I had tea the other day with my English neighbor, who I’ll call Jane. This being COVID Time, we sat outside on her open porch wrapped in quilts, wearing coats and hats and mittens, with lots of distance and a space heater between us. It was blustery and clouds scudded across the weak winter sun, but we didn’t mind. We each wanted to see another face without a mask on and drink some tea and talk.
Jane and I have figured out how much we need this. Her husband, a friendly introvert, is teaching his seminars online now; beyond that, to a large degree, life doesn’t look that different to him on a daily basis. He doesn’t miss crowds at the local street fairs, or stopping for coffee and a croissant at the end of his solitary bike ride. Jane and I are introverts by some measures, but we’re also the sort of people who draw life and happiness from what we’ve termed microbursts of human contact. We’re the sort who’ve never met a stranger, who in the Before Times chatted with people in line and made friendly overtures to folks around us, in the market or walking down the street or otherwise going about their day. I’ve had more than one boss joke with me that if they needed to know anything about anyone’s lives or current situations, I probably had that information.
Among the things we miss, Jane and I miss those daily micro-interactions, the one-on-one, transitory kind that happen constantly if you’re in a city (or crowded suburb) if you choose to initiate them. We not only miss those contacts, but we find the constant calculus behind each interaction now – Is This Person Safe? – utterly foreign to our nature. Everyone’s a stranger behind a mask, and I don’t approach folks to chat any more than I want them approaching me at the moment. We get our errands done, largely in silence, and get out and home as quickly and safely as we can.
As Jane and I sat outside, I realized I could smell my beautiful winter honeysuckle bush I’ve written about on here many times. It blooms faithfully next to my house from about mid-December to February, its blossoms puny in appearance but revelatory in fragrance, the green sweetness of honeysuckle with a twist of lemon. We were probably sitting thirty feet from that bush and I could still smell it over the scent of my chai. It was another small pleasure, along with a hint of sun and taking time for a chat, that made me feel like I can soldier on another day. Later I cut some branches and left them for her on her doorstep, where the still-closed buds can open one by one and perfume her house with their smell. Then I brought some in for myself. Winter honeysuckle is not invasive and is quite cold-tolerant; I have one new small plant growing under my much older bush (a cutting from the bush I grew up with, now long gone) and I’m going to give it to Jane to plant in her lovely garden this spring.
I miss the big things I used to be able to do, and I also miss the little things, like eating an apple at the farmer’s market or drinking a coffee in our local bakery, or browsing at the library. As I type this we’re poised to cross the line to 400,000 dead of COVID here in the US, and that makes me unbearably sad, even though those deaths have (so far) not been anyone near and dear to me. I took so much for granted – all the little things – and from where I sit it’s hard to imagine what life will look like at some point in the future when we’re all not hiding from each other any more. I have made a promise to myself that when that time comes, I will try not to take it for granted again.
I miss those casual interactions with people, too. I can be an introvert indefinitely and have been because of the people I love and take care of, but I have a face like everybody’s mom or grandma and people just talk to me. I miss that!
I’m going to a plant walkthrough on Thursday. I’ll be up on a roof. It’ll be 30F. It’ll be glorious! xoxox
and this is a beautiful post. xoxo
I miss live theatre performances and concerts, from both the performer’s and the audience’s side. I miss being in church with folks, though my online church is pretty darn great. And like you, March, I miss the friendly everyday interactions of life.
This has gone on long enough that it’s getting … weirdly hard to imagine that we all used to just do whatever, mask-free. I look forward to forgetting about masks.
Such a lovely post March! Santa Fe is virtually unrecognizable at the moment. I’m glad I arrived 3 years ago so I could enjoy the things I’ve always treasured about the city of Santa Fe before the pandemic hit. I think we’re headed for another quiet summer with no festivals, which is sad but undoubtedly the safest thing to do. There’s still a tough/frontier but also a “lend a hand to your neighbor” kind of spirit here so we will find a way to thrive I’m sure. Took a beautiful hike in Placitas on Sunday which lifted my spirits immeasurably.
You know how much I love Santa Fe, and I’ve read the news there with sadness, particularly the impact to the Native American community. A hike in Placitas sounds like a lovely way to spend the day.
And meant to say that the loss of life is mind-bendingly sad. 400k is ‘only’ 100k lower than the population of Montana — ie, almost a whole state of people gone.
I know — I’ve thought about cities with 400K people and imagined all of them gone. It’s mind-blowing.
Totally with you. Will miss food festival here if it doesn’t happen this year (didn’t occur in 2020). Trips to farm shop or bakery are very appreciated and if I only do one I sometimes drive by the other in appreciation (or longing). Make a point of stopping for chats with neighbours during dog walks. And makes a point of appreciating ‘small’ things, like the oak growing in the Devon bank and the strange sunset or drift of mist. I look for a new normal eventually as I don’t think our previous one will work any more.
What WILL that new normal look like? And how will we plan for the future? These are questions we need to answer.
I miss so many little things and I am heartbroken by the loss. Lately I’ve been getting great comfort every time I see a post from a friend saying that they have gotten their vaccine. It makes this waiting and putting our lives into hibernation all worth it!
I’m really hoping the vaccine roll out amps up in the US shortly. I think that would give a lot of people hope. I know several healthcare workers and they’ve all gotten the vaccine.
I think vaccine distribution is going to start changing for the better in..well, about one day.
Do you know, March, I can’t WAIT to take the little things for granted again. It’s those moments when I realize what an enormously privileged life I lead to take so many beautiful things for granted that I feel really pleased, and it opens my mind up to be excited by so many other things.
Now, that’s true too! Won’t it be wondrous when we don’t have to think about lines and masks and strategic shopping?
Of all the things that I thought might happen in my lifetime, a worldwide pandemic was not one of them. But as Monty Python said, no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition. ;-). I miss all the small social interactions as well and can’t imagine how we will ever get back to there from where we are now. Everything feels irremediably altered. So I wait and try to maintain sanity like you, talking with a few friends here and there, hoping someday things will change for the better.
I am thinking (hoping?) that for me, being able to feel the first bits of spring will be hugely helpful. That starts around March in my area. It’s so cold and dark now, and winter weather here is cloudy.
Hugging you across the ocean.
We have been incredibly fortunate here in Oz. Though I do know people whose family has succumbed. No one in my inner circle though, thankfully.
Frosty porch catch ups sound like a welcome relief.
Our laundry has some IKEA drying racks I use for undies, wash cloths and now face masks.
Hoping for better days ahead ASAP. For everyone.
I cannot IMAGINE the outpouring of Aussies once this thing is over. Y’all are the most traveling people I have ever met! I look forward to that in the future.
March, the only people left when we are allowed to travel will be those in hospital and hospice. The rest of Australia will be hanging “Gone Adventuring” signs and nicking off for a couple of months. All work and production will grind to a halt.
So much to see and do.
What a lovely post! Thank you.
Thank you! I wasn’t as upbeat as some, lol. But I haven’t given up hope.