I started my quarantine one year ago today.

Bob and I had spent the weekend in an AirBnB near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, having a writing retreat with our writing buddy and her partner. It was a good time, fun and creative, working on our writing by day and going out to eat at night. The University of Minnesota had started shutting down to in-person classes a few days before, and the virus was becoming a reality.

But no one was sure of everything yet, so we ate in busy restaurants, just starting to feel a little creeped out but unsure of what we needed to do. By the time we got home, we knew the lockdown was on.

The End of the World as We Know It

Everybody is talking about One Year of the Pandemic, the COVID-versary, when it all got bad, when everything shut down. I have been thinking about it a lot too.

This year, for me, has been the change of everything:

  • living in a state of quarantine (along with the accompanying fear and anxiety)
  • my marriage of 31 years ending (along with the accompanying grief and loss)
  • learning to live alone as an extrovert in the house where I raised my family
  • my city erupting after George Floyd’s murder, parts of my neighborhood in literal flames
  • more awareness than ever before of systemic racism and the damage it has done
  • U.S. politics from hell and an election that dragged us through the underworld
  • a very isolating Minnesota winter

Okay, I could go on and on. This is nothing new. We are ALL living in altered states with losses great and small. The devastating loss of lives– 533,052 people to date. The plummeting health toll on millions of us– physical, mental, emotional, financial.

We hear all this in the news constantly, and we don’t really need to. We are LIVING it, everyday.

Okay, now that I’ve depressed both of us, here’s something different. A poem, because poetry can heal and help when other ways of saying things just don’t work.

Poem:  One Year

In the dark of the cave
we grasp pebbles of hope
we found buried
in our pockets,
in the long winter
cold and alone.
We finger them
their soothing smoothness.
We cannot see their light and beauty
in the night,
but they
and the dreams they conjure,
are real.

Soon
we will smell the breath
of Spring coming,
the gleaming sliver
of dawn
prying apart
the dank cave air.
We’ll sigh, stop
holding our breath,
move these cramped
limbs and hearts,
and crawl
towards what we
never knew
for sure
would come.

And… After?

So many predictions have been made by experts of all kinds about what life will be like post-pandemic. What effects this year will have on the world. The truth is, nobody knows for certain, and does it help to speculate? It might be interesting to think about, but too much is a waste of time.

Even with as hard as things have been, there has been good in the last year too. It has slowed us down and made us look at what our priorities really are. Maybe we’ve learned to be grateful for small things, like having enough food (if we are fortunate to have it), connections with people even online, realizing how precious hugs really are when the possibility has been absent so long.

I do have that pebble of hope in my pocket that we can start to make the world better after this life-changing year. So many areas NEED to be made better–  racism, climate change and the environment, income inequalities, to name just a few. We have been forced to stop the spinning of the world for awhile. May we all crawl out of this cave into a better place.


Photos by v2osk, Ivana Cajina, Dan Gold and Bradley Dunn, courtesy of Unsplash.com.