March 19 marked the 2020 Vernal Equinox, the day that shifts us from winter into spring in the northern hemisphere, a day of equal minutes of light and dark. Our neighbors below the Equator are now transitioning from summer to fall, experiencing the opposite phenomenon of light and dark hours. The Earth continuously wobbles on its axis, and fortunately for us, we are wobbling into longer days, with a couple of minutes more sunshine each day until the summer solstice, in June, the longest day of the year, with the most hours of daylight and the least darkness.
And that will be good. I think we’ve all felt a little wobbly the last couple of weeks. The Earth does seem to have shifted crazily, enough to make us lose our equilibrium and the balance we thought we had. So it will be good to get out in the sunshine and make more Vitamin D. It will be good to connect with the soil and perhaps put in a summer garden. No one knows just when life will get back to normal, or if it will have to be a new normal that we adjust to.
There have been deaths, and there will be more. Businesses have failed, and more surely will. Many people are still working, but some will not be able to meet financial obligations due to changes in jobs or business closures. So many people live paycheck to paycheck and do not have savings or even stored food to tide them over. News reports roll in hourly, updating us on the latest, and it can be terribly depressing and even frightening.
Some good things are happening, too. I see reports of the air clearing in heavily polluted cities in China. I have heard the canals of Venice, Italy are clearing as well. Surely, with all the cleaning and handwashing and social distancing, we will see many fewer deaths from flu this year, and there are more uplifting sides to our current season.
Some encouraging stories include a friend who is conducting line-dancing lessons on Facebook, and another who is offering bread-making lessons by the same medium. Pastors are preparing sermons and devotions which they record and send in emails or post on Facebook each week. I have seen museums and parks and zoos offer free virtual visits to the artifacts, exhibits, and animals that ordinarily we would have to travel and pay admission prices to experience. I see teachers reaching out through available technologies to families who are now, unexpectedly, homeschooling, and lots of subscription-only and licensed sites offering their services without charge to these same families. Just today I saw a professional chef offering free cooking lessons online, and on a news channel, young people checking on their elderly neighbors, picking up groceries, prescriptions, taking pets to the veterinarian, and taking care of yardwork voluntarily. Even Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are planning a free Facebook live concert.
I have heard people say they are sick of watching television, so they’ve turned off Netflix and have gone into the kitchen to try a new recipe, or they’re journaling in the evenings or reading a book or planking or practicing yoga, or becoming more intimate with the God they previously worshipped only on Sunday mornings. A few friends have joked about the Home Economics classes they are conducting, including all aspects of home maintenance, basic sewing, and kitchen savvy. Many folks I know are cleaning out long-neglected closets and cabinets, and completing tasks around their homes that they have wished for years to have time for. Two of my friends are using this time to learn a new language, and one has even taken up watercolor painting.
On my daily walks I have observed parents working in their garages and yards, teaching their children about power tools, cars, lawn care, and gardening. Today I walked by two homes where children had built forts in the yard and were role-playing. I saw people playing basketball and tennis, walking pets, going fishing, taking boat rides, and even a few just sitting outside on their porch or deck. Perhaps this has been happening all along and I just wasn’t there at the right time, but I have taken walks all times of the day and year since retiring and have never seen this much outdoor activity, or seen so many families working, playing, and talking together.
Certainly many of us watch the stock exchange apprehensively, and we’re all a little more enlightened as to how interconnected we are as a global society. I dare say we’re all even more aware of the biology of viruses than we have been since high school, and perhaps we’re even reviewing, or learning for the first time, the nuts and bolts of Economics. Or our nation’s history. Or the power of the media. Without a doubt, this is the first time I can remember truck-drivers, farmers, nurses, and teachers receiving the thanks and appreciation they deserve every day for performing the services that keep us surviving and thriving as a nation. And most importantly, as a species, we have met and are defeating yet another enemy, which will help us to hang around a bit longer.
Yes, many of us “sprang forward” to Daylight Savings Time on March 8, and although the Vernal Equinox passed by without much notice on March 19, that day of balanced hours of light and darkness, perhaps we are finding a new balance, an equitable distribution of time and energy. Perhaps we will remember, when we have flattened the curve of Coronavirus, what is really most important in our lives. Just maybe we’ll have enough time to make it a habit to be more thoughtful, less wasteful, more grateful, less grumbly, less entertained and more engaged with those people who share our homes, our DNA, our names, our time and our hearts. Spring has arrived, and with it, new balance.
Wishing you joy in the journey, hope for a healthy tomorrow, peace in the unknown, and more moments of light than darkness.