|A few of the things that stopped me in my already slow tracks this week.|
When I was a child, I was often chided for being the last person at the table. As an adult, I still take longer to eat than almost anyone. I'm not a picky eater; I just take time with my meal.
I am slow to wake up. I am generally not at my best before 9 or 10 a.m. in the morning, even with copious quantities of coffee and some solitary time (rarely granted) to gather my wits about me.
I am usually trailing behind the group. At the point in my life a few years ago when I was running, there was no training I could do that would get my body to run a sub-30-minute race. When walking, I get delayed because I notice a tree, an unusual cloud formation, a neighbor's spectacular poppies.
At museums I'm the last one out, because I so often read the little cards explaining the exhibits all the way to the end. This happens in the more mundane routines of life as well. At the grocery store, online shopping, in my closet at the beginning of the day, I tend to mull my choices, thoroughly.
When all hell (the pandemic) broke loose, I responded quickly where and when it was vital, like at work, and getting my kids set up for virtual education. But. While others were also launching themselves headlong into the challenge of staying at home with zoom parties and closet clean-outs and thirty-biscuits-in-thirty-days baking challenges, I not only maintained my usual plod through the absolute minimum of necessary tasks, I grew even S L O W E R.
Actual Nature has been slow going this spring too. It's been colder, with fewer sunny days. We even had snow in Iowa this May. Everything is late. I finally and impatiently put my tomato plants in the ground last weekend not because it was warm, but because they'd definitely outgrown their pots and I was tired of shuffling them from inside the house to the screen porch to the patio table and back again. Peonies that would usually be blooming by now have buds that are still tight little fists. Plant life seems crouched in a defensive posture, waiting for warmth. Sunshine. Permission to thrive.
Maybe that's what I'm looking for, too. The toll that the pandemic has taken on the nation, in lives, in the mental and physical health of our health care professionals, upon the most vulnerable among us, has left me with no great enthusiasm for making this spring a months-long celebration of domestic life. This Memorial Day seems like a missed opportunity for a national day of grief, not only for our veterans, but for all the people lost to the pandemic. I know our government will not mark the day in that way, and it makes me deeply sad.
Slowness is a coping mechanism. It's a poor one when it veers off into avoidance, and I could be the poster child for that in other areas of my life. This spring, though, it served as a protective layer, blunting the emotions of so many things-- missing my children's milestones, and fearing losing their future ones, the amount of anxiety now built into daily tasks, friends and family facing layoffs and furloughs, and the relentless onslaught of bad news from every corner-- and giving me extra time to process the overwhelm. In the perversity that is life, the suspension of regular activities is what may have given me the time and space to process the greater losses.
The peonies just naturally held on to their buds while the cold passed over it; the tomatoes plants slowly built up their root systems under the earth while the chill held its new leaves in check. I have not come out of quarantine with recipes mastered, weight lost, hobbies launched, languages learned, or rooms redecorated. But I will come out, in time. I wish the same thing for the nation-- the time it takes to measure our fears and grieve our losses, and the ability to regain perspective and hope.