It seems that both individually and collectively, we could go either way.
Just as the physical world is turning definitely green — when the wind blows, as it has been doing with enthusiasm, we see splashes of lush wavy baby green instead of stark, angular, minimalist brown — it’s also getting more emotionally verdant.
We can go out unmasked! We can walk and run and talk to friends in the park with our mouths showing. We can smile at people and know that they see it, and we see them smiling back.
But will we? Can we?
Now’s when interesting personal differences will intrude, and there will be so many stories.
Some of us are going to want to go everywhere, all the time. We will want to make up for lost time, for moments of joy-inducing in-person conversations and meals and laughter that we missed, even for shared stories of loss and fear, for stories about watching the seasons change that didn’t seem worth it in any other medium than face to face but whose cumulative effects we’ve missed so dearly.
Others of us are going to hold back. A year is enough time to ingrain some habits, to make a shopping expedition seem more safari-like than we could have imagined before. To make us crowd-shy. To make us more comfortable masked, and to take that masking not only as a physical fact but also as a metaphor. After this year, some of us might want to stay masked. To stay at home. To live more comfortably within our barricades.
This pandemic won’t end with a bang, anyway. It will whimper itself out. It won’t be like the end of World War II, all chaotic ecstacy in Times Square. It will be gradual, but at some point, even if covid remains a dull chronic threat, the pandemic will be over.
I thought about all that when I heard about the pink moon. To begin with, I can’t imagine anything more astronomically enticing. A blue moon is appealing enough, but a pink one in springtime! A moon with magnolias and cherry blossoms! I wanted to see it so badly.
I went outside at 11 on Monday night. I knew the moon would be at its peak. I looked up hopefully (but I also brought my dogs, just so it wouldn’t be a total loss). No moon. No stars. No nothing. Just overcast.
Other people did see the moon. There have been spectacular photographs of it, all huge and glowing and high up in the sky but almost within reach. As if we could jump for it.
I did once go to a birkat hachodesh, a ritual not for the full moon — when it’s glorious and if it’s not covered by clouds or hidden by tall buildings it’s unmistakable — but for a new moon, when it’s less glory than promise. A group of people from my shul walked over to the Tomb of the Unknown, stood on the plaza there, and leaped toward the barely visible sliver of the new moon. I did not. I could not. It struck me as funny and deeply silly at the time, but it has stayed with me, and now I think that I was wrong.
I will never be able to leap for the moon like that. Some of us cannot. Our sense of what’s funny will stop us. Some of us will not be able to rush out to parties as soon as we’re told that it might be safe. Our sense of what’s dangerous will stop us. Sometimes we’ll be right. Sometimes we won’t be.
But change is coming, just as inexorably and as marvelously as spring.