I am a walker in this COVID. Before dawn, or as dawn is starting to come through the slats of the blinds over the sleeping body of my husband, as my two sons turn idly in their sleep, I become aware of the weather on my two-mile loop, its steep first hill, its turn off of pavement onto hard-pack one-lane trail, then back to where houses can be seen, back to asphalt, the downhill straightaway home. Into whatever weather, I get up and start to move.
On the shady part that is hard packed I try to practice a particular surrender. I’m everywhere now/the way is a vow—the lyrics of a song I discovered during the pandemic accompany me. Every emotion feels peeled back, this walking a part of my newfound vow of raw.
Between the pair of wasp’s nests—one a half orb and the other a papery undoing—and the stream which runs under the road I sometimes stop long enough for deer to cross into the state forest, where a sign warns no weapons of any kind: not gun, nor knife, nor trap, nor ax.
One day on my walk the green buds appear. Another day the purple and purplish-white wildflowers unfurl themselves at knee length. Yet later in the spring wisteria vines so high up in the high trees I don’t see them rain down their petals into the mud. Around this time all manner of butterfly appears. Within a few weeks I find butterfly wings with regularity. I wrap one in a big leaf and carry it in my sweaty hand all the way home to a blue saucer that seems destined for it.
The foxes disappear. Or rather, they are no longer visible because the lush undergrowth that covers all the hills alongside my way cover them. Likewise the bear I saw twice on one walk in late spring, the two of us after our two points of contact never to meet again. Now it’s too hot for him. I find myself worrying about him in all this humidity.
Through every step I take, the COVID death count is rising. Our area, an exurb of the suburbs of New York, is hard hit. We drown in its dizzying rise, sweat its long plateau, fail to comprehend inexplicable opening of the rest of the country while we stay shut and masked, then soak in the long-simmering eruption of righteous love that is weeks of protests after the murder of George Floyd. Yet it’s as if I can do nothing but walk.
I take note of the location of a half-shell of robin’s egg blue and leave it there in the high grass of a neighbor’s yard until I can come back to claim it. Along my way, I sing the old hymns, worry about the bear, miss my mother gone three years already, mourn the uncounted COVID dead, think who among my boys is waking, wonder at all we will have to make one day of this long interval home.
In this manner, time is passing. Parts of my-down-to-nothing life click in my knees and ankles. How are you? I used to call and ask my mother. Worn to a nub, she’d sometimes say.
All is underbrush, half wing, the blue of the egg. On the saucer, the items of this moment inhabit their brokenness as I do mine. Into this, the world’s vast brokenness, do I take my next step.