It is the summer solstice and, at this latitude, there are 16 hours of daylight today. With the trees bursting with green leaves and the blue sky without clouds, we quickly forget that the dark, wet winter days are what put the shimmering snow we now see on the distant mountains.
As we pour outside in our shorts, tee shirts, and sunglasses, we don’t speak of desperation: The desperation during the winter solstice, when thousands of people in the US died each day from Covid-19, when mothers quivered from feelings of unfair guilt due to the impossible burdens of raising children and working, when poor people wondered if they could get work that day to buy enough food to feed their families. When there were only eight and a half hours of daylight, desperate tent cities popped up like mushrooms following a storm. Desperate women smoked stimulant drugs like methamphetamine to stay awake through the night to decrease the chance that someone would rape them. Desperate young people took their own lives, unable to foresee how their circumstances could ever improve.
The cool breeze from the Salish Sea on this glorious summer day doesn’t sweep away the desperation: Emergency departments, hospitals, and clinics don’t have enough staff[1. Who and where are the people taking care of the health care workers?] to care for the desperate people seeking help. Institutions struggle with race and racism: Why did the white supervisor enter the Black person’s office and remove the “Black Lives Matter” sign that was adorned with the institution’s logo? Sirens[2. Who and where are the people taking care of first responders?] continue to wail through the streets at all hours, past the tent cities that persist outside of boarded up storefronts, under freeways, and in patches of public land overrun with dandelions.
Though we don’t speak of desperation, we feel it and then grasp with greed: Let me witness the shaking of the leaves as the breeze moves through the trees. Let me listen to the arboreal applause. Let me squint at the sunlight and find the moon during the day. Let me watch the clouds, let me witness how they change, let me remember that clouds always change, that they are always with us even when they disappear from view. Let me recognize what the clouds are trying to teach me.
I survived. The pandemic has been with us for over a year and I was lucky enough to live. I never got infected, I never got sick. I was not one of the 601,000+ people in this country who died. Don’t I have some obligation to make the most of my time here because I lived?
The antidote to desperation is gratitude, though even my gratitude feels desperate. There are so many people to thank and prayers of gratitude to utter. I want to hold this summer day in my hands, to feel the texture of the evening breeze, to see how the sky changes colors as the earth rotates away from the sun tonight.