Photo by Chelsea Curry
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
– Emily Dickinson, via the Poetry Foundation
Nailed it, Emily.
A very rare yellow cardinal was spotted in an Illinois backyard in February.
That yellow cardinal reminded me that “rare” doesn’t mean “impossible,” that hope isn’t foolish–it’s reasonable, necessary, and wonderful. That yellow cardinal made me realize I’d been suppressing hope for too long.
Last Wednesday, I was scrolling through my email and noticed an email from my health care network. I hadn’t visited the doctor recently, so I was puzzled.
I opened the message and was elated to find an invitation to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination.
I got shaky. I logged in and grabbed the first appointment listed, but the system returned a “try again.” I got frantic. Was this one going to turns into a days or weeks-long ordeal, staying online 24/7, refreshing my screen, logging out and in, to try to snare an appointment?
I tried the next available appointment, and miraculously, it went through. Success!
I got my first of two shots of the Pfizer vaccine at my local hospital on Friday morning. My second shot is April 2. I should achieve as much immunity as the shots can confer (95% effective) by April 16.
I thought I had been handling all this OK. Angelic daughter and I had settled into a routine that sustained us. We knew what would happen when, which day of the week I’d mask up and go to the grocery store, what time of day we’d take breaks together, and what was for dinner each night. The most I’d say about when we could get vaccinated was “eventually-maybe by May or June.”
Until I got that appointment booked, I hadn’t realized how shut down I’d been, avoiding looking forward, or imagining how things might be “when COVID is over.” When the system confirmed my appointment and issued instructions (where to park, don’t get there more than 15 minutes early, etc.), hope became real for me.
The hospital marched dozens of people through for their shots in just minutes, and found places for everyone in the “observation” room where you go for 15 minutes after the shot, to make sure there are no adverse reactions. They even had a cheerful “greeter” chirping “thanks for coming!”
While I was in the observation room, a stocky man with scraggly grey hair entered. He was offered a seat but said no, he’d stand. He went and stood behind the chair of a tired-looking, grey-haired woman. He said something cheerful to her. Obviously, they were a couple, and he was comforting and reassuring his other half.
I found that touching, and a little painful. Mike hasn’t been here to go through all this with us, and he wasn’t there to go through the hope and joy of the first vaccine shot with me, either.
But I think he’s been around.
There’s been a new owl in the neighborhood since last spring.
Yesterday, we sat outside on the deck, which has emerged from under 30 inches of (now melted) snow. As sunset approached, that owl flew overhead, low enough to hear its wings whoosh, as it had done last spring.
Last year, I could barely buy enough mouse traps to cope with the winter rodent invasion. A chipmunk got into the house too, leaping out at me from a cubby in my desk hutch.
This winter, we didn’t have a single mouse in the house, and no rogue chipmunks scritching around, stealing insulation from the wall adjoining the garage.
I think I have that owl to thank for that. Maybe he was watching out for us, doing what he could.
Now, it’s a waiting game until Angelic Daughter gets her invitation. In the meantime, my jab of hope has inspired me to step up my self-care. I’ve even allowed myself to start thinking about traveling to meet a great-nephew, now three years old, and about when I could get to Maine, or a concert, ball game, or show.
Hope gives me the resolve to live a more complete life. I’m determined to soak in every glorious second of it. I feel like I’ve been given bonus round, a spectacular second chance, and I’m going to do my best not to screw it up.
Here’s hoping your invitation is on its way. Until then I remain,
your hopeful, energized, slightly giddy, but still cautious, masked, and socially distanced,