Still Life

Week old flowers, water bottle vase, hotel, Belgrade.

The Taliban is about to reach Kabul. Haiti has just been shaken by another major earthquake. And the Delta variant is ripping across the world, including much of the US.

I wake to these headlines in my hotel room in Belgrade, Serbia, along with news that folk singer Nanci Griffith passed away yesterday at the age of 68.

We left Greece two weeks ago and in just that time wildfires have ripped across Greece and Turkey while Italy recorded a record temperature of 48c. The six weeks we spent there were searingly hot, though I didn’t realize that was as abnormal as it was. An Instagram ad pops up in my feed, selling what looks like an astronaut helmet/mask, said to combat bad, smoky air, or “our new normal”. Outside it is hot in Belgrade today and a nearby trash dump is on fire so an acrid smell wafts through the city. I stay inside, except to go buy toothpaste.

I am ready to go home but still have over a month to go.

I concentrate on my meditations, both to combat homesickness and a sense of helplessness at the state of the world. I don’t know what else to do, nor, it seems, does anyone.

The disconnect of working on a movie in a country with a low COVID case count and the headlines I read daily is disconcerting. I think about one year ago and how unbelievable my current life would have seemed. And then I wonder, what has really changed? Anything? And then I decide to just stop thinking about it.

I look at the beautiful flowers in my room, over one week old and still going strong. I listen to a Nanci Griffith playlist and think about the cross country road trip I took with my family when I was twelve during which we listened to her for much of the way. I bury my head in a book and decide to stop checking the headlines. Maybe there is something to burying your head in the sand. Or just retreating into beauty. It’s still there.

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