I am blessed to have a home nestled in a beautiful valley, far away from the energy and Covid 19 vibe of the city. It is more or less our primary residence. Large enough for family gatherings and entertaining friends. Large enough to accommodate city crazed “working from home” children who need a break from their condos. And with lots of outdoor space for deck visits, which are ordained legal at this stage of the pandemic social isolation. There are also many kilometres of trails where maintaining the hockey-stick distance between two people is never a problem. We bolted from our small city space when the lockdown loomed.
From our perch above the valley, overlooking the snowmelt, the mud and now the deep green quilting of the fields plowed and planted, we watched the world on our screens. Initially, we were glued to our phones and laptops and the endless updates on numbers of cases, global city lockdowns, and the deaths of health care workers, young people, and elders. We greedily watched each press conference, never satiated with the amount and quality of information. We needed more.
After a few short weeks, the interest and urgency waned. The social isolation routines were in place and working relatively well. We had groceries delivered, drug store deliveries, and new leisurewear arriving in boxes on our porch. I even splurged during one of my numerous late-night fantasy web cruises and ordered earrings and two necklaces. In only a few days, they too landed on our porch in a box, yet more packaging,
Within a few weeks, we noticed we were spending less time in front of our screens. We opined that the news was repetitive and depressing. The headlines were now focusing on conspiracy theories, hoarding safety equipment and masks, and finger pointing. At a time when we needed to be pulling together as a human race, I had the sense that we were unravelling. Leaders were inciting fear instead of comforting and empowering their people.
As the weeks passed by, the Covid updates were sprinkled with front page news of risks to our mental health from the stress. And the fear and uncertainty of the disease and the measures being enforced to attempt to control its spread. And then there were headlines of protests against mandated isolation and closure of public spaces. And then there were headlines that highlighted that Covid was ruthlessly attacking not only the elderly but the marginalized, homeless and minorities. And then there were headlines of racist actions under the guise of law enforcement. And then there were headlines of needless and senseless deaths at the hands of police. And then there are headlines of violent protests and destructive civil unrest.
Our collective vulnerability had split us wide open to rage and the need to hold leaders accountable. For Covid, for racism, for ignorance.
I returned to the city two days ago. I left the peace of the valley and returned to a downtown core that was slowly emerging from lockdown. On my evening walk as I was attuning to the quiet of the city, a luxury SUV passed along beside me. The windows were down, the deep beating music was loud – the reverberations echoing in the street. A young black man was drumming on the steering wheel and dancing in his seat as he drove by. I looked over at him and smiled. He was not afraid of being pulled over and accused of stealing the car. He was not afraid of being beaten by someone in a uniform. He was not afraid of being shot.
A glimmer of hope mixed with thankfulness filled me in that moment. I watched the vehicle disappear noisily down the hill. I had a new understanding of the power and purpose of placards and people gathering on the streets. I had a deeper understanding of the rage. I had this simple thought. If the protests led to change, this is what the gift of freedom and equality would look like.
In that moment and on that street, that young man was free and empowered. That’s why I smiled.
At least, that was my experience.