Friday, January 1, 2021

And so this is 2021 . . . first light spreading into the blue-black sky. The bare arms of maples cut silhouettes against the dawn. Below them a clutter of roofs and chimneys huddles against the thin chill of January. Everything is quiet, not even a dog or a walker passing by.

Last night, waving sparklers, the neighborhood kids ran shrieking up and down, up and down, up and down the street, wild and rapturous. Our household of three sat in the dining room, eating Chinese takeout, watching the children dash past the windows, and I thought about the ways in which we humans borrow from other people's joy, enrich ourselves with other people's happiness. I suppose this is part of what it means to be communal animals.

For everyone, a central sadness of 2020 has been loneliness. The struggle with and against loneliness has framed all of our lives, whether we've been obeying scientific best practices or flouting them. And for far too many, loneliness is now permanent. Death, the great isolator, has locked the gates.

The next few months will be dark. A new year is not a new world. So last night, as I watched the kids skipping and shouting with their sparklers, I wondered how to push myself to keep borrowing sustenance from our stock of communal joy: to pay attention to a baby's laughter, to a bright wind, to the foolishness of cats. I want to stop overlooking these tiny moments. I want to treat them as saviors.

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