Over, Under, Around and Through


I have a friend in Placentia. For all kinds of reasons, she is flying in and out of my stream of consciousness on this August morning, like an unruly bird that has somehow managed to sneak into the house. This friend can only be described using the most pleasant of adjectives - thoughtful, kind, happy without pause- as serene as a blooming flower.

When Covid abruptly galloped into our lives a few months ago, she came to mind immediately. Unable to see her, I tried to imagine how she would approach this world crisis. What would she say to steer us away from darkness and worry and instead, gently nudge us towards light? Then, just like that, the unruly bird settled and a story that she told me some years ago came to mind.

This is what she shared.

It remains my favourite "this is how we might approach a pandemic" story.

While living in Saskatchewan and attending university many moons ago, she became very aware of the need to bundle up against the incessant cold Prairie winters. Knowing that most of her face would be covered by her thick scarf yet, still desperate to impart a kind smile to strangers she would meet during her morning walk, she started practising a novel method of connection. Each night, she would intentionally stand in front of a mirror, her woolen scarf covering her face and she would practice. She practised smiling with her eyes.

Just soak that in for a minute.

She practised smiling with her eyes.

The practice of sharing a bit of goodness intentionally with another is powerful. It is powerful on a Wednesday afternoon when you’re thinking about what you might cook for supper. It’s powerful on a Monday morning when your tired feet touch the cold floor, greeting the week. And, as sure as God made little apples, it’s powerful as we work our way through the days and months ahead, playing host to this invisible little virus.

As I thought of my companion this week, it started me down a bit of a rabbit hole, one filled with attentive considerations, pleasant diversions and, as always, a bit of romanticized whimsy. I started to develop an inventory of what I am learning from the pandemic. Here are my very random reflections, observations and ruminations.

-There are many ways to connect with others when you cannot be in the same room and not all involve a computer or internet connection.

-Days of our Lives remains as riveting as ever and no one, including the timeless beauty, Hope Brady, has aged. I come to know this since the still dramatic soap was often preempted by the once daily Covid government briefings.

-If you are asked for an interview by the media and you do not have a white book case filled with thoughtful titles like "Catcher in the Rye" or "War and Peace", you can still engage in that interview. Really. But the white book case is a very nice touch all the same.

-Quiet time can lead you to learn things about yourself that you might not have known or understand new interests. I have developed a mini obsession with finding a full set of Britannica encyclopedias.

-Everyone in the province is now tending to some type of garden and because of this, there is an underground black market economy for those blue plastic barrels that can be used for anything from a compost bin to a moonshine still.

-You can drink 23 cups of tea in one day while working from home, each with a small drop of milk and a dash of sugar, accompanied at least once by a large, decadent chocolate cupcake and continue to live happily.

-A slow drive to Angel’s Cove on a foggy evening with a custard cone in hand can be as good as a long weekend in New York.

-Almost every yard in Branch is home to a flourishing snow mound. And... there are many more maple trees in Branch than I had ever imagined (except in the Easter' Cove). John Nash's maple tree (God rest his soul) remains the rightful king of Branch trees.

-Nothing in this world feels as good as a long warm embrace with someone you love.

This list could be endless, really. And I am sure that you could add dozens of your own epiphanies. It is no doubt a time of self discovery, heartbreak, anxiety and reflection for many.

Yet, here we are in the sixth month of sub-letting our world to this coronavirus. And it is not over yet. The Persian poet Hafiz wisely said “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.”

And he is right. We cannot be guided solely by fear in the months ahead. We will, of course, learn to live side-by-side with COVID-19. However, we must listen to reason and science...and love.

Thousands of miles from Persia, on a familiar road called Sesame Street, Grover offered similarly sage advice when he sang the song “Over, Under, Around and Through.” We can’t get around Covid, nor can we get over or under it but we will get through it. With smiling eyes and hearts bursting with love, we will get through it.

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