“What’s new?” my mother asks in my daily call to her, desperate for distraction.
I want to tell her that very exciting things are happening (she’ll forget them five minutes later), but short of making something up (now there’s an idea!), I have little to say. “Nothing, mom. It’s going to be a hot weekend up here, but not as hot as it is by you in the Middle East. I’m thinking of getting Aussie some kind of dog or kiddie pool because she loves soaking in the water in the summer.”
“Huh,” she says.
“Not an Olympic-size pool,” I assure her in case she’s watching the Olympics. “I feel good, I’m busy, nothing’s new.” At that point she wants to get off the phone quickly, having lost interest.
We were at the beaver dam a week ago. Whenever I’m there I feel like I’m walking in an ever-changing ecological zone. The beavers are building more dams, bringing down more trees, gnawing at more bark, crunching up the moss and dragging it over to the water. They’re building themselves another lodge.
The record July rains brought us so much water that what had once been two gurgling streams creating one big gushing fall have multiplied into half a dozen swirling, rushing streams. At one point, Aussie, who’s fearless in the water, was dragged by the current in the direction of the falls. I watched her carried past me, threw off my crocs, but she managed to get her footing and staggered to shore.
“Look,” my friend said, “it’s stormy and swirling here, and over there it becomes a quiet pond. But the swirling water continues underneath, we just can’t see it. What’s that phrase, still waters run deep?”
Yes, that’s what it was. On the exterior things look calm and placid, completely undisturbed. But underneath!
Covid here, in our part of New England, reminds me of that still pond. The numbers of people taken ill or hospitalized continue to be very low. My life is quiet and mostly undisturbed. I look out at the same picture of maples surrounded by droopy moss, laundry lines, a red hummingbird feeder, the now-bare branches of a lilac bush, dark shadows under the trees. Nothing like the street scene in New York City, from which my niece and partner arrived for the weekend.
“It’s so restful here,” they say.
Yes and no.
Things are changing as they speak, but changing towards what? Is there ever any final transformation?
In Israel I hear there’s talk of another lockdown due to Delta. Israel is usually ahead of the curve when it comes to covid, already administering a third vaccine to anyone over 60, and I wonder if this presages a big deterioration in our country, too.
Perhaps to cover this uncertainty, I watch the words being used to describe our situation. A student pointed out the word breakthrough. “Why do they call it a breakthrough infection?” she asked. We were told from the beginning that the vaccines, especially Pfizer and Moderna, had a success rate of 93%-96%, so from the get-go we knew that an average of 5% of vaccinated people are bound to be infected. It was said transparently and clearly, yet now, whenever a vaccinated person gets infected, we call it a breakthrough infection, as though somehow this wasn’t supposed to happen. As though we’d erected a barrier that was supposed to be 100% impermeable, and the virus broke through anyway.
It raises our temperature, increases stress, and reduces our trust in science and medicine.
What happens around us is way more subtle than such dramatics.
I feel good, I feel healthy, hosting family this weekend. And at the same time, I’m way more porous than before, allowing deeper and deeper uncertainty to come in.
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