“Shouldn’t the wreath come down now?” asks one voice inside my head each time I pull in the drive. “No, it still looks pretty,” says the other voice. The berries in the wreath and the live green ribboned thing itself do brighten the entrance, surrounded by the gray backdrop of late winter. Wreaths of evergreen are a symbol of eternal life. They remind us that spring will come. This one just looks friendly, welcoming.
But no one is dropping in right now, of course, except the fuel truck (too often) and an occasional UPS driver. But things are starting to crack open in more ways than one. We have been told that, after receiving vaccines, we must continue to wear masks because we don’t know if we might still be carriers without symptoms.
I was talking with a friend at a small outdoor event the other morning and, when the subject of vaccines came up, she appeared to step back a couple of feet, right after I said, “No, I’m scheduled, but have not had my shots yet.” She is a very careful one. I respect that wholeheartedly. And I might have only imagined her movement was in response to my not-yet-vaccinated condition. I caught myself going out single- and not double-masked today, though. Might be that slackening of caution we’ve been warned about.
There is a seasonal stasis heightened by our Covid moment. We are in a bit of a muddle now about next steps, changed behaviors, right? Some of us vaccinated, many not. We deplore the states that are pretending it’s all over, back to business as usual. And we celebrate the possibility that our friends will be able to reopen their restaurants and other small businesses in the spring.
Still, the warning rings in our ears: getting sloppy now would bring a new wave of Covid-19 restrictions and heartbreaks. Resilience in the face of so much loss is wearing thin.
Some things might feel possible: Masked walks with friends? Hugs with vaccinated family members? Visits with new grandchildren? Travel? Maybe not so much, unless you need to get somewhere. This year has been excellent preparation for a lifestyle of cutting way back on fossil fuels for this maker of carbon footprints. I’m celebrating that change and plan on making it last.
I’m humbled by the challenges our teachers and students have been managing. But I confess to a resistance to this shutdown ending. So many books not yet read, trails not yet walked, home projects not done, writing endeavors not finished. More time, please, for listening to music, practicing new recipes, and working on urgent social issues with socially distanced friends! This is clearly the privileged conundrum of one who has reached Social Security age. Thank you, FDR and Frances Perkins (she was his labor secretary).
I experience the stillness of winter as sacred, slowing down my busy mind. Maybe the thing I most fear is that I will not have quieted myself enough before the busy normalcy of life resumes.
A neighbor across the pond told me a decade ago that when she and her now late husband kayaked by, they would slow down and let the cacophony from our unlandscaped, brambled bank wash over them. They called our place Bird Song Hill. Today, on coming back up from the pond, I couldn’t help noticing the birds are singing a lot of different songs now.
Maybe, if I leave my holiday wreath up, I can hold back the cacophony of this complicated human world that will be on us again.
I’m living an oscillation of gratitude and hesitation. For now, looking forward to cooking for people, dropping in on friends and cousins, hugging when we part company, and getting to work in the yard when it warms up. Maybe some hanging potted plants where the wreath hangs now.