I read the words aloud to my wife.
“Now there’s a phrase that you just don’t see very much,” I continued. “I wonder if other things ‘impend.’ Or is it just doom?”
She started to read something on her phone. The winds buffeted the old house, which groaned like a clipper ship rounding the Horn Monday night, as we fished the internet for news which, despite an upswing in positive developments — vaccines rolling out more and more, weather improving, that ship stuck in the Suez Canal finally freed — suddenly seems grim.
“The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of ‘impending doom’ from a potential fourth surge of the pandemic,” I read. “CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appeared to fight back tears as she pleaded with Americans to ‘hold on a little while longer’ and continue following public health advice, like wearing masks and social distancing, to curb the virus’s spread.”
When government officials start to cry, that’s usually bad, right? Despite everything that’s gone on for the past ... ah ... year plus, the people in charge do not generally weep.
Wasn’t it only last week we had turned the corner and were ready to skip into springtime? Robins twittering, tank cars of vaccines rumbling across the country, the buds on the saucer magnolia just beginning to emerge fat and pink? That is not necessarily good either — the weather is supposed to drop into the mid-20s Wednesday and Thursday. If the blooms come out too early, and the temperature plummets, those blossoms can get burned, and the blossoms are not luxurious and pink, adding a week of festivity to springtime, but brown, like burnt marshmallows stuck on the ends of twigs, an omen, a foretaste of autumn and death when spring has barely begun.
That resonates with the director’s warning. Magnolia trees are underscoring the CDC. I guess that means we’d better listen, when nature starts jerking its thumb at the Centers for Disease Control and nodding, “What she said.”
Don’t you hate that? When one part of life starts to mirror another, otherwise unconnected part? It’s creepy, like we’re living, not in random and chaotic reality, but following some kind of script, with foreshadowing and irony baked in. Gazing at the phone, I read to my wife the Facebook status from a former colleague who found a safe berth in government.
“I’m ready to fall asleep at 8:30 p.m., and then I have insomnia. I don’t think there’s any time of the day when I’m not tired.”
She was introducing an article from Salon with the headline, “It’s not just you: Why everyone is super exhausted right now.” Again with the weird parallelism, I’d been bone weary all day. So tired it hurt.
Now everybody’s exhausted. Part of the zeitgeist at least. That’s good, right? Wrong. Not good. First, it’s lousy to feel exhausted.
Second, seeing your current condition reflected back in the news isn’t comforting. It’s disturbing. We all want to be living our own unique lives, and not be mere bees coming down with whatever fungus is afflicting the hive.
”We’ve been living under the grip of chronic stress for one year now,” I read, from the Salon article, then quickly lost interest and moved on. Honestly, this stuff doesn’t apply to me — the article suggests we’re all clinically depressed, due to society being shut down for a year.
My pandemic life isn’t really much different than my life before. Everything’s great. Well, I mean except that nothing ever changes and every day is a carbon copy of the day before with no prospect of anything new ever occurring and most everyone I know gone for so long that at this point I wouldn’t even feel comfortable checking in on them. “Hey, how have you been doing since ... er ... last May?”
I’m not depressed. I’m grateful. Grateful, grateful, grateful ...
Still, we should heed the warning from the scoop magnolias, and the CDC director, and keep tight inside our buds until it’s truly safe to come out.
And it’s too late now, but I wish they’d reserved “doom” for some graver circumstance. When the big asteroid shows up and begins to fill the noontime sky, heading straight toward us, what’ll they call it? “True doom this time”? That doesn’t quite cut it.