“The day and time itself: late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?”
― Alice McDermott
It was in February, one year ago, when we went to Finland to visit Joy and her family. We took an Icelandic flight out of Seattle. We had read what was happening in Wuhan, but reassured ourselves that we weren’t going to Asia. But, that morning, before we boarded the plane, we saw in the news that Seattle had just recorded its first death of someone with Covid-19. When we changed planes in Reykjavik, many fellow travelers were wearing masks. And, because thousands of Chinese tourists could not leave their country, for a popular February holiday at the North Pole, we were able to book a last-minute trip to Rovaniemi, and experienced a magical reindeer sleigh ride under the stars and the Northern Lights. By the end of the month when we flew back to Seattle, terror was everywhere, around the globe.
It’s been a long time now since we were all frantically searching for toilet paper and Lysol wipes. Who could have comprehended that a year later, there would be over 450,000 Americans dead from Covid; who would have believed that we would now be waiting in lines for a vaccine, developed in record time. Now, all the world is in a great hurry to get scarce and precious vaccines into arms, and outpace new and dangerous variants of the virus. To make our way out of this dreadful past year.
I was so hopeful a week ago, on the first day of February. It was a beautiful sunny warmish day with not a breath of cold wind. We put the Christmas tree out on the porch, and I celebrated the Celtic tradition of Imholc, or St. Brigit’s, with its rituals to welcome the new season on its way. Mainly, you’re supposed to dust out the cobwebs to clear space, so I dusted my living room. And, you’re supposed to embrace the warming air, so I sat on a rock by the water, delighted in the sunshine, and dreamed of spring and summer days ahead, in the company of friends and family, safe together. I hope.
Yesterday morning, it started snowing, and the cold we’ve missed out on all winter, is finally on its way. The NOAA meteorologist started the forecast discussion with, “Sound the trumpets–arctic cold and snow on the way!”, and concluded with, “The cold will be brutal, especially considering the very mild winter the region has seen thus far this year.” Why couldn’t this storm have been last month, closer to the Winter Solstice. I wanted a blizzard last month, but not now, when I am so longing for the lightness of spring. In the middle of the night, I heard the creaking and popping sounds of our house, as the wood contracted in rapidly falling temperatures. Did I moan, or was that the sound of the trees, or the roar of waves on the lake. I am feeling stuck in this ‘Dark Winter’ we knew was coming, and I’m exhausted by stories of vaccine shortages, the science articles about virus mutations, the questions about efficacy and silent transmission. I am anxious to leave the fever in our cabins and look for the promises kept to us, each and every spring.
Judging by the February poetry I read yesterday, next to a warm and cozy fire in my living room, grumpiness is often this month’s trademark, even without the presence of Covid-19. Yet, I do have to admit that the big snowflakes, swirling this way and that out my kitchen window this morning, look quite pretty, so soft and delicate, and it feels like a good day to be tucked into one’s cabin.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…