As the story goes, I was supposed to be a March baby. But as the due date and the spring solstice passed by, I was apparently in no hurry to enter the world until the Ides were long gone. Even as April appeared, I hung on tight until finally one early afternoon, the time to be born arrived.
For so many in the northern Hemisphere, the beginning of April signifies a newness of life and its seasons. Most years, Easter is celebrated during the month; springtime comes into full bloom as the redbuds, azaleas, and the dogwoods brilliantly emerge from the austere winter. The town of Augusta, Georgia welcomes in the unofficial beginning to the golf season while the college hardwoods give way to warmer athletic endeavors. Cool mornings gradually cede to pleasant afternoons and the vibrant colors mirror the heightened moods that so many feel. It is a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, rejoicing, and resurrection. What seemed dead for so long suddenly comes alive. Even the word April, which comes from the Latin word “aperit”, meaning “to open”, suggests that a new, fresh start is on the way.
But this particular year, April holds even greater meaning. Having been entrenched in the winter of COVID for more than a year, this year’s opening act was anticipated more than most years before. As the buds began to open more fully, so did the stores, and the faces, and the avenues of socialization and entertainment. Even a (live) marathon, the first of its kind in the nation, appeared in the Hoosier state. Safe to say, while still mired in the pandemic, citizens across the land clamored to events and places in droves, hoping to escape the pestilence woes. For the first time in a long time, it seemed the virus had given way to a new sort of fever—-cabin fever—even as uncertainty still remained.
Yet midst the understandable excitement, we can’t help but wonder. Just what have we learned from the past year, other than we don’t really want much more of it. Although every spring it is tempting to say that what we learned is just how much we don’t like the cold asceticism of winter, opportunities abound to consider just what each season of our lives bring. Temperate, sunny days usually teach us little, except that we want more of them. But the harshness of an undesired season has a particular way of engendering lessons, which although begrudged and disdained, can stick with us for a long time—if we are open to them.
So what has the last year taught us? For starters, it has reminded us of just how blessed we are to have, well, so many blessings that pose as the mundane. Like fully stocked shelves, readily available toilet paper, and a full gamut of secular and spiritual activities every day of the week. Until they’re gone, it’s easy to forget what a privilege it is to live in a country where there is no end to our engagements and our curiosities. And yet, for all our happenings, it is the people, in real-life form, that seemed to be even a greater prize. During the darkest days, just how many of us wanted to hang out with our friends and family as we did before, or just look at people outside our homes without a mask covering their faces? What we discovered is that although virtual is a nice option for some (and sometimes), it simply doesn’t meet the needs of our population for learning, living, and loving. Even our teens quickly realized that being in a chat room and a real room is not synonymous. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are a glutton for each other.
Still, as the April showers have emerged, I sense there is much more to be unveiled. I wonder what we have learned we can live without, and what is indispensable? If we are stronger than we thought we were, or weaker than we hoped to be? Has our hope increased, or been squashed with the climbing numbers and the looming new wave? Or has our insight and awareness heightened, or has the pandemic narrowed our gaze and our mind?
Safe to say, there probably aren’t any easy answers to these and other questions. Yet, over a year removed, one thing is absolutely certain. I daresay almost none of us have ever thought so much, and discerned so greatly, the minutiae of decisions that we previously may not have given a second thought. As someone recently joked, the pandemic has unlocked a new neural pathway for thinking about decisions at a level and complexity that we might otherwise not have imagined. Or desired.
So as the “opening act” continues to play out, here are two things I am hopeful for. One is that the trials of the past year have made us smarter, more grateful, more resilient, and more aware than we have ever been. And two, that with all these new attributes, we will really take a closer look at life, and not just smell, but rather revel in the roses, and seriously rid ourselves of all that does not make us happy, healthy, harmonious, holy people.