In Linda Rand’s latest Pandemic Diaries entry “Is It Over?,” she wonders what we’re all thinking about: now that we have vaccines, are we finally turning a corner on COVID?
I suppose my first clue was getting a dinner invite from a friend while the weather was still uncomfortable enough that I knew it would have to be indoors. When I asked if they’d be masked, the subject was changed. This was from someone who had not been planning on taking the vaccine, but when offered an extra one during her mother’s appointment she went for it, and now her attitude is markedly different, as are most of everyone’s I encounter these days.
I met another friend at a pub that sells books and features my art along with others, a lovely hub of community that with great effort stayed open safely during this whole pandemic. (Rose City Book Pub on Fremont, if you’re in Portland, go visit it!) It was pouring outside, and the patio wasn’t exactly beckoning. He was fine sitting indoors and then told me about recently hanging out at home unmasked with another person outside of his pod who was also vaccinated. “The CDC says it’s okay,” he happily told me. I sipped at my drink under my mask.
During Zoom, another friend told me, “At some point we’re going to have to decide that this is over regardless of the variants. I’ve given up on a year of my life.” She was dutifully awaiting her vaccine, before hitting the road on a trip to see family.
These are the conscientious friends, the ones who erred on the side of caution, as there were also those who unfortunately continued as if nothing was different. These conscientious friends were also privileged or lucky enough to be able to shelter in place, and work with technology, while they did everything to not spread the virus.
During the past year, we dug deep together to find meaning in all of this, criticized the heartless system of capitalism grinding down essential workers without proper protections or compensation. Many of us protested with BLM as social inequities were glaringly exposed. We showed solidarity and care towards one another with sweet gestures and acts of care. Perhaps a part of me feels like I’m lagging as they embrace normalcy seamlessly, without hesitation. It has been a year of The Pandemic.
Are we missing something? A part of me wonders if, after all of this, very little will change. We’re all looking for our next project, our next paycheck.
On the porch of a writer friend, I discussed these things, and he was on board to resume social mingling. “As soon as I get this vaccine, I’m starting production on a movie.” I imagined visiting him on set in Detroit and felt a tiny thrill of excitement, but it was an abstract feeling and faraway, more like remembering what excitement could be, rather than actually feeling it.
Are we missing something? A part of me wonders if, after all of this, very little will change. We’re all looking for our next project, our next paycheck. I’ve been thinking about the means of production and working from home more efficiently. If anything, the pandemic has finally given me the push to become more technologically capable, to be more motivated to explore digital art, as well as cultivating my green thumb more seriously.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been varying degrees of cognitive dissonance and surreality in the U.S. as COVID was politicized, and there are still people that claim it’s a hoax. Now, with mention of a fourth wave (hasn’t it all been one wave though?), vaccinations have hit a record of 4.1 million in a single day, averaging to a little over 3 million a day. Numbers of new coronavirus cases are again rising in the U.S. after some sharp declines from January, most recently in Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.
As I type this, it’s a beautiful spring day punctuated by rainbows and birdsong. The daffodils, grape hyacinth, and cherry blossoms are blooming; birds are singing; lettuce is planted. My daughter and I will be laying straw under the berries today and working compost into a new flower bed. I have visions of dahlias and poppies, of making flower crowns for Beltane, of edible flowers like pansies, violets, and nasturtiums garnishing shortbread cookies and green salads.
We are emerging into more and more hours of light every day as neighbors cheerfully walk by, some approaching to chat. We still maintain distance, but there is an ease that I see evidenced around me, although I find that I’m still awkward with the segues of small talk. It’s been so long since it was the standard. Maybe casual interactions were not my forte and I had just learned to do it from the hospitality and service industries, from reading tarot and having a curio shop, from artist receptions and volunteering with kids school activities, from wanting people to feel comfortable and included.
I hear a plane high up in the clear sky, see glinting sun off metal, proving that we as humans will adapt, for better or for worse.
(Photo by Linda Rand)