Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fevers and ghouls and bluebells

When I was very small, I suffered a lot from tonsilitis. It would appear every couple of months or so, and for some reason or another, my mother didn't believe in medicine. She is the daughter of a pediatrician and a Norwegian, and I'm not sure why, but I was never given anything to stem the fevers. And the fevers raged. I don't know how high they were, but I remember very clearly that hallucinating became a part of my childhood. My fevers were so high that reality became obscured, especially in the middle of the night, when I would see little men sitting on top of my wardrobe, and weird ghouls in the windows. I remember being absolutely terrified. My mother wasn't unkind; she was very kind, and didn't complain when I climbed into her bed in the middle of the night and soothed me as best she could. I didn't have the language to express how terrified I was. But the worst thing, the very worst thing, was the hallucinations which led to to not being able to feel anything hard, strong, or permanent. Everything I touched felt soft, and my hand seemed to just push through everything. Everything was soft and warm and ethereal when I was frantic to touch something hard and cold and real. Even my hand on the bristles of a hairbrush didn't work. It didn't feel real. Nothing felt real. I had nothing to hold on to.

And so it is today; this sense that nothing is permanent or real or predictable or normal. We can't rely on anything. People are catching the virus from people who are asymptomatic, and people with no symptoms are also dying (I refer to the first death on the USS Theodore Roosevelt). We don't know what's going to happen day to day, when this isolation is going to end, when people will stop being sick, when the economy will be back to normal, if ever. And Daddy is a crazy man who claims he is Oz the All Powerful, a Totalitarian Narcissist with full-blown mental illness and less empathy than a piece of toast. We stumble about like the children of an alcoholic parent, never knowing what to expect. And so the only thing that we can rely on, it seems, is the ever-changing yet strangely constant natural world. In two weeks, our beech trees have budded acid green, the swallows have begun fly in from Africa (they swoop over the garden, stopping us in our tracks), the larks and woodpeckers are calling again. No cuckoos yet, but we wait patiently. Our garden has pink tulips in it, and blue baby hyacinth, and blue tits yellow hammers are tapping on the windows.

There is little more scary than not knowing. We feel blindfolded, stuck in our tracks, feeling our way in the dark, inching our hands along the brick wall. And yet, perhaps this is time to believe that mother nature knows what she's doing, and will right herself, and us, in time.

Hopelessness is not a state I enjoy. We busy ourselves with work and cooking, with Zoom calls with friends, with Houseparty and Facetime and Instagram, with movies and books, and reaching out to friends, with lurching between feeling okay about the world and believing things will get better, to true despair. I walk every day, sometimes alone, but always with the dogs, because seeing the bluebells and the wood anenome, and watching the lambs grow, and walking through the green net of beech woods, holding up the blue skies, is soothing. There is a rhythm, an easiness; it's something to make sense of. It's something to trust, blindly.

Everything's gonna be all right. Stay well, my friends.


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