"Uh, which way do we go, George?" Which way do we go when we just don't know?
Which way did he go, George, which way did he go?
I can still hear the great Tex Avery asking this question of the fox, voiced by Mel Blanc in Tex Avery’s 1940 animated film, Of Fox and Hound. The dopey dog asks the fox, whom he thinks is a dog, which way the fox went. The fox points him in the direction of a cliff. It reminds me of our current situation. Which way do we go now? And, please, let it not be over a cliff.
I’m a planner. I keep a digital calendar and a paper calendar. I keep a calendar on my phone. I am always looking ahead to the next project, the next event. Yes, I do love the journey, but even the journey has mile markers. Steps that get checked off. But on March 13, 2020 the smell of rubber skidding on asphalt filled the air as we collectively jammed on the breaks.
March 13 was when I learned my university was not coming back to campus after spring break the following week. Then, one by one, projects I’d planned or events I'd been anticipating (UND Writers Conference, Artwise Art Show, Puffs at The Empire Arts Center, and Murder on the Orient Express at the Fire Hall Theater) began to get postponed or canceled.
I know you’re probably the same way as me about planning unless you’ve achieved Buddha status and live only in the moment. (But even Buddhas have to plan some meals, don’t they?) Human beings must plan. Just like squirrels, we need to remain cognizant that winter is going to return and we better collect our nuts.
I accept there's a randomness to life that we have no control over. That said, I did have certain expectations: Work, school, theatre. These were constants in my life. Now? 1 out of 3. And I'm lucky.
For those who are fortunate to still have a job, we have a work schedule which tells us where to go. However, for the 14.7% who are currently unemployed , where do they go?
Then there are our schools. Will they open in the fall? Will there be face-to-face learning? How will we maintain a 6’ distance in classrooms? What about high school seniors? Will they defer college for a year? If they do, where will they go, George? What will they do?
I know it will sound insignificant to some, but Broadway is dark. It's been dark 13 times in its history: 7 union strikes, 1 World War, 1 terrorist strike -- 9-11, 1 black out, 1 hurricane, 1 snow storm, and now the longest it's ever been dark -- a pandemmic. The Great White Way is shuttered and we have no idea when it will reopen. Old shows can't rehearse, new shows can't rehearse, all the people who support Broadway -- the ushers, the merch sellers, the businesses that feed off of Broadway -- out of work. Waiting. Waiting to see what the future will bring. Once we get the "all clear", will we be faced with a second wave in the fall/winter, as some health scientists suggest? So, do we plan for October and November and forge ahead with plans?
Which way do we go, George?
My husband and I were planning to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a trip to Italy in July. In March, I was hopeful things might look better by now. Now is here and we are hoping the airlines will refund our money, or if they give us a voucher that we will be able to use it in the future. But that's the problem -- we don't know when that future begins. We live in limbo, which is unsettling at best, panic inducing at worst.
Which way do we go, George? Which way do we go?
Well, I took a walk hoping to find a sign. Nature speaks to me loudest in metaphor, my preferred language. Nature is old. Nature has wisdom. Nature always has something encouraging to say. A pine cone releases its seeds after a forest fire. A dandelion only needs a little dirt, sun, and water to grow up through the crack in a sidewalk. So, as my mama would say, “I went out to blow the stink off”.
It was drizzling and my tulips shivered in their beds on the overcast day. But I pulled up my hood and meandered toward the park, hoping for a sign, any sign. And here’s what I found:
Great. Which way do we go, George?
No shit. Now what?
As I made my way home, I saw this sign in front of our neighborhood school:
Not only is our neighborhood school closed, but the kids migrated to another one because there was mold, or radon, or moldy radon, or moldy radon topped off with an HVAC problem. And now the school is closed. Will we ever get our West Wolves back? Who knows? I don’t know. Do you?
I was feeling deflated. I had found no signs of hope. But then, just as I was ready to give up, I spotted this:
And for a second, I though it said "share the load." It made sense. We are all in this together. Some days I might be up and you might be down. The next, it's reversed. Like yesterday. I made cake and fed it to friends and family. It was good to share something I made. It was good to hear their laugh. We didn't hug. It was okay, because they are okay.
WE are going to be okay.
There is so much we don't know, so much out of our control. But we can control how we treat others and our selves. Take the detour, watch for rough roads and warning signs, but let's keep on flapping our wings. Let's "migrate to discovery." Who knows what awaits us there? Don't listen to George. We will get there if we share the road. I know we will.
Writing challenge: If it's warm enough, take your journal or your camera and look for signs of hope. What we seek we shall find. But we must keep our eyes open to see it. That's kinda how it works.