This summer when we were ready to return from our family road trip to New England, my eldest son, Mac, asked if he could stay. His cousins are there, those states are doing much better than Georgia with Corona (masks, social distancing, etc), and he could have a few weeks of a normal-ish summer.
Once my sister extended an actual invitation, we gratefully accepted, and Mac has spent the past few weeks exploring the rocky Rhode Island beaches with the eager curiosity that defines the best of who he is.
We miss him, but he calls…sometimes.
A few nights ago, he found a seat on a cliff overlooking the Newport Bay, and through Facetime, was describing to Marita and I what he was experiencing. Warm waters with sailboats against the setting sun, the brilliant colors against the salt sea air, and a sense of profound calm. Every few moments he would turn the phone camera away from that ocean scene, and then return it back again. We asked him, “Why are you doing that?” His reply has stuck with me in the days since. He said, “I’m turning away, so that I can look at it again and again with amazement.”
These Corona days continue to be hard. Not only does the ‘target’ seem to move, but the ‘floor’ beneath constantly shifts in unpredictable ways. Many of us are experiencing ‘Corona fatigue’, meaning we are just sick of all that comes with this pandemic, from the politics to the safety concerns to the uncomfortable social mores. We know that eventually things will get better, but we don’t know when. So we adjust as best as we can, trying to stay positive and see the blessings before us… but it is hard.
This afternoon we had a bat mitzvah at Temple Emanu-El (family only, social distance, masks for everyone) and in some ways it was incredible. In other ways it was very hard. In the hour since it finished (and the bat mitzvah girl was a champ!) I’ve heard from congregants who watched via Facebook that for them, it was incredibly uplifting…and that they cried. Uplifting because this type of simchah is like water in the desert, satiating a nagging thirst that has become, for many of us, like white noise. And they cried because they saw their rabbi and cantor wearing a mask in the Sanctuary- a stark reminder of where we are in this moment in our lives, this place in time.
I think back to Mac’s words as he described the sunset, of gazing away in order to renew his amazement. Perhaps this is the way to get through the Corona fatigue. Not the gazing away per se, but making sure that we gaze back at what is in front of us. If the mundane can be appreciated, then the miracles in time, with family, of community, become invaluable.
Join us (online) for Shabbat services tomorrow night, or for either of our two bar/bat mitzvahs on Saturday. You’ve been gazing away. Give yourself the gift of looking back.