Quiet Sunday, as most of them are these days. No rushing off to church and choir practice or drum corps rehearsal. A lot to process as we trim back bushes and shrubs and clean up pots of fading annuals which have given it their all since May. As the hibiscus and mandevilla continue to push out a few token blooms in the seventy-degree weather, it’s hard to believe we’ll be hanging Christmas lights in a few short weeks.
Recent days brought stress and shock and relief and joy all co-mingled together and sometimes changing by the minute. A sleepless night glued to the television watching election results. Constant worry about the impact of this raging virus. Talking with a friend who is dealing with her elderly father’s illness from 800 miles away, after burying her mother in June. Feeling grateful for another year of normal mammogram results, over which the shadow of my mother’s death from breast cancer always looms large. Cautious optimism that there will be different and better paths ahead for our country.
When the news broke on Saturday, I was sitting with two former teaching colleagues enjoying an outdoor lunch. One of us, someone I have known and respected for many years, said truly terrible things about the election. He spoke as calmly as if he were talking about the weather, I suppose assuming that we were all on the same page. The cruelty of his words took my breath away. I wanted to get up and leave or make a scene and shout back at him, “How could you be an educated person and caring teacher and say things like that?” His remarks went way beyond disappointment that his candidate didn’t win or that his side of the issues may not be supported. His words cut deeply, making ugly and false generalizations about entire groups of people.
I immediately changed the subject and we talked about music during Covid and dealing with aging parents and, to be honest, I don’t even remember a lot of the conversation because I was in such shock. It is one thing to experience hatred on our screens but quite another when it comes at us from across the table when we least expect it. I don’t know if not engaging was the right thing to do. Looking back, I wish I would have told him how much his words hurt me personally. He needed to know that. This business of justifying any twisting of the truth along with the blanket disparagement of anyone who does not agree with us as a means to an end is not the way to heal and grow as a country. Or as human beings.
I’m writing on the porch the way I sometimes do in the spring and summer, except it’s November. Despite the balmy weather, winter birds cluster at the feeder and the goldfinches have exchanged their bright yellow plumage for drab gray-brown. The vegetable garden is bare except for a few cauliflower plants and a stalk or two of brussels sprouts. Colorful leaves still remain on some of the trees but the majority cling to our shoes as we traipse into the house. I am glad to see this year of illness, political rhetoric, tragic loss and violence, and blatant racism creep inexorably to its end. I cling to the hope that by the time spring returns again, we will have found a better way to be with each other. We must.