26 Mar COVID-19; Easter People
I’m not into the tenuous concepts of astrology or (too much) mysticism. But it’s a new moon today. In all our chaos and concern, the world seems to have forgotten, or at least completely de-prioritized, the spring equinox.
That’s right. The first day of spring was five days ago, but quite understandably, it was overshadowed by pressing events. Smashing events. Completely suffocating events. Like how California had just ordered forty million people to stay at home, making the only people there truly thriving are those making internet memes. Five days ago, a plethora of articles were released discussing how grandparents are supposed to explain to their grandchildren what social distancing is and why it’s necessary. Que more memes.
Will the Summer 2020 Olympics be postponed? (Turns out, they sure will).
Is Italy going to survive this? (It will, though separating a nation from an increasingly larger fraction of its population is a philosophy I’m unsure how to break down).
Every beach community in the South is struggling to keep Spring Breakers at home. It’s not exactly breaking news, but the college students of the Southeast do not take kindly to their spring break plans being cancelled. Where will all that pent up sexual aggression and beer-chugging ambition be released? Perhaps COVID is more strategic than we know. (Although, the first strain of COVID-19 not having a terribly high kill percentage is quite clever if you think about it— the virus giving itself more hosts to replicate within. Maybe the mutated versions will be deadlier, but who really knows).
Lists of celebrities and world leaders who have tested positive for corona virus, cancellations of every sporting event and music festival, evacuations of one place to another, vaccination deliberations, and not least of all, videos of people who have self-quarantined doing group exercises or mass karaoke from their apartment balconies across the world. There’s terror and beauty wrapped up beneath the same microscope film-colored gift wrap.
So, of course, no one’s having Spring Equinox parties (unless they’re doing it via Facetime). I’m sure there are gardeners out there celebrating their Narcissus bulbs emerging, but even the most dedicated botany nerds are probably twelve internet tabs away from any flowers. I’m sure the blackberry vines are giving their positions away with their stamen-rich, white and pink blossoms. If only someone was there to see, they’d be prepared for the rubus fruiting a few months from now, when every road and fence line is bunched with luscious, fresh berries. But I have the feeling much bramble will go untouched this year except by birds, deer, and squirrels.
Blackberry picking has been one of those things that, since my childhood, has marked the beginning of summer like the gunshot starting a race. As a kid, my Mom, brother and I raced the rest of the congregation to the bramble patches behind the church. We rolled up our khakis, Mom holding her calico and floral dresses up to her knees, buckets between us, our hands stained purple and red. The difference in blood streaks from the bramble thorns left and the blood of blackberries completely indistinguishable. For a stretch during college, I convinced (quite easily) my fellow mystical-minded Landscape Architecture students to browse campus with me in search of prime picking spots. Most just wanted to get high and talk about plants, but I loved having a freezer full of blackberries, something my Mom and Grandmother approved of when I bragged about it to them over the holidays. These days, it’s me versus the old ladies in my neighborhood. Who can get to the empty lot on Low Avenue after the first heat wave of May? (They do). Who can avoid the timber rattlers while doing so? (I do). Of course, they’re the same, sweet old girls who see me searching fruitlessly (literally) and point east or west to another empty lot I’m unaware of.
But that’s summer, a whole three months away. The world will be a different place by then, though how different, no one can say. Movies like Contagion and Outbreak say very fucking different, indeed. Local restaurants and bars say not too different at all, and in fact, happy hour extends all day today! (pickup-only, orders limited while supplies last). On a real note, if you want your favorite pub or brunch nook to still be around when the world can touch itself again, I suggest you order take out from them instead of freezing more meat than your family will eat in a year. The virus doesn’t infect dead animal, and it sure hasn’t proven to cause any of the mania with God forsaken toilet paper. The most suitable meme I’ve seen yet is the one of two Hazmat technicians walking through an apocalyptic scene. One is saying to the other, through their thick plastic suits, “It’s a shame they’re all dead.” The other replies, “Yeah, but did you see how clean their asses were?”
Everyone’s got their opinions of how this will go (and no one seems to want to listen to anyone else, not even the experts).
The same congregation I picked blackberries with is probably hoping this will all be over before Easter Sunday. They are an Easter People, after all, marked by Hope and Hallelujah. And bless them, as they’re going through not only the stress of this worldwide emergency, but also the renunciation of pasta or wine or social media or whatever else they gave up for merciless Lent— the only scheduled event not cancelled this season.
