by John Colgan-Davis

For the past week or so there have been some wonderful sights and sounds when I leave my house early in the morning. On the little patch of land to the front and side of the house there are white and blue pansies, snowdrops and now daffodils in bloom. The daffodils, in particular, look great with that yellow against a backdrop of still-brownish ground. And the buds are out on nearly all of the bushes in the neighborhood.

The soundscape is different too. There are the loud rhythmic taps of hairy and red-headed woodpeckers. There are the joyous “cheeps” and ”cheerios” of robins, the deep cooing sounds of mourning doves and other sounds of birds that have been missing for a while.

The cherry trees on Mt. Pleasant, Germantown and Cresheim Avenues are all pink and proudly puffed out. The night moon is still visible in the early morning sky. Spring is in the air, on the ground and in the sky. It is a special time of the year as that wondrous cycle has come around yet again.   

Like the earth itself, I am renewed each spring, a little more alive and inspired. I love going out and seeing what is in bloom today that wasn’t yesterday; what colors are now alive and visible to me. What birds are back in the area, and where can I see them nesting? And it is all free. What could  be better than that?                                         

Of course, this is all happening at the time of the COVID-19 virus and all of the school closures, sporting event and entertainment cancellations and more. The news is changing almost daily as health officials, government officials and medical professionals are all scrambling to get a handle on how best to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus. Preventive measures have been shared again and again — social distancing, people at risk staying home as much as possible, people with symptoms getting tested and/or quarantining themselves, hand washing and not shaking hands or touching one’s face.

States, cities and the national government have declared states of emergencies, and all but essential businesses are shut. It is a disease outbreak, and all civilizations have had and will have them; it is one of the unfortunate features of being a civilization.  

And given the severe nature of this one, many may die. So against all of this, the idea of delighting in the changing of the seasons may seem a little pointless and even ridiculous.

But to me, it is not. In fact, being able to delight in these changes gives me a balanced perspective and helps me avoid useless and self-paralyzing panic. I am in the “at risk   group (I am 69), “elderly.” As suggested, I am not leaving the house much, am washing my hands constantly, am wiping down surfaces, keeping distance and not shaking hands.

I have toilet paper, a freezer full of food and running water. I have cut down on my use of public transit and use Lyft. So far I am in pretty good shape and am grateful for that. But certainly, there has to be more to my life than just this. 

And there is. Noticing the changes in my surroundings keeps me grounded and reminds me to pause, take a breath and get on doing things other than worrying and panicking over situations over which I have no control. It also reminds me that I am not serving a jail sentence and that I can live a life beyond the virus’ preventive prescriptions.  

I have a lot of interests: tons of books to read, friends a phone, a computer, a backyard, binoculars, bird feeders, walking shoes and more. I can and do go walking and say “Hi” to other folks who are out and give each other a smile of solidarity and hope. I can call, text and/or e-mail others I know who are more seriously homebound than I am and maybe run an errand for them and help keep them from going stir-crazy.

And particularly at a time like this, it is important that I fully  appreciate and do all of these things I do have and am capable of. For this lets me know that I am still a vital part of this world; that I  still can be of use,   find pleasure and joy and fit into, even if a little uncomfortably, this world just as it is. No disease outbreak or fear of one can take that away from me.

That will help me deal with COVID-19, the changes in my life and the lives of others, no matter what. For those changes are real too.  And they matter. Be safe and be well.

John Colgan-Davis is a long-time Mt. Airy resident, retired public school teacher and harmonica player for the rockin’ blues band, the Dukes of Destiny.  

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