This essay was originally written on a quiet morning on March 26th after our first week of being under the COVID-19 stay-at-home order issued by the Ohio government. This was technically our 3rd week home due to Nadia’s scheduled spring break from school. The photos included on this post were taken on April 2nd. It was very important for me to live in the moments I speak of without interrupting the tender atmosphere with my camera.
I wake early and listen. Baby calls to mother. Mother hurries to feed her newborn. Birds and people aren’t so different, are they?
Spring is arriving. Technically, it has already begun. A week into the season of new beginnings and I can’t help but think the timing isn’t intentional and perfect but at the same time, almost cruel. We are quarantined and held captive by our own humanity. The virus is spreading rapidly. Some take it seriously, others do not. I check the statistics once per day to stay informed, yet I choose to remain un-obsessed. My mental health simply isn’t strong enough for that. What I see is both staggering and unbelievable.
We’re living through a very real pandemic.
This is movie stuff. Old photograph stuff. Stuff from a different era where we were less protected, less science-y, less immune. But that’s not how it works, is it?
If spring symbolizes a fresh start, a new beginning, then what do we do during this season but begin again? Learn a new normal. Start fresh.
I cannot control how others perceive this period, but I do have enough personal perspective to know that this will impact my own life for, well, I hope forever. I wish to remember this time long after the reemergence of “normal” because there are far too many lessons to be learned from this. And if I’m being honest, I do not believe we’ll ever go back to what we once knew as normal life. We’ll all be changed by this and will have no choice but to learn new ways, better ways.
Yesterday the sun shone brighter than it had during the early stages of our mandatory quarantine. I haven’t stepped outside for longer than 15 seconds to either take out the garbage or quickly look up at the moon at night. It’s not enough.
Nadia was the first to go out, and like the leader she is, we were all convinced by her charisma and enthusiasm to follow despite our weather apps telling us it was too chilly to be jumping on a trampoline. Sister saw her go and wanted to follow. My oldest leads the only cult I’ll gladly join. She never steers us wrong.
In the sunshine it became warm, and I wrapped myself up in the hug the world was giving me.
Natasha tentatively and happily explored the land, much like an early settler arriving from across the ocean. It was foreign, exciting, a space yet to be touched by her small hands and fast feet. I quickly remembered that this is all new to her still. A year ago, she was in my arms and rarely had been given the opportunity to view the world from farther away than the swiveling patio chair I frequently lounged in on our front porch. If she was really lucky, I’d toss a blanket in the front yard.
I eagerly joined her new exploration.
Is there anything more beautiful than watching a child find joy in the small things? On any other day, I’m the type of person that would cringe at the sight of a shoe making a splash in a mud puddle, surfacing soggy and soiled. The mess, the wet sock, the clean up. I cannot do it. But when Natasha’s moccasin landed directly in the mud, I smiled. It was her first outdoor splash.
She quickly “uh oh’d” as she does about most everything these days and pointed at the murky water settled in our patchy driveway. I assured her that it was ok- shoes can be cleaned. Who was that saying those words in my voice? I hardly recognized her.
We navigated slightly north to our old garden patch that I’ve been sporadically working to repair. The dug up patches have yet to grow grass, and the rain we’ve been having has made the earth soft and tender- not quite wet, not quite dry. The perfect dirt to dig your hands into and gather in your palms. Naturally, Natasha was the first to touch it. We sat down together knowing full well our pants were getting messy and we’d have to strip them off right at the doorstep, but that was the last thing I was concerned about. The first thing was this- why on earth don’t I do this more often?
Why does it take a childs leading to simply go outside without an agenda, without a “job” and gather dirt between my hands and feel it? When did I begin replacing simple joys for greater luxuries, work for play, sighing for breathing?
That is my first lesson during quarantine.
My hands held the ground God gave us and I gently whispered to Natasha (but more for myself): “This is our earth, and it’s a gift to be here in this moment. We’re responsible to treat her well. We’re going to take care of our land together- repair it, nurture it, love it. Feel it, feed it. Let her live.”
I looked to my right and saw Dana jumping high and Nadia laughing at her dada’s silliness. Nothing is different, yet everything is. I’m in love with life, despite our current global crisis, and I have to do my part to keep that love flowing. Beyond that, I have to do whatever I can to remember what is happening around us.
I have to remember the waste we’ve all produced by our comfort and ignorance, and Lord help me to never forget the people who have needs greater than my own.
One day it’s here. The next it’s gone.
I am humbled yet hopeful. Hopeful for our humanity, that we’ll all learn great, deep, valuable lessons from this.
My first is in embracing the simply joys that hold no price tag and receive little recognition. Feet to earth, hands to sky.
Thank you God for this breath and my awareness to take one day, one moment at a time. Amen.