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Teri Orr: ‘Like a holy rolling stone…’

Teri Orr.
Park Record file photo

Whatever sanity I might have left right now — after six months of COVID confinement — I owe to a pod of women who have been a literal lifeline — day and night. Back in March — as lockdown began — one woman decided to create a text group of women she knew and thought would be a good group to share information and support. We all knew each other certainly — maybe two were good friends and so were another two and three of us — but all five were kinda crazy-cut puzzle shapes no one would have easily linked together.

I am the oldest — which I find is how many of my sentences begin now. The youngest hovers around 40. Two women have never married and don’t have children. Three of us have children and the youngest is the only one married and with young children. We are happy travelers all, and this confinement had been painful on our clipped wings.

We all lean left — not exclusively — but there is a base level of understanding of fairness and kindness and what real leadership has looked like. Did I mention wicked funny? Oh god — are they funny! Irreverent. And also, exquisitely thoughtful and kind.

In the first days of COVID — when folks weren’t leaving their homes and no one was ordering takeout because no one was making it — we grabbed things for each other when one of us left weekly for the store. Toilet paper and hand wipes and almost always — chocolate. We watched the horrible unstoppable watchable “Tiger King” series but also the stunningly beautiful and haunting “Unorthodox.” And so much more. We shared titles of books we were reading and articles in magazines and newspapers. We checked in on each other — nearly daily. Two of the women had grandmothers in their 90s they were helping care for. We did a few Zoom cocktail hours but that wasn’t really our wheelhouse. We are all more action-oriented.

The rest of us lasted until long after the sun was gone and the moon was up and a chill had set in the air. It just felt — for a few hours — so normal.”

As that long, wet, gray, miserable spring finally made its way into summer, COVID allowed for more movement. Restaurants opened for takeout first. We found ourselves comparing notes on where good places were to walk without running into unmasked people. We all now have to admit we have a literal wardrobe of masks we have ordered online and gifted one another. We all have gone through family things during this time. We all have gone through work-related changes. We all have found ways to contribute within the community. Here’s the one thing we hadn’t done — we hadn’t all been in the same space at the same time together.

So when two birthdays were converging over Labor Day weekend I offered up my big backyard for a socially distanced, joint birthday party — for the pod — plus the husband and young children of the only one of us who has those currently. It was a total of eight people spaced out. There was pizza I picked up and cupcakes one of the other women had made. The two small boys under 7 — brought their bikes and rode them all over the dead-ish grass in my yard. And around the quiet cul-de-sac. The night was perfectly still and we could socially distance and chat and hear ourselves. There were masks and hand sanitizer and all the requisite trappings of a COVID gathering. But there was also so much laughter. And we stayed outside long, long after the sun was down — just relishing in the sight and unmuffled sound of one another.

I admit while they were there I was most smitten with the boys. It has been far too long since little boys had found my yard of such great interest. And right at dusk — as if on cue — a fawn appeared at the bird feeder to dine with us. The boys were wide-eyed! They whispered for me to be quiet and “come see.” A couple of little birds had landed to grab a to-go dinner of their own at the same feeder. The boys had ice cream bars and cupcakes and found “moon rocks” and feathers. That little family left first from the gathering but the sound of their joy stayed behind.

The rest of us lasted until long after the sun was gone and the moon was up and a chill had set in the air. It just felt — for a few hours — so normal.

We are all on edge. With kids back in school, whether online or in classrooms, we have watched families in our community make difficult decisions based on what was best for their own family. The blame and judgment stuff is best left to higher powers. We are literally doing the best we can each day. And we all feel like everyone else somehow has this all figured out.

They don’t.

What COVID has done is to recalibrate for each of us what matters and who matters. There is a stark clarity to these days that doesn’t allow for pettiness. The is an otherworldliness to the world that is hard to interpret through epic wildfires and hurricanes and Mother Earth throwing plates in the kitchen against granite walls. We get it. We have to be the change — right now — the planet cannot wait any longer.

Back in the early 2000s there was a television series called — “Joan of Arcadia” — starring Amber Tamblyn. The theme song was sung by Joan Osbourne. It was quirky and — haunting.

If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?
And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
And yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?
Just tryin’ to make his way home
Like back up to heaven all alone
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome
Like a holy rolling stone…

These days I see heroes in the supermarket and the post office. I realize we are all afraid. Even as the matriarch of my little family I have life no more figured out than those sweet little boys who found such joy in witnessing the deer at dusk. Except maybe it is just that simple. So I will try so much harder to be aware of the holy rolling stones in my path each day, including Sundays in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder and director emeritus 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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