On Christmas Eve the skies are heavy and gray, pregnant with rain that will not come. The wind is hard and erratic. It picks up leaves, thrusts them into the air, and then drops them violently. It is the only sound – low and mournful – that I hear. The birds, the rabbits, the squirrels have burrowed in somewhere, hiding from the cold in a way that makes me envious.
Only one more week, I think, one more week in this dreadful year. The year that started so optimistically with perky hashtags – #perfect vision – and not just plans, but expectations. We know, we thought, how the year goes. How winter literally melts into spring, how accomplishments and milestones are celebrated, how companies operate, what is required of friendship.
We didn’t know.
The road is wet, but not muddy. The treads on my tennis shoes make sharp-lined chevrons that dissolve quickly into soft curves. My hands are as deep in my pockets as they will go, but my face confronts the wind and the cold unprotected, bare and raw.
Turning a page. Of all the cliches about the end of one year and the beginning of another, this is the one that has rooted into my brain on this holy day. Seems appropriate for a writer, but I can not play with it as I would normally. I can’t find a way to tear it apart and make something lovely and hopeful. I can only see a literal page, one where the page break separates a sentence leaving it incomplete.
I sent more sympathy cards in 2020 than I remember ever having sent before. And, then, of course, I received many more than that. I don’t know the number of events I’d planned to attend that got cancelled. I spent hours and hours staring at my computer screen and grids of faces. I walked so, so many miles.
I am weary. I am not alone (In the figurative sense, of course. We are all far more alone literally.).
But, despite my fatigue and protestations, Christmas has come anyway. Church services and nativity scenes have been cancelled, but Dr. Anthony Fauci has proclaimed that Santa is COVID-free and can safely propel himself down all the chimneys in the world. My sigh is overcome by the wind. No one, not even myself, can hear my sadness.
I am as unsure of 2021 as I have ever been.
Sudden movement draws my eye upward. Directly above me is a hawk. Gliding, sliding, climbing then falling as if riding the currents is the easiest thing in the world. As though yielding to the cold wind, the damp air is a thing of joy.
Many years ago during a leadership exercise on an isolated island off the coast of Georgia, each of us was asked to name the animal that best described us. I said I was a red-tailed hawk – resident of the countryside, comfortably independent and solitary. Watching the one above me now, I realize that statement was simply aspirational. What I am is a border collie – constantly in need of a job, an activity, something to keep me busy.
Is that why 2020 has been so hard? Because the busyness that makes me feel useful, loved, worthy has been stolen from me? Because I have been forced to be realistic about what and how much I can and can not do? Because being powerless is as frightening a thing as any of us can know?
I am a border collie, but I want to be a hawk. I want to glide and slide and climb and fall with the currents, yielding to the ebb and flow I will never be able to control, allowing the wind to turn the pages as I read on.