Believing in “Ode to Joy”

I was twelve when I learned how to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on the piano.  I was huddled on the bench, my fingers drumming along the keys, spinning through the song on a loop, feeling the exultation as my soul lifted through chords and an octave.  I was lifted.  I was boundless on my unfurled wings as I catapulted beyond the mundane.

Covid-19 has grounded the world.  We live inside our houses and fear the simple act of touching a doorknob.  Buying groceries is literally hazardous to our health.

This afternoon, my state’s governor issued a “stay-at-home” order.  I believe it is against the law to leave my house for reasons other than buying food or supplies, going to the hospital, going to work, or getting exercise in fresh air.

I am not complaining.

I am in absolute compliance not because I am a sheep but because I refuse to add to the already over-whelmed hospitals.  If staying in my beautiful home is a way to help others, then home I stay.

And as an introvert…that’s not half bad.

But I’ve walked loops around my town.  Long, endless four-mile loops that I keep walking and walking and walking.  The mountains are so close that I can see their shadows when the sky is clear.  Today, the wind gusted through the pine trees in my neighbor’s yard and I felt the terrific urge to pull on my hiking boots and run to the mountains.

But they are too far away and that is non-essential travel.

I migrate from window to window, door to door, and stare at the garden beds that need trending.  And I work in them but feel like buying mulch doesn’t quite qualify as buying supplies.  I am a nomad in my yard, moving through shadows and loving the feel of the sun breathing on my skin.  My head swivels toward bird songs and I exult in each peal echoing from my trees.

I am happy.

But I am restless.  I have the time, the weather, and the ability to hike.  I am so much closer to the mountains.  But I am trapped in my four-mile loop because the roads I walk on quickly transition from town road to country lane with no shoulder and I am not going to be one of those pedestrians who selfishly consume the road which is not meant for me.

Being outside, traipsing along roads while my mind grinds through anxieties and neuroses helps maintain a level balance in my head.  But the constant numbers skyrocketing through x and y axes quakes that precarious balance.  I coil my fingers around the ballast supports and lift my head and feel the confidence burrowed somewhere.

But I still seek the escape, the hope, the normalcy that I didn’t realize I truly missed.

Yesterday on the Sunday Today show, I saw the video about the music students who recorded a powerful rendition of “What the World Needs Now is Love…”  And I was moved.  I felt the lifting, the surge to rise beyond the unsettled emotions that captured me in my seat.

My cousin posted this video today, though, one that took me to see the Rotterdam Philharmonic Ode to Joy.    And the child within me, the one who finds passionate and simple joy at the birdsong surging through my trees, the one whose heart lifts at the sight of the tulips lining the sidewalk in front of my house because they reminded me of my girlhood.

As each musician took up his or her instrument, the sense of peace surrounding me today drew tighter, embraced me more.  I am living not alone.  I am not really that isolated.  I am staying at home.  I am not going to work anymore.  The principals in my school have volunteered to photocopy each and every teacher’s assignments to keep us safe.  I will not see my friends, just like everyone else who are also complying with the stay-at-home orders.

I am physically alone in some regards.

But I am so not alone.  I have been receiving good will messages from friends and family today.  I make phone calls and video chats and stand within the sunshine and feel the presence of the Lord.  I am surrounded by everything.  I am part and parcel of the world.  I am within.  I am..

I am joy.

My first name means “Joyful Spirit.”

Today, I found my name.

Be joyful world.  We are not defeated.  We will not be defeated.  We are alone physically.  And yet, spiritually, we are so together.

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