We traveled through the eighth month of the year dealing with Covid-19. We would have wanted to live all this time in a capsule, in a hyperbaric chamber, in hibernation, and go outside only when it all happened. But so many things have happened in the global village in these seven months… And what is life without the experience of everyday life, of what happens and happens to us.
No matter how isolated we were, we couldn’t be without hearing the beating of the world, the multiple stories, from the origin and spread of the new coronavirus and the follow-up to the health crisis, to the social effects of an African-American suffocation by a cop in Minneapolis. Isn’t that quite one story?
On the island we have not been oblivious to the events outside, but also inside things have happened. And for everything there are criteria and positions that cause dissequents and shocks when intolerance emerges, the voices that scream louder because they want to be the only ones heard, the ones who believe themselves to be bearers of the truth.
Word New wanted to share the expressions of a group of diverse voices to offer to its readers as a sample of the personal and collective experiences that have been lived in this peculiar and amazing leap year, this twenty-twenty turned quarent(en)a.
We have asked these people to tell us about their experiences in these months, how their days have passed, how they have faced the challenges and what reading they make of what happened, what their ideas are about it.
My Tree of Life
By Yasmín Sierra Montes
I always receive the years with some suspicion and this was no exception; looked forward and perceived a certain fog that caused me apprehension. At last in March the year two thousand twenty undressed before me with all its fierce discomfort.
When the news of the pandemic arrived I thought it would be controlled like Ebola in Africa, but certain nations minimized the contagiousness of this virus and so, irresponsably, spread around the world at a astonishing rate. I am a family woman, so I mean that I am very attached to my house, to my two daughters and my four grandchildren, also to my husband, and when I heard the news of death I cared about everyone and me. My body is the temple of my God, I take care of him, I respect him and I feared the worst.
The reality was that a terrible disease ravaged the world by spreading dizzyingly and there was no cure for it, we were all exposed. The roads were closed, there would be no trips, no daily work, no visits to friends, no Church. that’s why I turned inward and started performing, like Robinson Crusoe, castaway on an island, small tasks to accomplish to survive time. Readings, writing poetry, meditations, prayers… were common to me.
I would wake up early to hear the news, make breakfast apesadumbrate by the past and then come back to my reality: I played with my three-year-old granddaughter Sofia, who lives up to the meaning of her name because she possesses amazing intelligence, and with my twin grandchildren, José Antonio and José Guillermo, two years old, who like to confuse us and make mischief. My other granddaughter, Lorraine, who lives with her mother in Costa Rica, is very focused and studious. He’s seventeen years old and he’s already read all the books that from one generation to another are happening to us, those that I read in my youth and I’ve been bequeathing my daughters to do the same. He prayed and prayed for all for health and trusted and asked that God’s healing hand be laid upon humanity.
That is why I added other things to my daily bregar: I began to perform with my hands a Tree of Life to celebrate, in the midst of chaos, an action of worship of the created by God. Genesis 1, verse 3, reads: “Then God the Lord planted a garden in the Eden region of the east and put there the man he had formed. He also grew all kinds of beautiful trees that gave good fruit to eat. In the middle of the garden he also laid the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
On my visits to certain Latin American countries I investigated an “adornment” that was repeated. I met them carved in wood, clay, ceramics… of different materials, and I decided to make a very simple one, with a material called fomi or Eva rubber, very similar to felt, but with a gummy texture, which my daughter brought from the country where she lives to make crafts. Every time I felt anguish I would go to my tree and place an animal, a plant, anyway, something created by God and say to me, If God created this world he will never destroy it. I must take your play.
The size of my tree is about a quartet, it is green on a black background, it has sturdy branches and trunks, inside it are embedded tiny beings of dissimilar colors and none goes over an inch; sometimes he would walk a whole day to trim the parts of each animal with a small scissors.
Upstairs I placed the sun (the light as a sign of the creator), then a couple of human beings and so I descended with other animals and plants, which for me had some meaning. One day I told a friend, wanted to see him and decided to build one, also my eldest daughter and others. Each of us celebrating creation with its own tree.
I did not spend the day just making my tree, while repeating a verse that pleases me very much: “The Lord is my shepherd, nothing is lacking. even if I pass through the darkest of the valleys, I will fear no danger, for your Lord, you are with me; your stick and your cane inspire confidence.”
Also in this time of uncertainties and doubts, I read books that I had waiting, I wrote glosses that I sent to a group of friends that we turn every week a quartet or quintilla and make our improvisation. I finished a novel. I emailed jobs to contests. I planted new flowering plants in my garden, which I take care of every day. I picked up some clothes and transformed dresses. I redecorated some corners of my house. And as usual I also faced contradictions, scarcity, dark choices from others, and hours of hopelessness that I tried to make them last little.
My tree of life helped me lighten the effects of isolation and bad news that leave deep traces on my soul. Occupying the mind in small tasks helps mitigate the memory of unpleasant events.
My Tree of Life is already ending. I invite anyone who reads these confessions to develop his and thus celebrate all that God gave with his creation to the men and women of this world.
Yasmín Sierra Montes is a poet and novelist. He has published twenty books inside and outside Cuba. She is a historian of her hometown, Saint Nicholas of Bari. He is a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Cuba.