This sheltering in place is getting old! But the seriousness of the situation necessitates us to do our civic duty to our community, family and friends, while at the same time protecting ourselves. My friend called last night and wanted to have a serious conversation about our current situation. Both of us are in our 70’s, both with risk factors. He is struggling with what to do if he gets sick. He wondered, do you ask your spouse or kids to come and take care of you? Best case scenario, you don’t get sick! Option 2, you get sick but you recover! Option 3- you know what happens. So he asked me what I was going to do. Was I going to have my kids come and take care of me or tell them to stay away and keep taking Tylenol. Or do you suffer alone until… ? We don’t want to infect people we love but to just deal without anyone to hold your hand or to whisper loving words seems unabashedly cold. These are really tough decisions and we are going to talk again tonight! There is no doubt that families are having this kind of discussion all over the country.
And yet the last couple of days I have heard the bells ringing. They are hopeful bells, happy bells, even jubilant because they promise that tomorrow, however long today turns out to be, will be better. I worked in the yard yesterday. It was good to clean out the flowerbeds to prepare for tomorrow. I could smell the dirt and the promise of blooms just waiting to form and pop into a rainbow of colors and fragrances. There is anticipation. I saw the signs all around me that until these last few days my eyes were blinded to. All I saw was darkness til now.
But there is no mistaking it. The birds were singing, little green sprouts are popping up in the garden beds. I heard other rakes scraping the ground in neighboring yards. Shouted to neighbors to see how they were doing. The guy next door held out his rake and I held out mine—-we laughed! I guess that’s the new handshake. Leaf bags for pick up were popping up at the curb up and down my street. My neighbor’s lawn service came today and actually mowed. I could smell the grass cuttings! Others are looking to tomorrow as well. It was uplifting!
In spite of the cloud hovering over the nation for the next couple months, I can hear the bells. The ones that toll for sadness are going to be heard but the ones that announce a new beginning will overtake them. And so if we have to look out the window to see the beautiful blossoms for awhile, I’ll press my nose against the glass like I used to when I was a kid and breathe in the fragrance and the sounds and the scenery telling me that hope is on the way! And I will continue to imagine having lunch with my friends, hugging my daughter and son, and sharing a glass of wine at the bar until this darkness lifts and I can actually not be afraid to shake a stranger’s hand again.
George, I really enjoyed sharing your anticipation of better season! What struck me was our need to have contact and mutually celebrate what the earth has to offer. Shake those rakes!
My harbinger of hope is the phoebe, the eastern flycatcher. Lately, we have been hearing its distinctive call. Once upon a time, we rented a cottage in the woods, adjacent to a stream. Our location was a breeding ground for bugs: the brook produced a grand variety of nymph-born insects. I’d take Art Flick’s Streamside Guide down to the water and observe the hatches — and so did the kingfishers and phoebes. We’d watch new insects, small to big — mayflies to Dobson flies — launching from the waterside. The phoebe became a favorite companion. Not too put off by humans, they always chose to fashion their mud and moss homes on the side of our garage, sheltered by the roof overhang. These little guys light on branches or clothes lines and dart to catch flying bugs of all sorts, using quick movement and hovering maneuvers like helicopter pilots.
Phoebes are industrious! We would watch them dodge and juke, nipping their prey and returning to the perch. All the while, flicking their tails and whistling their short ‘pee-wee, pee-wee’. (Now I know some of you are just now thinking about ‘Pee-wee Herman’, but just let that go, already)! Anyway, these fellows are among my favorite birds, along with the thrush, rufous-sided towhee, and cedar waxwing.
Most folks say it’s the redwing blackbird that is the harbinger of spring – although Linda votes for the evensong of robins and peepers — but when I hear the phoebe, I know it’s warm enough for insects… and therefore warm enough for shirtsleeves. I’m also reminded of those pleasant, peaceful days in the woods. Thanks, George!
George led the way this time with hope and anticipation of what is to come. He writes about looking forward to post COVID19. I think we all need to balance dealing with the present with the knowledge and understanding that, like all things, this is temporary, and it too shall pass. Several months from now, we will transition out of restrictive pandemic behaviors into more freedom of choice. I wonder what we will learn from all of this that might inform our future actions.
I heard a psychologist speak on one of the news programs about shifting our current thinking about what we’ve lost to accepting our shelter in place lifestyle as a challenge. A challenge we can meet with an attitude that boasts, “Game On!” I like that. From time to time, it helps to test our mettle and ramp up our self-discipline efforts. And, when we emerge into the sunlight of handshakes and hugs and the freedom to come and go as we please, the connections and liberties will be even more meaningful and appreciated.
As George finds hope and uplifting feelings in the natural signs of spring, so do I. The warmth of the sun, the smell of early blossoms, and the sounds of spring peepers bring a smile to my face during each morning walk with Duke. I also embrace the physical activities associated with preparing the gardens, clearing the detritus left by winter storms, and even the machine maintenance required for keeping the lawns, gardens, and driveway in good order.
I prefer to embrace the blending of two philosophies as I engage in meeting this challenge. I know that the past is gone and the future is not yet, but the present is the place and time for me to make my stand, in style and with a smile. I also know that it is the hope and anticipation of things not yet realized that often adds more joy than the thing itself. I choose both.