Severeid’s Soapbox -7
By Susanne Severeid
With everything swirling around us this crazy past year, have you noticed the first buds of spring? I’ve made it a point of trying to take short daily walks around town during COVID-19, a conscious effort to step away from the laptop, relieve the sense of social isolation, and get some fresh air. Funny what you see when you take the time to walk your neighborhood: plump striped cats basking in the one small circle of sun on a wooden porch; kids’ toys, helmets and scooters heaped haphazardly near a scuffed front door; “For Sale” signs that pop up from one day to the next (making me wonder about the changes propelling the moves); the friendly wave of someone in a morning bathrobe holding a coffee mug who catches my eye through their living room window.
After the long grey of winter–and this one has felt very long and grey–I am always on the look-out for signs of spring. The crocuses were the first sign I saw, their petals of purple, white and yellow bringing welcome patches of color. Then, a few hardy daffodils emerged. Having lived in Holland near Amsterdam, I always hope to see tulips. No luck with that yet.
There is a sense of relief when I first spy those slender green stalks poking through the icy soil. As if nature’s own clock ensures the certainty of spring, and that, we too, might now be emerging from this nightmare of COVID. I hope so.
Suffering and death have been thrust upon the world suddenly and without warning. We have seen our Main Streets empty, and beloved businesses and eateries closed—many shuttered for good. Essential workers and many healthcare professionals have exhausted themselves to continue serving our needs.
I feel angry at times. Anger at a past president who treated science with disdain and scoffed at experts, while basking in arrogance. I feel anger that there was not a more organized effort in the earliest stages of this viral outbreak that would have undoubtedly prevented untold suffering, rather than an obsession with goofy conspiracy theories and self-promotion. Do I believe that Bill Gates is putting microchips in the vaccines? Uh, no. Do I think herd immunity will save us here? No, I do not.
According to the National Archives, during the two-year flu epidemic of 1918-1919 some 675,000 Americans died and life expectancy dropped by a staggering 12 years. We have already hit the 500,000 mark in one year. When did our country become so polarized–and ignorant of even the basics of a middle school science class–that the simple act of wearing a mask is seen as a hardship or a personal affront? Thankfully, we have a new president who does believe in science and who actively seeks out the advice of experts with decades of experience. There now appears to be a concerted commitment to get this virus under control.
We are moving forward and the darker season of winter is ebbing. The days are longer, the sun is higher in the sky. Warmer temperatures will soon allow us to gather outside more easily with friends and family, and our lives will take on more normalcy as we begin to feel more connected. I don’t think even Dr. Fauci knows when we will hug acquaintances or lean in over a crowded table with a drink and a good, raucous laugh, but we can take first steps toward the other end of this long, dark tunnel. We can replace rabbit-hole gibberish with science, sound thinking, and common sense, and get the vaccine as it becomes available. For ourselves. For our communities.
Maybe, by then, it will be summer again, and there will be many other flowers, not just the crocuses and daffodils, in full bloom.
Susanne Severeid is an award-winning author, public speaker and performer with a background in international journalism. www.susannesevereid.com