A year in pandemic is a bit like a long afternoon on the front porch. The same kind of boredom, but without the pleasant sense of relaxing. The same kind of inertia, but without the sweet breeze playing at the hair on the back of your head.
After months and months, the possibility you’ll come up with some motivation to think, oh yeah, that’s what I want to do…that possibility’s remote. It’s more like, let’s see, you ought to get up and clean out a couple of drawers. The other day I found a dollar bill in an old purse I hadn’t used in years. There was a spark of excitement, sort of delight, that lasted about one minute. Maybe I hoped it was a twenty dollar bill. At least a five.
January doesn’t exactly call to you. It’s easy to zone out in the numbness of these dull, dreary days. And sometimes the look of January is hardly enough to make me look up. But the sounds out there, they still work.
It’s a quiet mid-afternoon, and I try to convince myself it’s peaceful. But the mood is more like melancholy. Trees and what’s left of plants look like they’re scarcely holding on. It’s a still cold quiet void. Quiet and gray. My spirit too.
Yet, if you hang around the quiet long enough, there’s more than silence.
A subtle rippling, just audible. Water moving over stones and around bends. Gentle enough to make singular tones. Soothing, like listening from another room, while a friend strums the guitar. Slowly picking, one string at at time.
Then the chirps. Tiny chirps. Jays and towhees. Cardinals, for sure. Their winter tones are sweet and relaxed now. Comfortable, less commanding, less stressed, almost purposeless. Not the loud complicated spring show-off mating songs or the summer alarms and calls. It’s soft and gentle. As if they’re going about life, hunting the brush for a meal or snack, and mindlessly humming.
There’s been too much gray. Too much cloudy. I’d rather have snow. But we get comfort where we can. And January brings a quiet comfort. If nothing else, it brings quiet. Quiet intersecting lonely intersecting reassurance. A kind of hushed reassurance.
Sometimes I sit out back in the dark at the end of a depressing day, and it’s quiet, just quiet, nothing but me and the quiet.
Sometimes I see stars shining up there, far past the trees. But tonight, I don’t see stars. Just the tops of tall trees and past them nothing. Nothing but gray skies.
Sometimes I look up and see a flicker. Or I imagine a flicker. Like a firefly? It’s too soon, isn’t it? I remember the 4th of july when fireflies lit up those trees like some kind of magic. Like the magic that’s only real in memories.
Sometimes sitting in the dark listening to the quiet makes me think.