Calm in the Eye of the Storm

Issue 4 | The Summer of The Pause

“When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up to become their brother’s keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear and loss.”

Rebecca Solnit

As you enter this week’s newsletter, take a few moments to recall all that cues you to an approaching storm as it rounds the corner: tingling skin… muffled birdsong… stilled trees… plunging temperatures…

What practices have people in your life equipped you with to meet what comes? Perhaps when the electricity cuts out you strike a match — candle flames cast fluttering shadows against the wall, beckoning you to join in their dance to the rhythm of the rain. Or when a green sky signals “Go,” you add to the thundering of feet down an apartment stairwell and into a basement, where stories of past weathered storms turn strangers into neighbors. Freezers empty into feasts. Fear is quelled by company.

Whatever the storms you weather this summer, may you find entry into rooms of generational wisdom that surround you with calm, community, and flashes of delight.

Generative Question
Inspired by Colette Pichon Battle

What practices or rituals offer you calm in the eye of a storm?

Write these down; they may be from experience or something handed down to you. Store them away as anchors — in your journal, a jar, your phone. Return to them whenever you need.

Go Deeper: A playlist for your week

Listen to the full episode with Colette Pichon Battle as part of this week’s collection, alongside other voices from On Being and Poetry Unbound. Click here to save these episodes and listen later.

Colette Pichon Battle is a generational native of the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The ebb and flow of the Bayou was a background rhythm in her childhood to every aspect of life. She did not ever imagine in that childhood that she would one day be known as a “climate activist.” To be with Colette, and experience her brilliance of mind and spirit and action, is to open up all the ways the words we use and the stories we tell about the transformation of the natural world that is upon us blunt us to the courage we’re called to and the joy we must nurture as our primary energy and motivation. She is a vivid embodiment, too, of the new forms societal shift is taking in our world — led by visionary pragmatists close to the ground, in particular places, persistently and lovingly learning and leading the way for us all.

This conversation was part of The Great Northern Festival, a celebration of Minnesota’s cold, creative winters.

“When all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up to become their brothers’ keepers,” Rebecca Solnit writes. “And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear, and loss.” In this moment of global crisis, we’re returning to the conversations we’re longing to hear again and finding useful right now. A singular writer and thinker, Solnit celebrates the unpredictable and incalculable events that so often redeem our lives, both solitary and public. She searches for the hidden, transformative histories inside and after events we chronicle as disasters in places like post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

Priya Parker has become the voice of what it means to gather in this world we inhabit now. She is helping remake the “how” of coming together — and more importantly, the “why.” Long before the pandemic, she points out, we had fallen into rote forms for staff meetings, birthday parties, conferences, shared meals. Virtual or physical, this time of regathering offers a threshold we can decide to cross with imagination, purpose, and joy. This is a conversation with so much to walk away from and put immediately into practice.

What’s a chance encounter in a city that’s never left you?

In this poem the speaker is asked a question by a stranger while standing near the water outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. “Pardon me Old School he / says you know is this a wishing well?” He initially brushes off the stranger, but something happens: a shared coin, a well, a wish that is answered as it is made.

It’s good to share this space with you. See you again next week.

From all of us at On Being, with love.

P.S. Last week, we invited you into the practice of collective wayfinding with someone in your life. Here’s how a few described the experience on our Instagram:




Illustrations by Stephanie DeAngelis


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