This week a trusted pod texted an impromptu invitation for a pot roast dinner. I didn’t have to think too hard: comfort food, friends, we brought the salad. Masks on to the front door, masks off inside as we are all vaccinated, we did a lot of laughing then tucked into the tender meat, buttery potatoes, roasted carrots and let memories flow of family meals, the savory smell of our childhood homes on Sunday, why don’t we eat pot roast more often? The night tasted good and felt good.
A Tuesday night which was not, as might have been in the past, a huge, planned dinner party, or boozy, or late. The salad bowl sat on the table. My cousin was still in her hiking gear. The puppy was asleep on her bed next to our feet. We were stripped of the past so-called necessities and formalities, a new definition of certainly my needs: a few friends, as you are, sustained.
Halfway through the meal our host paused his knife and fork mid-air and closed his eyes. Then looked at us and said:
“It feels so good to have friends.”
We all paused: he had perfectly captured this moment of such extraordinary value; this moment we had all stayed home for and worried for and stayed healthy for through the terrorizing pandemic months. It was so sweet and heartfelt and true and important.
For me, this crawl out of isolation presents a critical opportunity: what comes next and what do I care about? I lie awake, recalibrating what I really have to do and want to do. Can I bundle these errands? Isn’t there plenty of food between the fridge and the cupboards to create a good dinner for a few days? I relearned time during covid; I made art I never thought I had time for, I wrote art I never took the time to explore. On the nights when covid anxiety creeps around me I try to breathe and tell myself to remember I thrived, in some ways, when I slowed down my world.
I am still managing the sense of danger. A crowded room makes me short of breath. Hiking the trails on Bainbridge Island without a mask makes me feel — well — naked. My face stings, uncovered, in the breeze.
I am collecting a constellation of those moments in this new, emerging world: learning bird song, standing still for the owl hunting next to me on the trail, acknowledging myself. Closing my eyes and listening.
That night the dishes were cleared before the sun set and we went home to good books, clean cozy pajamas, windows wide open. Well fed in body and soul.
It is so good to have friends.
Masks off. Travel on. Groups can gather. It is coming, the new post-pandemic world.
What does yours look like?