Some of the hipsters I graduated college with are selfishly hoping COVID will at least last through summer, as domestic airfare has been made cheaper than a night out after midterms. A silver lining there; you’re welcome.
The old ladies in my neighborhood undoubtedly hope it’ll be over as soon as possible, and that the next ambulance to cruise down Low Avenue won’t be heading to them. I hope it’s not either and that they’ll keep beating me to the berries for years.
But the Spring Equinox has arrived, and fittingly. The equinox is the symbol of struggle between light and darkness, quite the metaphor (although the internet has no time for these kinds of meaning-rich memes, not with toilet paper shortages and cat’s wearing N-95 masks). Spring Equinox occurs when day and night are of equal length, the tipping point. As of five days ago, the world is moving toward brighter, longer days, and shorter nights. And yet who is aware? As non-mystically inclined as I’ve grown to be, I’m as symbolically aware as ever.
Spring is here, but the world is not opening up like the pregnant blossoms of wisteria, so purple and fragrant (another childhood memory sweeps in). I drive the streets and see no one, only a few cars at the restaurants or bars. But the satsuma blooms nearly knock me off my feet with sweetness. It’s only driving through my neighborhood that I see people. Working on cars, pressure washing their houses, walking dogs. Most of them wave. Some don’t, perhaps afraid I’ll come say hi. (I won’t).
Interestingly, COVID is bringing us closer to the places we normally only know at the very beginning and end of our days. People are home again. Old dining room tables cleared of junk mail, room made for brothers and sisters who aren’t late for dinner, and who are up in time for breakfast. Over worked Dads have time to talk. Over stressed Mom’s have a little help. There are hammocks restrung and tied between live oaks. Finally laid in. Croquet hoops polished and courses manicured for the first time in a decade. People remembering the techniques of their childhood only to be properly beaten by their grandparents who bizarrely swing the mallets between their legs.
So, maybe the world will be different when this concludes. But touch won’t have to be taboo, as some are already suspecting. Strangers will shake hands again. We will hug without squeamishness and hand-sanitizer. We’ll touch more than elbows. We’ll be closer than six feet. We’ll sit a breath’s distance across from our favorite bartender. Just as the long days of winter have passed, so will the days of fear and uncertainty. We should not rush this time, as quarantine is an absolutely essential step in controlling what could be the worst pandemic since 1918.
But we can still be comforted by the hope of a future. And when the time comes, let’s leave the phase of fear with the last phase of the moon, looking forward to its next fulfillment. Even with all our care and consideration, it’s a time for hope (Hark! my good Spring People) and a time to prepare to spring forward, as soon as the season offers us a safe space to do so.
I cannot imagine a year not picking blackberries. It’s like a fall without leaves beneath your feet. Even with all the sweat and sunburn, summertime in the South is representative of life here. We survived winter, we opened like flowers to the sunnier days of Spring, and we will celebrate the long days of summer. But it’s not just the fruit I can’t imagine missing. It’s the emptiness I feel when thinking of having the thorny bushes all to myself. I want to work alongside the congregation, or talk for hours with to my classmates, or be holed up with my family. It’s greeting the retired couples of my neighborhood, sharing stories with them. It’s dreaming of a lover.
I think we’ll remember this time as one of chaos and worry and food shortages and toilet paper memes. Of job lay-offs, of political conspiracies, of beach closures and social media activism. Of death. But I think we’ll also remember it as a time of re-connection. How we quarantined with only those most essential to our lives. How we used our time to get better at a few things we always wished to. A time of reflection, a microscope held to the details of a previously multitudinous and distracted lifestyle. A simplification. I hope we’ll remember how we sang to each other from rooftops, and how bittersweet it felt to wave to people through windshields. This virus is reminding everyone that we are hardwired to connect to one another. And when we are finally free to pursuit these instincts to be together, whether summer, spring, winter, or fall, it will be the Easter of our lives— the season when hope and fulfillment meet again.
There’s a new moon today. Our lives are changing forever. You might as well use the gift of darkness on these moonless nights to close your eyes and dream of a future you want. Wax with the growing moon, the way the good Easter People do— with hope and hallelujah for might be to come.