The temperature at daybreak was 57 degrees. By chance, that was the day a technician came to inspect our furnace.
The calendar said that the autumnal equinox, the point at which the sun crosses the equator, from north to south, signaling the beginning of fall, was nearly two weeks away. The early morning cool gave notice that change was coming.
I have eyed the sweaters hanging in my closet. We continue to harvest green peppers, banana peppers, and eggplant, but need to plant winter crops in the garden box. The air conditioner kicks on less often, and when we open the windows at night, we can hear the call of barred owls that rest in trees somewhere in the neighborhood. In one of life’s trade-offs, we also hear traffic speeding along the highway less than a mile away.
As nightfall creeps earlier, the leaves begin to change color, at first taking on a yellow tint and later turning shades of gold, orange and red. Trees prepare for winter by not producing chlorophyll, the chemical that mixes with sunlight to turn leaves green. I probably learned that in a science class years ago, but now had to look it up.
The transition away from summer began in earnest in early September. There were four or five days of glorious weather in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with cool nights and warm, but not oppressive days.
During the Days of Awe, the 10 days of prescribed introspection, I again found myself listening to “Who by Fire,” Leonard Cohen’s take on the High Holy Days prayer “Unetanneh Tokef,” which asks: “Who shall live and who shall die?” One need not be religious to reflect on the change in seasons.
(As an aside, where 2020 felt interminably long, 2021 seems to be passing more quickly.)
I met a friend for coffee, which before COVID-19 we did from time to time. Our conversations leave me feeling uplifted. I had not seen him in more than 18 months. Such is the life we have led during the pandemic.
When I randomly said “COVID-19 is a thief,” my friend gave me space to try aloud to bring form to that comment.
It’s not just that the virus has taken lives and health, I said, or that it has (out of prudence and common sense) circumscribed how we interact with the world outside of our personal spaces, or that it has been exploited to infect already inflamed public discourse.
COVID-19 has stolen that most precious of commodities, time, particularly from those who daily give a nod to the passage of time in their lives. Younger folks who complain about COVID-19 preventing them from doing this or that may fail to appreciate their favorable ratio of tomorrows to yesterdays. That perspective unfortunately comes with age.
The virus has been crueler to those on the other side of that inflection point.
Long planned but now canceled trips to destinations abroad may or may not be possible in the future. Health is never guaranteed, and time spent with elderly friends may or may not be possible in the future. Multi-generational gatherings, a chance for grandchildren to develop more than a passing acquaintance with their grandparents, may or may not be possible in the future.
On the other side of lost opportunities has come gratitude for what has been possible.
I am among those who have resumed conversations with people I had been out of touch with for too many years. More than one friend has acknowledged enhanced feelings and appreciation for their spouse or partner.
Working in the garden, walking around the block, hiking wooded trails, and just watching nature outdoors have taken on added value. I treasure my time at that cabin in the woods next to the lake in Maine, perhaps more so the past couple of years.
We hope that our kitchen once again fills with friends for a Chanukah latke party this year, and that our table is expanded for next spring’s Passover seder — rituals that regrettably, but by necessity, have been forgone the past couple of years.
We hope that in the coming months, those passports get stamped.
We hope that generations will gather for embraces not possible on a video monitor.
Yet, while we hope, the thief continues to steal what cannot be regained.