While We're Waiting
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passion and intensity.
-the first verse of "The Second Coming," by William Butler Yeats (1919)
There are days for this writer when only poetry will suffice. This week, these days of this week, only poetry calmed me. My parents and many others in what was once a European extended family witnessed Nazi terrorism in 1938. America was their refuge. I was relieved they were not alive on January 6th, another historic day of infamy.
The pundits have spoken, I have nothing to add, I will let this sorry event rest in my writer's brain and heart for now, though I am sure it will surface in my writing in the coming months. Today, I will go for a walk, study French, chat on What's App, prepare my syllabus, listen to opera, watch a documentary about the mayor of Ramallah and then set up a ZOOM conversation with friends. I will wait for a new administration to take hold, wait to be called for the vaccine. I will remain engaged and alert and hopeful while waiting.
And I have a dream. I have a dream that by my birthday—March 10—I will be gathering with friends at Main Course in New Paltz, my new hometown, to celebrate. That day will mark a year, almost to the day, that the pandemic lockdown began. We weren't wearing masks, but I did bring Lysol to disinfect the table. That seemed quaint at the time, a bit eccentric. My friends were bemused, but also grateful. I made no apologies for my weird precautions; I was frightened. Just days later we were told that masks and distancing were more important than cleaning surfaces.
We've learned a lot since then, some of us more quickly than others. I still get chills when friends and family tell me about their protocols, especially if they are much more lax than mine. Hanging out indoors, gathering, traveling to see family, chatting in the supermarket for too long, on and on it goes. And, by now, I really don't want to hear about what others have done, I only care about what I have done, and my immediate family has done—to stay healthy, to stay alive—and I still say, "say safe," at the end of every conversation with everyone I talk to, including my insurance broker, my students and my colleagues, the check-out woman at the supermarket and the mechanic who replaced the battery in my car.Life goes on, and though distanced, we are all in this together, we are connected, perhaps more than ever.
I remember my panic and bewilderment when Dr. Fauci said that all of us would know at least one person who had died or recovered from COVID, or that the one person might be us, or someone close to us. This was not a serendipitous prediction, it was an informed prediction. The scientists saw what was happening—clearly.
I'm hoping this is the last pandemic my husband and I will have to endure in our lifetime. But I am almost certain it won't be the last pandemic in my daughter's lifetime. She, her husband, and their smart circle of friends will know what to do when and if such a tragedy descends on Planet Earth again. They will have less fear, they will be more informed, they will remain steadfast, they will overcome.