My mother used to have a saying, “This, too, shall pass.” I suppose it calmed me when I was a child, but as a teen and young adult, it used to drive me crazy. As is the way with mothers and daughters, I took this as her default dismissal that she didn’t take my feelings seriously. Looking back, I suspect that on some occasions, she was speaking from the wisdom of experience, and on others, she just couldn’t deal with my angst du jour, legit or not.
Lately, however, those words have resurfaced in my mind’s echo chamber. As the pandemic surges and the infection rate rises exponentially, as our nation roils in the election’s aftermath, I have found some comfort in my mother’s saying. After all, she lived through Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler, transplantation to a new nation with a different language and culture, World War II, the McCarthy era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, civic disruption in the ’60s, Watergate . . . the list goes on.
We were most fortunate, in the midst of all that 20th century strife, to enjoy a safe and comfortable middle class life. And I am very grateful, now, to have the luxury of being able to reflect on our nation’s turmoil without experiencing a major disruption of illness or unemployment or the risks of financial ruin in my own family. This is not the case for all too many of my fellow citizens, which is both tragic and utterly unacceptable.
Nonetheless, especially when I go outside, I find reassurance in the natural rhythms of the world, that there are constants that continue to ground us all. The trees are mostly bare, now, in my neighborhood, their brown and crumbled leaves raked into huge mounds that line our streets. The air is crisp; the light, November stark. It is a comfort, even as the days grow short again, to know that the earth still spins on its axis and the seasons, albeit altered by a warming planet, still turn.
Last weekend, as we walked the Cape Cod National Seashore, I found peace in the ocean’s crash and susurrus, the crunch of sand beneath my sneakers, a gem of green sea glass. On Saturday night, we returned to the beach and gazed at the stars. There were Orion and Cassiopeia, the star cluster Pleiades in Taurus, and the russet pinpoint of Mars, all where they always are.
There were days in the past week when I was feeling so anxious about the power of false narratives that I wondered if my health would be affected. Then I finally told myself I simply couldn’t keep going down that rabbit hole. So, even as I still doom scroll all too often, I take my walks, and I read about Nature, and I remind myself, even as none of us knows what is on the other side—this, too, shall pass.
Image: Shelby Deeter