s words. Bonnie Raitt has performed in Park City multiple times over decades here and one of those times was when we presented her outdoors at Deer Valley Resort. On a spectacle summer night. And we had to stop the show — the summer rain was suddenly fierce and there was lightning in the distance and it looked like she and Keb Mo were going to have to shelter in place under the eaves of the lodge for hours. But then — after about 40 minutes the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared, just as the moon was coming up. From the stage, Bonnie could see all that — what the audience looking at her — could not. And then she said — “Wow — you people know how to throw a storm. This night is downright biblical.” And then she sang Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” and for a few minutes we were all transcended.
So I cried extra hard when Anderson read those lyrics…
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.
And in this week — to believe in this living is just a hard way to go.
I will dig the seeds out of the garage in a few days. I will fill the feeders. I will show up on the screens and on the phones and the sea of text messages and chat groups. I will remember all the bible stories — Old Testament and New. And somewhere in all the detritus that makes up the current surroundings of my life — I will find my own framed poster from an old rodeo and I will re-hang it. Resurrections are all about hope — which can feel in short supply these Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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“Our community is fluid,” columnist Teri Orr writes. “Yet our actions are increasing rigid … and honestly — tired and stuck and unimaginative and nowhere near … .”