This continues to be a unique summer. Different. Devoid of the usual activities, for the most part. Not enough barbecues with family and friends. No quick trips to the Beer store or the LCBO. No jaunts and hikes out on the neighbouring trails, parks and conservation areas. Golf, anyone? Eyeing passers-by with trepidation on the sidewalk when out for a leisurely stroll in the neighbourhood. Ennui setting in from an overdose of Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and all those “time pass” shows. Mastering Zoom/Skype calls with family and friends to stay “socially connected”, but getting tired of it all with nothing new or interesting to talk about. ABSOLUTELY fed up of watching the Situation Room on CNN regurgitating Covid statistics and The President’s tweets to make America Great while ignoring the pandemic. Ditto, with other News channels and papers from around the world. Devouring books, even as libraries worked skeletal shifts to keep things moving. (Re-)discovering the pleasure of another person’s fingers tracing the scalp and trimming hair in a salon, after four months of snipping away at the unruly mess while seated in the bathtub. Oh, and being able – finally – to pick up that order from our favourite Thai Siam restaurant after a four-month hiatus – divine!
Prevailing circumstances have also forced us to pause and reflect. These beautiful lines from William Davies’s poem, “Leisure” ring especially true now:
“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare”.
Many brave souls still continue to hold the fort, managing the front lines and rallying to keep the rest of us safe, fed and healthy. Each of us owes them a debt of gratitude. They must remain first and forefront in our thoughts even if we think the “emergency” is receding. School teachers and parents certainly do not think so.
Lockdowns are being eased. Our kids and grandkids have started to show up, seated at one end of the driveway while we are kept socially-distant, at the other end. Grandkids tug at our heartstrings when they insist on giving us a “tight hug” while maintaining a distance of six feet. “It’s the stupid virus” they remind us sombrely “and mama says we have to stay away to keep you guys safe”. There is recompense available, though. We are able to spend more time cycling or going for exploratory walks on neighbourhood trails.
Last week, our grandkids – S (9 years old), J (6) and R (4) – had all come over after a gap of several months. Young J was riding her bike and said she was going to be the “scout dog” and bike ahead to the neighbourhood trail and provide us directions while making sure “there are no animals; I will keep you guys safe”. The youngest R, a great fan of Paw Patrol, kept urging his grandmother to jog with him so that we do not lose sight of our “dog” and get lost. The oldest S, kept checking her Fitbit for the weather forecast, reminding us, as the first raindrops started to fall, that a storm would be upon us in 48 seconds! She was humming the song,
“It’s raining it’s pouring, the old man is snoring
He went to bed and bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning”
J paused midstride, turned to me and pointedly asked, “So, what is this even supposed to mean? Did the old man die?” Trying to remain politically correct, with a straight face I led us into a discussion on nursery rhymes and how some of them had pretty morbid histories. Like “Humpty-Dumpty” falling off a wall, “Jack and Jill” tumbling down the hill and “Ring-a-ring-o-roses, a pocket full of posies” etc. Fortunately, young R heard something just then and helped change the subject by asking me what kind of birds were making the loud sound all around us. I explained what cicadas are and that they were responsible for this buzzing sound; he nodded sagely, trying to reach out and clasp my wife’s hand.
We literally ran back home, just ahead of the gathering dark clouds and the thickening rain drops. My young troops helped move the chairs and their paraphernalia left out on the driveway, into the garage. It was then that young R spotted a spider in a shimmering cobweb just inside the garage. He decided it was best to stay outside the line of the garage door and direct others’ efforts. S asked him if he was scared of spiders and he indignantly replied, “No, I am not!” She persisted, “So, why are you not coming into the garage?” The four-year old said, “I don’t know” and after a few seconds of thoughtful silence, solemnly added, “I have no answer to that question!” I encouraged a dialogue on how spiders use liquid silk in their bodies to make cobwebs that trap bugs. Young R frowned, “Do the bees also get caught in the cobweb?” I said that sometime they did. “But I don’t want spiders to catch the bees” he worried, “because bees make lots of honey for us”. Unbeatable logic!
While living through uncertain times, we have to look for shimmery, gossamer moments that we can hang on to. Stand and Stare. Pause to gratefully express “shukrana” (thanks) for all that we are blessed with; and Gracefully share our blessings with those that are less fortunate.
Alanis Morissette does it well in “Thank U”.
Be well and stay safe.