The Long Now of Not Knowing

There are rainbows on the windows and walls of the local businesses in my little town, painted and chalked and pasted up with construction paper, a show of solidarity in a community not known for such a thing. It feels sweet and a little tentative, the town speaking with a waver in its voice, trying on new words: Us. Together.

Two of the local cafes — a sandwich shop and a Mediterranean place — have stayed open for curbside service, but traffic is thin now as we reach the end of our fourth week of stay-at-home, and I don’t see either of them sticking it out much longer. It’s hard to know what choice to make, when every option seems to put someone or something at risk.

Spring is especially lovely this year, with all the flowering trees and tulips and phlox and lilac. I go outside daily, sometimes only as far as the edge of my own yard, but from there I can see the redbud and cherry blossoms in yards up and down the street, the dogwood just now coming into bloom, azaleas waiting in the wings. We’re living — all of us everywhere, it seems — in the long now of not-knowing, but we’re also immersed in the seasonal expression of a world turning in all the familiar ways. We can look around and say, “Oh, this is where we are. We’re been here before.”

It feels like everything is different this time around, but not everything is different. The bumblebees are still hanging around my back door. The bamboo is sprouting everywhere. The birds are up at five a.m., singing.