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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: The sheer treasure of small things

The great thaw has started. —
The great thaw has started. — Russell Wangersky/SaltWire Network

I realized it in the early morning Friday as I waited for the coffee to drip through the filter.

The sun was out, and it was doing that thing that only happens for a brief period of days as we head for spring — it was shining down straight down the narrow gap between the side of the house and the garage, hitting part of the house head-on.

It is a clear solar measure of seasons advancing — and when I see it, my spirits lift with the hope of winter receding. It’s hardly a guarantee, but the snow that comes now is likely to be the fleeting kind, at least.

That started me thinking about the other touchstones you can find, despite the current state of the world. The taste and smell of coffee. The fact that, all at once, there’s birdsong again. I notice the racketing seagulls first after their winter lull when about a week ago they began making their presence known, but there are calling chickadees now, both black-capped and boreal, the chorus filling out as more and more different species click into their springtime cycle.

There’s the smell of thaw in the air, that rich, complicated earthy scent that came around a few days ago with the fog, getting strong as the edges of snowdrifts pulled back on lawns and along the shoulders of the road.

An orange is still a marvel of flavour.

If you lie on the floor and let the sun sweep over you, it’s still that glorious warmth that only the sun really provides, giving you a hint of the memory of lying outside in summer.

Dark chocolate is still a great wonder, albeit more often than usual. The heat of the shower when you turn around and let it hit the nape of your neck.

Am I afraid? Sure I am. Near-constantly, for myself, for friends, for family. Watching the slow progression of COVID-19 around the world, I can’t shake the conviction that there will be very few people who the virus doesn’t affect directly.

The worst of it right now, of course, is the overwhelming pall of the impending. The weight of the wait.

It’s hard to justify long-term projects with it hanging there — at least, it’s hard to find the energy needed to carry on with them.

One small example of that crippling fatalism? Last week, I got my regular email from the provincial motor registration division telling me it was time to go online and pay to register the car until next April. Part of me said, “What’s the use of even registering a car for a full year?” Hell, sometimes I don’t even have enough energy to go back make sure I properly closed the potato chip bag with a clothespin. (Don’t judge me.)

The worst of it right now, of course, is the overwhelming pall of the impending. The weight of the wait.

But then, I walk and see people delivering groceries to self-isolating friends, making conversation across a hockey-stick’s distance at least, and often more. Pass a man resolutely shovelling winter drifts off his lawn and onto the warm pavement, making work for work’s sake: “I just got tired of it,” he says.

See the half-smile and wave from fellow walkers as I curve out away from them to make the needed distance when we meet on the sidewalk.

It may legitimately be a time of fear. It will, without a doubt, be a time when all of our emotions ping-pong around, from quiet bursts of work to dark minutes of dread and isolation, along with the financial fears of what will happen to our jobs and, in fact, our lives.

I think it’s also a time to savour small things, particularly and precisely because they suddenly seem so very, very valuable.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire newspapers and websites across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.


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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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