At times when I am out each morning clearing my head and stretching my legs, my eyes are downcast. In our lovely neighborhood, filled with modest houses cheek-to-jowl, there are many places where the sidewalk is uneven. At 68, I cannot take the chance of falling. I look down and scan the sidewalk for bumps, gaps, stones, or any other flaw that might send me careening onto the pavement, ungraciously and potentially with horrible consequences. Who among us can afford the risk? The thought of needing medical care right now is dreadful to me.
As soon as I am assured of my safety, I return to reviewing the houses, flowering trees and bushes, Little Free Libraries, and other landmarks that I have set for myself to gauge how long or far I have walked. I almost always have earphones in, with a podcast going, but from time to time I pull them out, stuffing them deep in a pocket, so I don't miss the sounds of the cardinals, so abundant in our trees. Every time I hear one, I try to find the source of the call. I stop, turning my face skyward, scouring the branches above me for that speck of brilliant red, darting madly from limb to limb, or perched confidently among the leaves. The trees in our city, ubiquitous and old, are legendary; we boast the largest virgin forest in any city in the country, and by my house, the century-old pin oaks create a spectacular view through which to enjoy the endless blue sky on a spring morning when the only other things that seem endless are isolation, distance, and trips to the refrigerator.
I know that there will come a time when this is the big, historical event we all use as a frame of reference. We will pin our memories around this time, the way we have with other catastrophic events. For now, however, I feel stuck in the sameness: worried about my family, resentful of the consequences, and longing to hold my grandchildren.
Yet somehow, each day, the mere chirp of a vivid red bird can ground me and center me and remind me that upward will always be the way for me to look.