Finally I saw that worrying came to nothing. And gave up. And took my old body and went out into the morning and sang.
I gather speed as my car swoops down a winding roller-coaster
of road. The posted speed is 25, but she lunges forward, whining after I
downshift all the way to the bottom until leveling out, then slowing to a creep,
back up the other side. I pass a curtain of silvery birch. Snow blankets the slopes
to my left, the chairlift is still now. Oak Savannah on my right, is crispy
brown and dry.
This is Afton State Park. It shares a name with the quaint
village nearby which took its name
from Robert Burns, “Sweet Afton.” Fields roll toward vistas, three hundred feet
above the Saint Croix River, Minnesota and Wisconsin’s natural border. Afton is
home to gold medal winning crosscountry skier Jessie Diggans, and the grandly
named Afton Alps, the largest ski area in the Twin Cities.
We’ve been told by our governor to stay home – but not stay
indoors necessarily, urged to get outside while still keeping our six-foot
distance. The parking lot is full and people walk in small clumps, crunching
through last year’s leaves. An ice island of phantom ski tracks and long-healed
thunderbolt-shaped cracks is filled with migratory birds. The crackly noisemaker
call of sandhill cranes competes with a neighbor’s revving engine.
But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations.
For many of us, early March was “before” and now we reside in “after,” or perhaps more accurately, “during.” It’s hard to remember so many freedoms we enjoyed only a few weeks ago. And I don’t speak simply to being able to come and go as we please, congregate and share activities without a thought, or that our lives had some semblance of stability.
What I refer to is the loss of our dreams, ones we could plan for and bring to life, ones that sustained our hard work and focus, ones that made life rich and worth sacrificing for.
Now, we isolate and we wait.
Believe me, I am committed to what it takes for our common welfare, but I wonder if we’ll lose something from this time. If that’s hubris, then ok. If it’s hope, I’m heartbroken.
The volume’s turned up at William O’Brien as I take a half-day’s walk on muddy trails, ears open to the music of early spring. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers’ rat-a-tat competes with the vibra-slap trill of the redwing blackbird. Ratcheting turkeys interject mirth in between chickadees’ mournful insistence. Wind-up toy robins, two-toned honking geese, a gold finch gushing a string of ‘tweety-bird’ before alighting on a C-shaped roller coaster, riding an invisible air-track. At a flooded stream, a warbler checks me out, coming close on hopping feet before darting out of sight behind a drooping willow.