Around this time every year I fall prey to a kind of seasonal hysteria. The aim of this hysteria, if such things can have an aim, is to magically think the temperature down to moderate levels. It goes like this:
Me: Summer in Arizona is like winter everywhere else. Can’t go outside. Uncomfortable. Weather is menacing. And it’s coming.
Me: Winter is coming.
Me: Wait, is winter coming?
Me: (getting excited) Winter is the best season in Arizona. Is it coming? Just a month or two away? It will get so cool. I can wear a sweater. I can wear closed-toe shoes.
Friends of mine, and also my husband, have recently forgotten their own ages. Industries are doing their regular work at a grindingly slow pace. Everything seems a little farther off than it should. Last night I dreamed about a dance competition: the last dance would take place on a boat in the Pacific, but a gale-force storm had blown in. What would happen? How would the triumphant dancers manage the sudden, nauseating drops and leaps of the stormy sea? I will never know because then I woke up.
In this dream state life, I’ve been thinking again about the idea of a plague diary, and wondering whether I should be recording more of my thoughts. How would people 10 or 20 years from now react to a simple narration of recent events? The president announced he would destroy social media because it correctly said he lied. People want to die triumphantly for the stock market. College may or may not exist. Goats and bears are reclaiming small villages. Then I woke up.
Then I woke up, we think, every day, not waking. I’ve found it interesting and difficult to digest, how different it is to go into different public spaces. For instance, the grocery store, which grows grimmer on the regular, and yet is better stocked and now firmly offering masks to anyone who doesn’t bring their own. As contrasted with a local popular shopping strip, which I drove to this weekend to pick up tacos, where people were walking close together, closer, it seemed, than they would usually care to get, sitting in restaurants, their faces set in a grim (non-) mask of determination to not believe anything is happening. Signs say “Let’s do our part” like we’re in a movie, but people, it turns out, don’t want to be in a movie, they want to be in a movie theatre.
Summer is coming, the winter of our local seasons, though my garden still has its good points, and the peaches are still ripening on our steadfast little tree. The feeling I get walking through this cognitively dissonant world is one of crawling under my skin. The skin, quite normal, if a bit dry from so many hand-washings, my face set in determination to do what I must as safely and normally as possible, to take it all in without it breaking me down, and to have ordinary encounters: walking the dog, sitting on the couch with my husband, talking with my niece and nephew over video chat. The crawling is invisible, it is the ocean moving beneath my boat, it is the stomach-turn when the floor drops out, the realization that the earth is moving around the sun.
When sunflowers bloom, they do it piece by piece, segment by segment, so you will occasionally see a flower whose top petals are open, but bottom ones are not. It looks like a person who has thrown their hands in front of their face, covered their mouth in shock at what they’ve seen, or what they have not seen, but have sensed just as surely and completely.