While myriad parts of the world are grappling with snowstorms and icy roads or heavy rains and flooding, and all the misery that comes with those challenges, I am sitting in Minnesota – famous for such weather disruptions – experiencing a different, surprisingly helpful reality: it has been really, really (really!) cold here for a span of almost ten days. But the science of such a cold snap is that it is almost always sunny (and with the snow already on the ground, blindingly so).
After the roiling, frustrating, confusing navigation of the past twelve months, there is something very clarifying about a run of crystal-clear days, even ones so cold that being outside for more than a couple minutes is dangerous. Everything comes to a stop – life seems literally frozen in place. And that enables a new kind of reflection: you can SEE things differently, like focusing on a still shot in the middle of a hectic video. And it seems important to take advantage of such an opportunity since you know that a warm-up is coming, people will be busy moving around again, traffic and activity will resume shortly. The drama will restart in a minute. But for these few days, I’m focused on this moment of reflection, fine-tuning my perceptions of what we’ve all been through, with hopes that new clarity better prepares me as a communications counselor – and just as a person – in the months ahead.
We have, as a society, made a couple important pivots in the past month. On the political front, the second impeachment of Donald Trump was a painful review: for supporters of the former president, unfair political theater; for his detractors, a comeuppance long overdue; for all who value democracy, a very sad reflection of how much work we have ahead of us to bring the American people together in the future. Though more than half of the U.S. Senate voted to convict him, he reportedly celebrated his ‘win’ with friends and family. Preliminary moves to impact the 2022 elections are already underway. We are moving past the Trump administration – although in what direction we will move remains to be seen.
On the pandemic front, we have more challenges ahead, as well, but it feels like we are finally on offense: the pace of vaccination production is accelerating, plans for inoculations seem to be clarifying. While the pressure to ‘open the economy’ continues to be a call from some, the reality is that most of the economy is open, adapting in ways both subtle and dramatic to what COVID-19 has taught us about risk, priorities, opportunities, sacrifice and loss. The scale and scope of things that are forever changed will take years to assess, even as each of us begins to move into that future. Without clear vision of what is coming, we are making plans, with hopes that our forecasts are at least close to the reality that will unfold.
It must be acknowledged – in the ways we treat each other in the weeks and months to come, but also in the governmental measures aimed at recovery and stimulus that we should support – that this pandemic and the economic strife it created were not ‘equal opportunity’ challenges. The impacts of the past year fell unevenly on some families, organizations and communities, mostly through no fault of their own. Ensuring that our collective recovery is equitable and recognizes those uneven impacts must be a shared objective, as challenging as that may be to accomplish.
And then there is synchronicity: Even as I’ve been writing this morning, I received the wonderful surprise of a bouquet of soon-to-bloom tulips for my upcoming birthday. Tulips, the surest sign of emerging life: whatever other greenery is popping up in a spring garden, they are almost always the first signs of bold colors, a harbinger of the warmth and growth to come. We are many weeks away from tulips rising in my backyard here, but I’ll be using this beautiful bouquet to remind myself that the bulbs are out there, hidden in the frozen soil under a blanket of snow. New vibrant life is out there – I just need to plan for the tending of my garden. Grow Where You Are Planted.