An Abundance of Potions

Days 27 & 28 – The Decisive Moment

Good morning to all 228 readers. Here we are, two fortnights from when we started, at our final email. I hope you've found as much comfort in reading these letters as I have in writing them.

This list will self-destruct immediately after my email service tells me all the messages were sent. If you'd still like to hear from me on a regular, albeit less-frequent basis, I do have a weekly Sunday newsletter that I'll be resuming next weekend. I've also put up an archive of these letters on my site, as my email service won't let me turn off new signups without also hiding the built-in archive.

Thank you, thank you, for coming on this journey with me. I've been listening to our quarantine playlist the whole time I've been writing today's letter, and can see myself listening to those songs for a long time to come.


Weekend challenge: Pause, listen, and reflect.

You've come a long way in a brief time. Over the past weeks, you've connected, virtually, with friends and neighbors, and perhaps reconnected with old acquaintances, who are now in your thoughts. You've reached out, across time, distance, and generation, and found that even while isolated at home, you were not alone. And through your actions, to encourage both life and livelihood, you've shown the people and businesses in your community that they weren't alone, either.

You've established boundaries—supple yet structured boundaries—between you and your phone, you and the news. Between personal space and work space, both physical and mental.

You've found ways—valves—to release pent-up pressure, bathing in nature, seeking additional support, and remembering to breathe and laugh. You've cultivated new life, memorialized those who've passed, and considered your own crossing of this bridge of dreams.

You've embraced your creative side, kept a journal, and written letters to yourself. You've made art for the sake of art, and contributed songs to a pretty excellent playlist. You took time, too, not just to create, but also keep alive—to become a steward for what you're a part of, and what's a part of you.

You've done a lot. Or perhaps you haven't. Perhaps you've followed along because you found some aspect of comfort or camaraderie, in these brief letters in your inbox. Acknowledge what you've done so far, and accept that whatever it is—it's enough. Simply staying home and doing nothing—other than trying to be attentive yourself and the ones you love—is more than enough.

From doing nothing: White swans float in the gondola-empty canals of Venice, and fish are visible in the now-clearer waters.

From doing nothing: The mighty Himalayas can be seen in the distance in Punjab, in Northern India, for the first time in thirty years.

From doing nothing: The world's emissions are on pace to drop this year by 5 percent or more, the largest decline since World War II.

In its original English usage, the word crisis referred not to a time of great difficulty or danger, but its turning point, a "vitally important or decisive state of things, [a] point at which change must come, for better or worse." Crisis, in other words, isn't the accident, but the moment right before. Crisis is the pregnant pause. Crisis is the flipped circuit breaker in engines of production and commerce. Crisis is the brisk wind, clearing the smog of everyday busy-ness, making more visible than ever the social, racial, economic disparities in the world.

Crisis is a handbrake. On a global and personal level. The first thing to do is let it stop you. To not keep trying to push the accelerator, to not keep trying to power through and return to the way things were. If crisis asks anything of you, it's to take the time to reflect and do nothing—other than be deliberate, and attentive—first about your life and choices, and then the ones in your family and communities, and so on, in widening circles.

Crisis is a challenge: To listen, in this decisive moment, for the opportunity to change.

There is no end
To what a living world
Will demand of you.

(Octavia Butler)