Restrictions are lifting in Ireland, and we’re going back to something like normal. We’re picking up the threads of life that were untouched for so long and sliding back into routines we used to think were immutable until they weren’t. It’s good. We’ve been waiting for this, looking forward to this, and now it’s happening.
And now we’re tired. I keep hearing it from all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways, and feeling it, too: The old threads of life that were so familiar feel funny in our hands now, and heavier than we remembered. The jobs we used to do and schedules we used to keep feel harder, and somewhat foreign, like running through water. Yes, we’re all happy about life returning to familiar forms. But we’re also exhausted, and it’s showing.
Dorothy Gale (of the Wizard of Oz) and Master Po (the Kung Fu Panda) have something in common. As different as the two characters are, and as different as the styles and storylines of their films are, they both still end up in the same place. Master Po opens the legendary Dragon Scroll expecting power, but finds instead that it is simply a reflective surface. He learns from this that the power he needs is actually in himself, the one being reflected. Similarly, Dorothy travels the Yellow Brick Road all the way to Oz, only to discover that the famous Wizard is just a regular guy and that all along she had the power in herself to achieve her dream. Different stories, different genres, same point: if you’re looking for answers, look inside.
My son had worked for an hour, building a sandcastle on a stone in the middle of a tide pool, complete with a bridge and a small village on the shore. He even gave it a tourist attraction, “The Giant’s Footprint”, which made the village famous, prosperous, and secure.
…but not very.
The tide was rising. We could see it closing in, but we thought we still had time before it got to the village. Irish beaches can be surprising, though – the sand can look level as it stretches on and on, but when the water comes up it follows subtle hills and valleys that the eyes hadn’t recognised. One of these small rises had been protecting my son’s tide pool kingdom without us realising it. When the water came over, it came fast.
The anthem of children in the back seats of cars is echoing in my head: Are we there yet?
Where’s the finish line for this global emergency? How far away is it? When will we be able to see our friends again? How long can we keep the world switched off and still expect it to work properly when we switch it back on?
It’s taking too long. That’s how I know my world is crumbling. The midwife can’t find what she’s looking for. She keeps trying, but every new effort is the ringing of steeple bells tolling a funeral. Not a formal, prepared, eulogised, dressed-in-black funeral. No, this is an impromptu affair, with no time to think, and no black shoes to look at as I stare at the floor. But I can’t just stare at the floor, people are talking to me. I have to concentrate to keep looking at them. I have to focus. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to help. I need to be polite and listen. What about my wife? She must be feeling the same as me. No, she must be feeling worse. After all, Hannah is still inside her. Hannah who we weren’t even sure was a girl (but we knew). Hannah who was a world of new life and dreams. Hannah who we have the little dress waiting for at home in a room right across the hall so we can hear her if she cries…
“Sorry for your troubles”, they said, one by one, to the smiling lady who offered each one of them a cup of tea. But through her smile, her words were desperate: “To lose one son was bad enough, but at least we knew that was an accident…”
The second son was lying in the front room, pale and cold. The coffin was padded, unlike the rocks where he’d been found at the bottom of a cliff. There was no note. No reason. No signs and signals, even after every memory of every person was turned over in the search. There was just this pale face in the front room, this politely smiling mother, and these cups of tea. Continue reading A Hand In The Dark