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  • Writer's picturePeg Larkin

The Beautiful and Brutal Unknown

These days, just stepping outside feels like freedom. The walls closing in may be the home that has sheltered (or imprisoned?) us these last several months, or the barriers of anxiety and fear, deep within our minds, that confine our vision. But here, among the towering trees, below the ethereal bowl of blue sky, we allow ourselves to stretch. The world we once inhabited, the inside place of cafes and shops and office buildings, of elevators and crowded hallways, has been blown wide open, and we ply through the rubble to search for what remains, to survey the damage of American life during a Global Pandemic.

As the weather cools and the days become shorter, we begin to feel an unsettling sense of unease. Darkness is descending, and with daylight extinguishing exponentially, the small joys that lifted us during the spring and summer have shifted into something more granular, like sand spilling through our fingers.

Our daughter is to be married in May, 2021. At the beginning of this pandemic, I held hope in that day, cradled it like something perfect and precious. I dreamed of the mask-less, distance-less joy that would be their wedding. I felt viscerally, all the hugs I miss so much now, and in my dreams, I held on long and tight, in remembrance of these days with so much space between. I heard the laughter and felt lightness returning, like a feather floating into my lap. Imagining their wedding was like gulping in gratitude, for all we would have, by then, overcome, and for a future measured not just in the beginning of their life’s journey in love, but in family and friendships restored, glowing in health and well-being.

Today I wonder when that wedding will materialize in the ways I have envisioned. Will we ever again, be comfortable, close to each other?

For our family: a wedding, a lost last semester in college, a graduation gone. For others, so many more losses, emotional, and unequivocal: jobs, savings, security, health … life. Life in voices and smiles and held hands. Life in memories and moments. Life in the “I’ll never be the same without you” lost.

It didn’t have to come to this, we all know it. Yet here we are, in our homes, in our communities, in our country, left to sort through the chaos and confusion, mourning our lost family and friends and fellow citizens. We walk down the streets and pass empty schools. We stop at the shuttered and bare store fronts, advertising space for lease. We pass the places that were once filled with laughter and lives, burritos and bagels: all our young people, stuck inside now too, their growth interrupted by a virus mutated and magnified by our own failures.

So, we do what humans do, when we have no other choice: we adapt. We put on our masks and we smile with our eyes. As we space ourselves six feet apart, we learn to adjust our perspective and, in the process, we discover resilience. We find faith in our fundamental awareness that we are such small specks on the curve of creation, and with that necessary humility, we map out a new path, one that requires us to use the gifts that have long elevated our capacity for growth: compassion, innovation, intelligence.

And with or without the dream wedding, we gather our gratitude like fresh cut flowers. We count our blessings like all the stars in the universe; like breath, deep and long, resounding and repeating. We count our footsteps too, forward, back into the world of each other, into the beautiful and brutal unknown that is Life.


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