Part poetry, part self-help handbook, A Poet’s Survival Journal in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Mind, Body and Soul Reflections is the author’s personal form of recovery therapy, after living in self-isolation for two months fighting the virus with neither hospitalization nor drugs, relying only on natural remedies, yoga and meditation skills to confront and defeat the virus. Originally meant as a way to help her brain function properly again and dispel the pain from her lungs, legs and kidneys, the book takes us on a journey teemed with poems, photographs, memories, lists of vegetables, mystical epiphanies, pieces of practical advice and academic evidence on natural remedies’ effectiveness.
The book is explicitly divided into two parts, the first of which (in English only and without a title) represents a lyrical hindsight of the experience with the virus: “Cracks in the sea are like cracks in your/ Heart; Hidden you reach bottom./ Fathoms beneath my/ bed,/ Covers blanket my existence […] I drop through a gap, into a trench beneath reality.” In her solitary cell, through constant practice and mindful awareness of the now, the author finds a way to be re-kindled by life, thanks to Beauty unexpectedly waving her small manifestations back into the mind, the soul, and the heart: the first memory of snow, a seed growing and sprouting into vegetables, the sky blooming with birds and colours. All things slowly help “to unhinge, wither, the stone door to my Soul”, and to dissolve all fear and dread, all clinging to futile things. Part Two (in English, named “What I learned”, followed by a translation in Spanish called “Mi aprendisaje”) is instead conceived as an essay-like complement to the lyrical flashes pinned down in part one, and also as a sort of “easy-to-read” explanation for those who may feel taken aback by poetry (though, by contrast, all the academic reference included in part two to give evidence to natural remedies’ effectiveness proves to be too long and “easy-to-skip” rather than “easy-to-read” if you are not into these kinds of things).
Personally, I’ve found some portions of Part Two ̶ notably the “Soul” section ̶ more poetical than part one, or at least resonating with lyrical truth just as much as some sections of Part One do: as she recounts once again the exact moment in which she discovered “the Heart of the planet” under the sea, Ruiz Scarfuto recalls her childhood memory of seagrass brushing her arm and realizes how astounded she was/is “by the essence of Time; how it looses under water”, how it helps her catch a glimpse of the connection there is between her own hidden heart and the universe’s. We might say the whole writing in the book generates from a single question ̶ “how did the stone heart crack?” ̶ converging to the answer while exploring the violent, unpredictable effects of the virus but also seeing beyond them. As writing gradually bears witness to the heart breaking, it also learns how to acknowledge the weight of our result-driven society on the author’s conscience: condemned to life-long performance and hysterical multi-tasking, we are constantly fuelled by efficiency as if it was the only thing that mattered, only to see our life crumble bit by bit, day by day. Yet going to battle, through pain and illness, we can find ourselves again, find our way to the drop of rain cracking the heart open, at the crossroads “where the inner (finite me) and outer (infinite Cosmic) heart commune.” So as to be able to “honour your friends”, that is actual people, but even plants. Restore sense and lightness into your life, and the rain of joy will flow endlessly on, that’s Ruiz Scarfuto’s advice. It may sound simple, but it definitely is not simplistic, both in Covid-stricken times and in ordinary times.
Rosalinda Ruis Scarfuto- A Poet's Survival Journal in the Covid-19 Pandemic, Re-bound Books, 2020