Tonight, I take my guitar into the girls’ room and we sing a few songs; I end with a Vance Joy song we have all taken like a theme song of sorts. Penelope finally settles down, curls up under her blankets, and falls asleep. It is her birthday tomorrow; she will be five. It is raining outside. I walk back out into the living room where Amanda is looking through songs for a birthing playlist for the hospital. The new baby girl is due at any moment now, and unfortunately, amongst this new pandemic world, we aren’t totally sure if I can be at the birth with her. We aren’t totally sure who will stay with the girls at home if I was to go with her. And there is always a chance the hospital will stop allowing birthing partners to go anyways. This surely wasn’t the birth either of us imagined. We read today that it is OK to go ahead and grieve for the experience you have lost. We have grandparents slated to come, but now we are worried, worried for the new baby, worried for Amanda, worried for them. All the worst case scenarios are unimaginable, or at the very least, unbearable.
I have been thinking a lot about resilience. Last week, I helped put on a national conference on sustainability titled, resilience in a changing world, and in the last weeks leading up to the conference, we had to change everything to become a fully online conference. We did it. That same week I found out I wasn’t chosen for the full-time professorship job I was already doing. They decided to go with a stranger who had more scholarly publications rather than go with the person right there, already teaching the students. I took the phone call on the jungle gym I am building for the girls, hung up, went inside and told Amanda, both in slight dismay, but maybe now isn’t a time to think about what is next in my career, now is a time to welcome a new baby into the world. I think she was more upset than I was. I don’t think she was upset about the job, but upset that my ego might be hurt, upset that she was so sure I was better than that. I love that about her. As the kids remind me, they must think the wrong things are important.
The dogs are both restless and want their evening walk. I just started including Bluebird into our walk at night. He wants so much to be like Chico, or at least, to have the place in my heart held by Chico. I won’t fully let him in that way. I might never allow another dog to have such a close place. I have been letting this whole family into my heart now for years, Amelia who stares at me and is slowly understanding that I am 95% sarcastic about everything. Penelope who is finding out how to get me to press her pressure points and massage her strong and bruised soon to be 5-year old body because it is always trying to keep up with her 8-year old sister. Amanda, my love, so strong and unable to rest, trusting me with her entire world. Bluebird, well, he does everything he can to try and get as close to me as Chico will allow him to. They are figuring it out and on our walks, they seem almost like good friends. We are all so cooped up right now, the dogs run around the block with a light rain falling, and a short feeling of freedom if only for a few moments.
Amanda’s whole world is about recovery and resilience. For years working as a humanitarian in Africa, to now, the director of wildfire recovery in California with the American Red Cross. Her life seems to be about trying to help others who have lost. I love that too about her. When I met her, when we went on our first date and talked the whole night about a life we could imagine, I think I knew I found someone who didn’t just challenge me, but made me want to be a better person. I am learning that the better person is the person who cares for other people more than themselves, the person who cares for their family above all else. Soon, together, we will welcome a beautiful new girl into this crazy world. When Amanda first took the job, the Red Cross had to set up massive shelters for the Oroville dam about to break and flood. It didn’t, but then the fires hit, Thomas, Carr, and Camp. Our world upside down, while she worked long hours every day, trying to help people find homes, find loved ones, find shelter, find hope.
I am the only one really going out right now. We are trying to keep the girls safe, and Amanda safe, and the unborn child safe. I have forays out into the world. Yesterday, at Trader Joes, I waited in line, six feet apart from the person in front of me, until the clerk, sprayed down a grocery cart for me to take inside, and I took my turn in the store, keeping away from everyone, trying to decipher Amanda’s handwriting on the grocery list, while also texting her when something she wanted wasn’t in stock. Luckily, we have yet to need toilet paper as strange as that is, but also have yet to find the green lentils she keeps putting on the list. I pay for my groceries behind the newly installed plexi-glass barriers, bag my own groceries because they will not bag anything in your own bags and I still won’t use paper bags if I can avoid it. I am aware of everything I touch. Remember not to touch my face. As I walk out, I wave to a neighbor also in line at Trader Joes, I load the groceries up in the back of the truck, open the door to my truck, use the hand sanitizer in the door, wipe off the key to my truck, get in, and drive home. The process is starting to feel normal. It actually amazes me how quickly we can adapt to circumstances when we see the dire need for it all. I reflect on this at our Sustainability Conference, even talk about it in my own presentation on climate grief, and eco-anxiety. The conference is a huge success. It is hard to celebrate knowing I didn’t get the job at the University. I tell myself over and over that resilience is a state of mind too.
It’s hard to grieve for losing an experience when so many are losing their lives. For now, we are all healthy, while I may not have a fulltime job, I have a part time job with good benefits. We are both taking leave to be with our new girl. It is an amazing feeling to have a family and to know that you are together, that whatever happens out there, out beyond your quarantine is a world of people also trying to live and to love, but right here, less than six feet apart, sitting on the couch touching, reading stories together, is what matters most. I haven’t been writing much lately, but mostly that is because I have been living so much, loving so much. Still, it is strange to know you are all out there too, in these lonely quarantines from handshakes and hugs. Humans are resilient in this changing world. We keep finding ways to love. I hope everything is great with the birth of this new little girl we will soon have. I hope I can be there, able to hold her as she takes her first breath in this world, hoping the air she breathes is clean and clear.
So much of the world is resilient. We adapt, we grow stronger, we find better ways, we make communities , we come together. It’s always been fascinating to see the wildflowers after a burn, to see the ways humans come together during disaster. But what happens when coming together is what’s causing the disaster? So, I write. It’s my way to stay connected, to reach out across the 6 feet that feels like a chasm of Grand Canyon proportions. You are my wildflowers.