When I was awake in the night, I thought about how hard it will be to find a way to adjust to what’s coming after we are all vaccinated and this virus has been at least managed if not overcome. I was thinking of occasions, how we will anticipate them, acknowledge them, celebrate them. I remember the virtual clinking of glasses as my family “met” for a glass of Christmas cheer, each in our house, children filling the screens of our phones, the delays in both speaking and hearing. The birthdays as we sang into the wires, the dark days at the end of January when we might have said to ourselves, Let’s go to Portugal.
And what is coming? We are hoping to see our children this summer. We will be our small village, a fire for the evenings, swims in early morning before the crowds arrive, talking late into the night while the stars fill the sky. Will I remember how it feels to hold a child on my lap, will the slight panic I feel now when I see someone approach me in a public place, before I recognize their eyes, their voice, will that panic disappear as I realize it’s an old friend? The other day, shopping, someone stopped me and for a minute I wanted to run away until I realized it was a woman I’ve known for more than 30 years. I knew it was you by your eyes, she said, but I didn’t recognize her until I heard her say her name. Say her name. Say yours, mine. We haven’t lost those. Not yet.
John’s had an invitation to launch the book of his poems recently translated into Czech. Where? In Ostrava, a city we loved when we visited in 2012. Will it be safe to travel in October, will a man with two new hips but a damaged foot step off the airplane to read his poems in English while the wonderful young man who translated them reads them in Czech, the languages balancing in the air like the windchimes the book is named for? Will we leave, will we return, will the borders graciously open, will I stop waking in the night in panic, sleep deeply again, set the table for 12. Or 18.
On Wednesday, late afternoon, I was walking around a corner of the upper deck to come in after planting out yet more tomatoes (and honestly, if you live near me, please take a few plants?), and I stopped to look west. Everything in bloom, the robins just resuming their beautiful chorus, begun at dawn, and the hummingbirds darting into the orchid cactii spilling out of their hanging pots. There is this. Still this.
Here is the puffed world expansive
as the air come sidling, glancing
home to itself at a porch corner
thinly, briefly, just under the eaves.
–from “Wind Chime”, by John Pass