I was fascinated this past week with a photographic essay in the latest Audubon magazine on the phenomenon of the seventeen year cycle of the cicadas. https://www.audubon.org/news/birds-may-hold-clues-bizarre-life-cycle-brood-x-cicadas The account reminds me about the amazing and almost unimaginable complexities of the natural world. The cicada story confirms the importance of humbly maintaining a sense of awe and wonder as I ponder how and why such phenomenon were created over evolutionary history - and then just rejoicing in the mystery of it all!
And then I got to thinking of our current “reentry” process from Covid and the related mysteries and questions about what we have endured during a planetary virus. And now what does it mean to resume to the still evasive sense of “normal” that continues to impact our lives. As much as I have enjoyed the opportunity to again travel and attend maskless gatherings with friends, I’m not yet nearly truly “reentered" as long as it still doesn’t seem safe, especially given continued accounts of locals testing positive and the threat of the Delta variant.
The reentry challenge clearly involves taking the time to adjust from one aspect of life to another. Unlike the cicadas, I don’t want to have a short-lived, wild spree after spreading my clumsy wings, singing in a mighty chorus into the night, reproducing, and then disappearing again for seventeen years - no doubt as equally amazing as that would be for me! I continue to realize how significant the many ways the months of the life-threatening and disorienting Covid were. How long will my psyche and soul need before I have made full sense of it all - if ever? So I’m asking myself how I can best handle the pace of the transitions with grace, good health and safety. I don’t have a clear answer, but it is a good question to monitor.
And I think how I have needed to adjust to a good many “mini-reentries” in life - going back to my old home and family after time away; retirement; plane travel that involves quickly adjusting to new environments; or recovering from an illness or incapacitation. The body and soul needs time to tentatively readjust, whether or not we are aware of the need, from where we have been to where we are now.
And then there are the "major reentries" of life: coming back from extended time overseas or on leave, or even more more traumatic, coming home from war or prison.
One of the most imposing words to prisoners is “reentry.” Coming out of the restrictions and deprivations of prison life into a vastly changed world, struggling to reestablish relationships and self-reliance - most often against a societal stigma and laws that continue to punish and deprive - can be extremely difficult, and perhaps not too unlike the seventeen year cicada who must quickly emerge and learn to spread those new wings and fly against the odds. I think overcoming the barriers and hardships of prisoner reentry is perhaps the most poignant and difficult impacts of imprisonment, and I am always aware of how difficult it can be, and how much support is needed to succeed. (And, of course, this would be even more traumatic when a soldier returns back to society after active, war time military service.)
The message, then, is that we need to be aware of our need to take the time to adjust from significant disruptions in our lives. We certainly would do well to be patient with ourselves and support others for whom the transition may be even more difficult. I am a big supporter of the big federal aid programs now being legislated, for instance. And like most reentry challenges, we have to try to cope with the political and social confusion that continues to plague us as well. So we need to stay vigilant and engaged in supporting those who are leading us through the transitions with integrity.
And finally we need to acknowledge that our nation, and the planet itself - all of us - are engaged in a momentous process of reentering a world of now post-Covid historical consciousness and reckonings as we emerge from a challenging and often resented awareness of our years of exploitation, denial and amnesia. I continue to believe we simply must develop and nurture an ever greater spiritual practice of waiting and trusting. We need that kind of help to maintain and accept our context in such a mysterious, confusing, and dangerous historical evolution of planetary life. (And maybe we could learn something about waiting and trusting from the cicadas.)