When I look back at my post from one year ago, I hear exhilaration, fear and uncertainty, but mostly an exhale that the business of life has halted. The post is filled with bursts of cheer with lines like, “Here we are. On our own couches. In the middle of our own living rooms. Reading an actual magazine. In loungewear. Bought online. Yeah. There are a few perks during the scary and dark days which have clouded our planet and forced us all indoors. I am not here to tell you what you should be doing to survive these days, but just wanted to let you know that we will, mostly, and I for one plan to celebrate epically on the other side.” By the end of the post, I was certain that hope for all was on the horizon, “I do not want to diminish the suffering for all the sick, for the families grieving those already lost, for this is a disaster that no one deserves. To think so is pure cruelty and folly. There is no telling where we will all be on the other side of this pandemic, but I know we will all have stories about heroic neighbors and sweet strangers, tales of unmeasurable fortitude and creative-energy bursts, new alliances and newly-developed passions. And most of all, a real understanding, like for real, that we are indeed one world. One small world.” I envisioned this new Still Life in the most temporary of terms, with joyous outcomes by summer.
When I reflect back to last March I am struck by my enormous naivete. Thinking COVID-19 cases would be quickly identified and quarantined, and the masses would be spared. Little did I understand how rapidly the virus would spread unchecked, how ill-prepared our bare-bones Trump administration would be to pivot away from whatever they were busy with to whatever they could to protect us, how people would put their faith in Facebook mistruths over scientific facts, and all the rest of the missteps that got us to 536,000 deaths in the United States alone. My hands shake typing that number. It feels criminal.
I can’t talk about the upside of this pandemic anymore. It is time to get Truths from those with the right to air them. It is time to lend a hand to those who lost so much this year, and more than ever need our care. It is time to keep our masks on, keep restrictions in place, and invest in a well-supported roll out of vaccinations. As a life-long educator is seems relatively simple to me, but yeah, I am the naive one still.
Last March I had boundless energy. I took to exploring my yard like Lewis & Clark. In and out of the woods, up and down the hills, I wore out my sneakers before summer. We learned how to order wine and chocolates and toilet paper and cans of tomato paste and cleaning products via Fedex. We moved our dining table to the picture window to watch the birds and feel the warmth of the sun while we lunched. We played countless board games and zoomed with family and friends with regularity. We used all the food in our refrigerator with more care. We ordered single layer masks, then double, then triple layered with space for a filter, but stayed put all the same. We laughed heartily during our nightly cocktail hour and worked long days at home like the most industrious of bees. We stayed home like champions. By June we felt like quarantine pros. Summer came with glory, autumn too, and even through the long winter months we kept warm. But what a long hard year we have all endured, losing many bright stars.
This March I am fighting exhaustion. Tired of hearing that insane fight over the Presidential election, or the falsehoods about the Capital insurrection that emerge from Republicans like toxic fumes, the clear and obvious home-grown racism rooted everywhere you can turn a spade, and now, the debate over vaccinations is sapping me of my last reserve.
Today over lunch we talked about a world where people live within a personal moral code. They help their neighbors, raise children with kindness, and where access to health care and education and housing and justice is given to all citizens, not just the rich white ones. But as we sipped our afternoon tea we acknowledged that idyllic world seemed farther away than it did a year ago.
Maybe it is only the sky heavy with rain clouds or the uncertainty we march into that is causing my fatigue. Maybe it is the brutal darkness that comes before any glimmer of dawn that so tests my faith. Maybe Spring is just a strumpet who loves to tease about all the sweetness that will come.
Returning to my post from last March, I read to find that innocent hope, which so fueled me then. “We need to keep looking up at that big blue and allowing it to sink into our black. We are all stronger than we think. More durable and flexible and resilient too. There is little we can’t do when we work together. In fact, there is nothing we can’t do. Even alone we can all stay connected and be here for each other.“