This morning, I learned that "Quarantine", a term with which we are all becoming familiar, is a shipping term. The word has a root meaning "forty" and refers to keeping ships out of port for forty days, not allowing them to dock, when they are possibly carrying something dangerous or contagious.
The forty days brings to mind the current season of Lent in the church, which is also for forty days, and is based on the "forty days" in which Jesus chose to quarantine himself in the wilderness, facing the three fundamental questions of life (what truly nourishes, wherein lies my safety and what is my relationship to power).
The image above is of a ship that has not yet docked. Notice the rope neatly coiled on deck. When we dock, we tie our rope to something. During Lent, or during quarantine, we choose to keep our rope (our attaching mechanism) on deck. We don't toss it to shore just yet.
THis is a beautifully loving thing to do.
We quarantine to stay safe, but we also quarantine to prevent ourselves from passing something on to someone else.... there is a beautiful responsibility here. If I choose NOT to quarantine because I feel pretty good and don't sense that I am vulnerable, I miss that I might be carrying something(not in my awareness) that would harm someone else. The opportunity we have is to explore and take responsibility for what we might carry to others.
I notice in my life that there are many times during the day when I have thoughts or feelings that I would like, habitually, to tie up somewhere, to something or someone else.
I notice that if I wake early, particularly before the morning light, whatever has been swimming about in my psyche all night is what first occupies my awareness and tries to attach to things, like my thoughts or the details of my life. Fears beg for attention. If I don't give them loving attention, they become demanding. I am learning that I must not make decisions or have serious conversations with others before daylight! My fears and other shadowy parts need care, attention, comfort. They do not need to "drive the ship" or be in the executive position.
The challenge for me this lent and during this time of quarantine is to keep my ropes on deck awhile. I check the ropes for kinks, knots, integrity. I carefully coil them so that they wont knot or trip someone when thrown to shore. I have a chance, now, to take responsibility for what occupies my head and heart space before I dock (engage). This metaphor is rich for me this lent. For forty days, can I tend to my own shadowy, painful, critical energies with a kind of loving presence as if I were with a cranky child? Can I soothe these things in myself before throwing my rope toward a tying post … toward my habitual attaching places?
This is a beautifully loving thing to do... to choose not to attach and send my energies to the first willing victim. The temptation is strong to see the shadow as over THERE and not HERE. But Lent and quarantine offer the possibility of pausing this impulse and holding the ropes on deck first, cleaning them, inspecting and carefully securing them.
While a ship is in quarantine, it is usually relatively close to shore, in calm waters. The opportunity is to be with myself in a new way, to feel the wide and vast and gentle sea that holds me, imagining that it might be loving.
After all, a boat is made for the sea.