From an article in Thursday’s paper: kitsugi, a way to mend shattered pottery, was developed hundreds of years ago in Japan; it was later embraced outside Japan as a philosophy of living: “Bad things can happen that might shatter us. But we don’t have to stay broken or hide our wounds. We can put ourselves back together, and the scars we wear at the broken places become a reminder of the tragedies we’ve endured and how we overcame them — a mark of beauty in an imperfect life.” Kitsugi is a good approach to post-pandemic life, the article posits, a way to process what we’ve lost and emerge whole instead of broken.
And while we have to acknowledge that we are not fully post-pandemic — there are about 15,000 new daily Covid cases in the US, and many countries are still in dire straits — there’s so much in the news and the air about some collective endgame of summer travel and parties, the exhale at the end of a trying year. While I don’t see any open roads or beaches in my future, there does feel at least like a light at the end of this traumatic tunnel. There will be in-person summer camp after the complete bust of the virtual variety last year, wich V totally rejected along with an enormous box of crafts sent home to a person who never met a craft he liked. The whole summer was in fact a bust, and we did the best we could with the stress and exhaustion of filling each day anew, alone on an island not of our choosing. My favorite summer activity: swimming outside – was carved out of long languid days of caregiving. But that too should change:
This year, after the July 4th holiday, camp lasts for 5 weeks with possibly a few more weeks added in from other sources. That gives V the structure he needs, and will allow me many mornings at the pool, my favorite stay at home vacation spot up the street. It just opened for its short precious season and I am so happy to be swimming outside again, more than 9 months since it closed on Labor Day. There are still some remnants of Covid protocols: There are 2 hour shifts; we must be masked up to enter; it’s still bring your own chair with social distance rules, which are hard to enforce in a pool. Since I walk up, I forego the chair and lay my towel on the concrete, not the most comfortable way to hang out but it will do.
Yet the pool itself is the same: a cool and refreshing respite under the trees, a nice balance of solitary time and good people watching. I’ve had two swims so far this season and it’s been delightful. Sharing the pool with young and old, black and white, the fast and fit and those slower like myself, doing the breaststroke at my own comfortable pace, looking up at the vast open sky and back down at my fellow swimmers. The water isn’t as cold as it is at the start of some seasons when I can’t wait to get out and warm up – it’s a pleasant temperature, and I feel a sort of elation at the newness of the experience that I always get in June. We’re back! I think, back in this perfect happy place I’m so lucky to have. I let my worries dissolve in the water and get into the flow of movement, the sensation of floating and not having anything to weigh me down.
Whatever was shattered last summer is being pieced together, not artfully but manageable enough to feel that we’re a long way from where we were, that the pandemic hovers but doesn’t envelop us in the same way it did. So I work to block out what others might be able to do this summer – to be happy for them and leave it at that – and simply feel grateful to have these times in the water back and forth, back and forth, slowly healing.