Nature doesn’t Mind
The sky has opened up, and buckets of rain come pouring down—the first real super-soaker of the summer.
And yes, April is summer here in Florida.
It is a relief, to see the elements acting as they should, even though the rest of the world seems off-kilter.
Birds still sing, rain still falls, the plants bloom in their preordained succession: First the red camellias of winter, then the tentative red buds, then the splashy hot-pink azaleas, then the irises and amaryllis and lilies of Easter. And finally, the sweet, pungent gardenias and jasmines perfume the warm, sticky air.
Lumbering along behind comes the crepe myrtle, with its summer crown of fluffy white: a tree which struggles with this load till midsummer, when the slightest nudge on a low branch will send blooms pirouetting to the soft grass, like snow.
Nature can do well enough, without us.
In many cases, better. Air pollution cleared in China, during their shut down. Venice’s waters ran clear, during theirs. The congestion and noise that we are used to, has nearly disappeared. Except for the sirens, or course.
Meanwhile, shut in our homes, we resort to different pacifiers, different soothers for our colicky mood.
We eat too much. We stare, dead-eyed, into screens, cringing at the bleakness of the news. We make pot after pot of coffee, though our nerves are already on edge. We bake bread. We clean, furiously. Although there is nowhere to send these unwanted appendages of clutter, that we so mercilessly amputate from our lives.
Children are suddenly underfoot. Or, for the older generation, nowhere to be seen.
Kids are once again, as in the days of cottage industry, solely and incessantly the responsibility of their parents. Veteran homeschoolers chuckle, as the scoffers and naysayers begrudgingly join their ranks.
No more movies at the theater, no more bouncing emporium or wide-open park, no more going for ice cream or a quick burger—deprived of their usual distractions, the kids are no less energetic. They channel their energy through electronics and scramble back and forth across the carpet and vinyl floor, or carve paths on tiny patches of green, their limbs in perpetual motion..
If the family does go for a drive—kids never leaving the car, but trapped in it, with longing eyes– it is in riot gear. Wipes, sanitizing gel, gloves, a maximum coverage scarf. Headgear more familiar from shows like Homeland, than from use in this climate.
Picking up on our fear, the kids become even more rambunctious.
We are, despite all these inconveniences, a very fortunate generation. Things could be worse.
We have the ability to work and educate our kids from home. At least some of us do. This was not available in previous years. Not really. Such things are now possible, if not exactly convenient.
For others, for the “essential” workers–a most dubious distinction, like “special” in the phrase “special education”– it is not possible to escape the danger. Only to try to arm oneself, against it.
Nurses and doctors, policemen and firemen, those who build and repair the roads, airports or man grocery stores: they cannot flee to their villas in the hills, like the patrician Romans fled from the plague. We who can are fortunate, indeed. Though it may not be enough to save us.
Our listlessness, in the midst of our privilege, stems from mourning the loss of our familiar, easy life. We miss being able to thoughtlessly, spontaneously, indulge our whims. We miss our simple, ingrained routines, which now, if not road-blocked, are forbidden outright.
Going to the bank. Shopping at the mall. Browsing a crowded bookstore. Going out for dinner. Enjoying a day at the park or the beach. Taking a vacation, or a weekend away. Visiting our family and friends.
Spontaneity now feels like a dangerous luxury. Even closeness carries consequences. At a time, when people most need each other, the human touch is forbidden, or at the very least, considered reckless in the extreme.
Meanwhile, in our tiny homes, made tinier by our entrapment, every problem is exacerbated by its inescapability.
The crying baby, usually soothed by a long drive, now must be endured, making the parent just as irritable. The smell of body odor, or burnt food, or wet diapers, or vomit, or an unappetizing tuna surprise overwhelm us, with disgust.
For years, we have heard reported, that people are receding into their own bubbles. They are preferring their own groups, their own tribes, their own social circles, to anything new or different or contrarian. The echo-chamber of our social media confirms us, in our faith, that our own opinions are righteous.
But at least that tribalism was self-imposed. Now, we find ourselves longing for the new, the different, the bold, the outrageous. The cheerful. While at the same time, we wisely choose the safe, the familiar, and the same.
Our Season Will Come
Yet, this enforced seclusion has caused us to reach out, in new ways. To do a virtual gathering with our elders, the same stubborn seniors who, mere weeks ago, refused to have anything to do with such electronic nonsense.
We find new ways to work and play, dance and sing “together.” Even ways to, remotely, cheer on our heroes in this fight. We find new ways to worship, to vote, and to educate our children.
May we all find new ways to endure this confinement, for as long as it needs to last, to keep us safe.
May we all find new ways to protect our neighbors and ourselves from this master of mayhem which lies within us.
May we all find new ways to retain our sanity, to show our love for one another, and to bolster our hope and belief in a brighter future ahead.
This season is blustery, and cruel, and heedless of the value of our precious fragile lives. Even so, it will pass. And those tender battered buds, who manage to survive the winter, will bloom more gloriously than ever, when their season finally comes.