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Rachel Marston

Our bathroom smells strange, a combination of mildew and pee accumulated on the floor and the toilet from a five-year old son. No matter how much I scrub the grout, the toilet, it is somehow always there. Perhaps the bathroom has always smelled this way and I only notice it because I am home all the time. I determine to scour all of the surfaces of the bathroom again, consider washing the walls with a bleach and water solution in case of mold, don’t like using bleach in the house, may need to save the bleach for other disinfecting purposes. Bleach is hard to come by these days.

Like so many things, the lack of easy access to bleach matters and doesn’t matter. The bathroom’s cleanliness matters, but more as a way to distract myself, so that I am not again undone and weeping in my office, or in the shower, or on my yoga mat during savasana worrying about whether or not a medication I need will be available because Trump has wrongly touted it as a prophylactic or cure for COVID-19, worrying about his calls to resume nuclear testing, worrying about all the people who are dying, who are sick, who are out of work.

I try to not weep, when it comes, in front of my son, who attends to everything we mention about the pandemic, who cries because he misses his friends, who has begun to develop an aversion to people. This from a kid who knew the name of every checker and bagger at our local grocery store by age three because he talked to everyone. Now, as we walk around the neighborhood or in the woods, he looks at people suspiciously and asks, “Why aren’t they following the COVID rules?” Good question, kid.

The dailiness of things becomes a saving grace, even the Monday-Friday e-learning with a kindergartner, who delights in changing the background of the assignment to a rainbow pattern rather than answering the simple question (Have you ever been to a baseball game? Yes or no. Circle your answer.). My spouse and I alternate these mornings, trying to carve out time to do our own work, each of us willing our son to just get the assignment done.

But he may be the one who has it right. Why not look for beauty or make it where we can find it? Not to hide our faces from the bad, not to pretend that everything is okay, not to assert that something good comes out of every bad thing (because there are things that are bad and sometimes we barely make it through them), but rather because art and beauty give us something to hold onto, something that we can nestle close to our hearts.

This morning the yard was filled with petals blown down from our profusion crabapple tree, a scattering of dark pink against the green of the grass. My son grabs a handful and throws them in the air. As they drift down and one lands, pink against the blonde of his hair, I am able to slow the swirling in my head and my heart and, in this moment, just be here.

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