At this time of year, major religions offer stories about overcoming obstacles, pain and death. They have rites that make it possible to come together as a community to celebrate a spirit of hope and renewal.
Through thousands of years, before our major religions appeared on the scene, people celebrated spring. They looked forward to the renewal of nature’s growth cycle. They hoped for new life and opportunities.
Normally, at this time of year, I’d join in various community celebrations. Afterwards, I’d look forward to meals and merriment. It would feel ceremonial, like we were dusting off mental residue from winter blues together.
Normally, I’d be busy occupying myself with many activities involving other people at work and at play. Normally my family would be as well.
This year, we mostly rest.
Only, it is not restful to rest. It is filled with worry, anxiety, and doubt. It is filled with longing. Longing for activity. Longing for interaction with others. Longing for meaningful work.
Hope and renewal don’t easily thrive here. It takes effort to even think about it.
To counteract my feelings of futility, I head out on walks. I do this most mornings to start my day with physical activity outside.
A few weeks ago when I’d see someone else walking toward me on my route, we’d dutifully do the six-to-thirteen-foot-distance dance and avoid each other physically. We’d also look away. It was as if we were both embarrassed at having to physically distance ourselves. It felt impolite.
It was awkward.
Now, on my walking route, fellow pedestrians and I still do the dance, but the circle around each other has grown to thirteen-to-twenty feet. I often wonder, if my walking circles into the street leaving the sidewalk aren’t more potentially dangerous…. Still, I do it with careful timing of the dance to not get too close to neither cars nor humans.
But something new is happening.
I have noticed lately that, as this practice of running circles around each other has become habitual, it has also changed. And it is not just that we make more and more space for each other.
We now frequently make eye contact. Even when masks hide the bottom half of our faces, I can see the smile in people’s eyes. Often, we wave at each other from opposite sides of our socially distanced circle. It is as if we are saying:
“I see you doing your part. I am here with you. Fellow human, I am going out of my way, too, out of concern for you. Thank you for doing your part. We’ll get through this because of what we are doing now.”
I guess, hope and renewal are alive and well. It just looks and feels different than I’m used to.