June 20th and 21st are the longest days of the year and one is nearly over at this hour. It is 11 p.m. on the eve of the Solstice. Amazon Prime Day starts at 12 a.m.—an hour from now. I’m ready to usher in the Solstice and the Amazon Prime Day sale, but also pondering what the summer will look like in the new normal.
The Santa Barbara Solstice parade, the craziest event in the Santa Barbara City calendar, is virtual again this year. The Solstice Parade is the craziest even of the year and I can’t imagine it being virtual. Half-naked people in whatever costume they dream up march alongside kids in wagons, dogs, horses, go-carts. It just doesn’t seem right to do it at all if it is to be virtual. The pandemic has taught us the limits of virtuality.
There were lots of other good lessons too. For example, we do not all have to rush anywhere at the same time every day on overburdened roadways that rend our nerve endings and belch Co2 into the atmosphere. We might be able to meet carbon targets sooner if we all just reconsidered that alone. Some of us will want to have office space away from home, of course, but for many, once the kids are back in school full-time and then onto after school activities, it won’t be so hard place to work.
Since I have worked at one university or another most of my life, I have rarely had to drive to work more than 3 days a week, so I have always done a lot of my work from home. My kids were accustomed to a mom who works at home, piles of books on the desk, head bent over yellow pages of lined paper, or a typewriter, or a computer. Not to say that we didn’t have tangles, but there are also tangles at work when you are there all the time and the people at work seem to have something against me yelling “Stop it,” at the top of my lungs with no further explanation, like I would with my kids.
It was nice with all those cars off the roads to hear birds and bees. Nice to know nature can recover if we give it a minute. It was okay to be locked down for a while. At first, it felt strangely calm and sweet. We found lots of things to do. We cleaned out the garage. Larry cobbled together some standing flower beds and built a potting shed. I discovered great joy in the silence of gardening. You can experience a certain kind of connection with growing things that live for decades, even centuries, like trees, or even those that last for just a day or two, like daffodils.
We took lots more walks than usual to keep from losing it entirely while the gym was closed. We met our neighbors. Not just the ones who lived on our block, but also those who live along a loop that we take together with our dog. We left avocados from our tree for the woman who lives in a trailer parked in the front yard of her brother’s deteriorating house and saw two babies learn to walk and run in their front yard.
We watched the seasons change. You might not think we have seasons here in Santa Barbara, but we do: Rainy season (a couple of weeks in January and February if we are lucky), Spring (March and April), foggy season (May and June), Summer (August and September) and fire season (October through whenever the rain starts again). We don’t have winter. In fact, the schedule at Fielding offers three terms: Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Not that I’d want to do the lockdown again. It’s so good to see people’s faces, to eat inside a restaurant when it is cold, to wander through a museum with my grandchildren. It’s wonderful to work out at the gym without a face mask or use the bathroom at the Starbuck’s. In today’s Independent (the local newspaper), I read that Santa Barbara Fiesta will be in person this year, from the Mercado to the three-day marathon presentation of Flamenco dancing at the Mission and the Courthouse Garden.
Last week, we went to a movie! Think of that. There were only 20 people or so in the theatre and there is nothing like watching the spectacle such as “In the Heights,” on the big screen, not to mention consuming an entire large box of popcorn and considering a refill.
The county fair is back with lots of gut-wrenching rides and stuffed animals that only cost you $50 to win at the shooting gallery. Last week, Earl Warren fairgrounds also hosted the first horse show in maybe a year and a half. Last month, I took an airplane to Seattle, and it went pretty well. What got to me was not the packed plane or the mask requirement, I was ready for that. It was the constant sound of loudspeakers, even in the bathroom or the restaurant. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but it makes me realize you can get used to anything.
So, life is alive with possibilities again. We are booked for a trip to Egypt in the fall and the Bahamas in the winter. I’m trying to create a new set of presentations and take my show on the road in the fall, helping people figure out how to die with wisdom. Hospice is planning for in person meetings and volunteer services in August. How nice it will be to see everyone again!
Still, in all, it seems good to remember some of the things we learned: A house is not a showcase. It’s for living in and it’s okay to leave stuff around; you don’t have to pick up every 5 minutes. You don’t need to go out to lunch. You can make a sandwich at home and even exercise in the living room. You don’t have to run around to every store in town to find a widget. Amazon has widgets in every color and size—at least 45 to choose from and they can get it to you in two days. Most movies don’t require a big screen. It makes sense to hold most meeting on Zoom. There are lots of ways to get extra time out of the day if you give up on keeping everything in order. This is good to know at 77 when extra time seems a premium.
I wish you all the best of summer. I hope you get to a concert, see a movie, take a trip on a plane or a boat or have a party with your friends. I wish you a fine firework display. There is so much to remember from the last year and a half and so much to look forward to right this minute. Love to you all,