Under a cloudless sky awash with the intensity of unobstructed early morning sun, my joyous relief from days of low clouds and gray was immediately twisted into snarling grumpiness. At the end of Long Pier, as I watched mergansers through binoculars bob under water and pop up again, my dog found fresh goose poop to rub herself in. Why in the world do dogs think slathering themselves with feces is a grand and charming thing to do?
After some choice words, her feigned look of puppy-dog chagrin, and putting the leash back on, I did the grumpy shuffle toward shore with dog in tow. There may also have been some grunting and cursing along the way before a shadow from above passed over us. So unexpected and mysterious it made me want to duck. Down it swooped, six feet of extended brown wings obscuring the large fish it was about to clutch in its talons. I think it was an osprey but couldn’t be sure given the glare of the sun, the suddenness with which it happened, and the speed of its disappearance. One thing is for sure, along with that big ole slimy fish it snatched me from the depths of my petulance.
On another occasion, a day or two before that, we were riding our bicycles through the woods along the canal toward Waterloo, when my wife remarked how brilliant the green was in a field we passed. Indeed, the spring carpet was lush and vibrant even under a cloudy sky. Yet instead of exclaiming, I responded that Easter and Spring wouldn’t be much fun this year. Then I heard one of the alternate voices in my head point out that watching the world turn green again and placing myself in the grace of gratitude for a cosmos that turns on resurrection, need not be diminished by social distancing. If I am not infused with joy at what is happening around us it won’t be the fault of Spring and Easter.
Cabin fever, a relentless procession of days in a time tunnel without definite end, surrounded by an invisible enemy that may be hazardous to us and those we love, along with the inability to do the things we normally do, creates a thick stew of emotions. Quite a few people I have spoken with about how they are doing, describe irritability and moodiness as just two of the unwanted spirits haunting this time. My dog would agree.
We have it within our power to allow the magnificent beauty of seasonal transformation and the mystery of new and on-going life to frame this moment, instead of allowing the moment to frame beauty and mystery. The ability to frame the moment, whatever moment we are in, is a superpower we ought never give up. But we are not like Superman whose strength and magic are as integrated in his nature as heartbeat and breath. No, we’re more like Popeye who has to slurp down a can of spinach to be empowered.
The requirement to frame and re-frame the moment is on-going, something we must do daily –sometimes hourly. It is the grease that reduces friction while allowing us to take small things, like gross dog behavior, in stride or navigate big things, like radically altered lifestyles, with equanimity. Don’t neglect your superpower.