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I have been quarantining. Again.

It’s 2022 and still, somehow STILL a pandemic. Even vaccinated, and previously infected, I have become sick and fevered again. I have been deemed unclean, sent away to lick my wounds in the aching quiet of isolation. Banished like a leper, the department of health crying unclean, unclean as I turn to leave.

I am a casualty of the newest strain of Covid. Omnicron. You bitch.

From my makeshift deathbed on the couch, I lay huddled beneath a down comforter the remote control resting within easy reach. But I’m not looking at the TV, I’m looking out the window. at a world dipped in white.

And so in the stilted quiet of an empty house, in a too still neighborhood surrounded by the styrofoam snow, I have been thinking about how things grow. What feeds them, when does the process of becoming begin? Mostly, I have been thinking about what a miracle it is, to bloom at all.

The paper straw in my glass of water is unravelling, shedding its skin like a lizard. And it’s hard to believe on this cold winter day when the temperature hovers around ten degrees, that the seeds of summer are tucked like a baby beneath the thick blanket of snow. Snug as an infant just waiting to grow. In the sterility, the white noise, the boxed in containment of winter the miracle of spring is already waiting to unfold, rise like lazareth from the grave.

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You have to start winter the same way you start a quarentine, by knowing it will end. So that when the holdidays are finished, and the bulk of winter lays spread bare before you, a gutted fish; white meat packed against the bones like wedged feathers, that the isolation, the Styrofoam silence the white padded lawns and dusted sidewalks that show every stain, every ungraceful mistep will eventually melt beneath the sun, seep into the earth, water the seeds of what if.

It is faith that fuels the heavy steps you must take to get through the dark days of biting cold, and so it is faith that I reach for now. Faith, and tissues, or rather an unravelled roll of toilet paper because the tissues have long since run out, and I have boys who don’t care about tissues or buying more. And besides, who needs tissues when you have a sleeve?

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Things to Remember about Blooming

Flowers, especially wildflowers, are stubbornly determined to bloom. They grow between rock crevices, in the stilted cracks of sidewalks, they climb the rotting walls of ancient castles, blossom in desperately parched deserts. Flowers can grow, and survive in the most extreme conditions. They don’t ask permission to grow, they don’t care what the flower next to them is doing, or what specimen they are up against, they just bloom. Whatever they are, they bloom. They stretch and claw their way from the dark tangle of roots towards light. They open and turn their faces to the sun because that is what they were designed to do, it’s what has been germinated all this time in the hated dark. The possibility of becoming.

A few years ago, in the pre-pandemic days of travel bliss, I visited Bali with some friends. And while walking around a shallow pool, a puddle really, I was sad about the way trash crowded almost the entire space. Broken bottles and empty cans, a dirty shoe lace stung like spaghetti over a piece of wet, bloated cardboard, folded into each other. At first glance the garbage was all I could see. But them, as if by magic, a lotus flower came into view, nearly levitating, the perfect petals unfolding, the blossom rising from beneath the dark shadows of discarded waste.

It was a too obvious metaphor. And had there been a tour guide I feel certain she would said, The lotus plant is able to draw nourishment from the murky, trashy waters to present a beautiful flower. The potential for that bloom lies hidden deep within the core of the plant well before it’s unfolding.

But there wasn’t a tour guide, so I pretended to be one, and said it to everyone around me.

Be part of a network

Winter is isolating. Quarantining during winter (again) with a too loud cough the only noise in the empty house, is it’s own special brand of madness. The dark stunted days, the coughing engines, words that hang in the air like ghosts. Nothing brings home the need for connection like these elements combined and shaken, not stirred. Sometimes in the chaos of a too busy life I have longed for, dreamed of silence, to be overcome by quiet. But we were not made to sit forever in a pocket of air. We were not made to be bubble wrap, we were made to be connected.

Flowers need warmth to awaken from the winter’s frost, to sprout and to grow to their fullest potential. Human beings likewise need the warmth of human compassion to grow. Call it what you want, read a study, delve back into those college days of human development and remember that you learned even a baby monkey deprived of his mother, would pick the furry fake primate that offered no substance over the hard wired metal monkey who offered an abundance of food. Because connection, and being cared for is as basic and fundamental a need as nourishment It’s a necessity for survival.

Don’t give up

Seeds have to endure changes in soil temperature, fluctuations in the amount of moisture they receive and animals trying to dig them up as food. And by animals, I mean children. But they persevere and they emerge anyway.

I have been tempted on these past, particularly blustery days to shout into the empty sky that I cannot grow under these circumstances. That I cannot be expected to become without nourishment. I cannot sprout from an empty box. But, the truth is seedling grow from the tiniest patch of soil, emerge from a crack in the concrete. Flowers open their petals when the sun is shining, and open their petals when the sky is raining, Yes, positive environment and proper nurturing accelerates the growth of all living things, but the lack of it doesn’t stop the flowers from growing altogether.

Flowers grow to their highest height, in spite of the fact that come winter, they shall wither and die. Flowers grow, live, and thrive regardless of their finiteness; their mortality. and whether or not it’s a pandemic.

COVID-19 Coping Skills: Increasing Resilience - The Association

Despite the circumstances, a flower still blooms!

Take that Omnicron.

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