The two-headed Roman god Janus, one face looking back and the other forward, guarded thresholds and transitions, so it’s appropriate to invoke Janus as we move from 2020 to 2021. Considering most of us sequestered in place for 2020, I don’t know about you, but I am ready for all that to be in my rearview mirror.
Even if those past thresholds are behind us, and doors closed, memories remain. Looking back over the most recent threshold, I see an entire year of watching a rabid corona virus seep into every nook and cranny of our world and our lives, and slip into the new year as well. Luckily, along with that came vaccines developed with uncommon speed. All this within an unusual presidency with an unusual president. Back farther, in 2001 a terrorist attack leveled the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City. Another threshold in 1986, with the explosion of a space shuttle, taking with it a teacher, a position I unsuccessfully applied for. Earlier again, the resignation of another unusual president in 1974. The assassination of a popular president in 1963. Then the 1952 polio epidemic which closed the pools and killed over 3,000 kids, and disabled over 20,000, one of whom was a friend of mine.
So, close the door. Because Janus also faced forward. What lies ahead then? I’m focusing on the smaller glories of life. The snowfall, which nurtures a dry earth and muffles sounds. When I walk in the morning now, as long as the roads remain free of ice, I hear only a few bird sounds. The quiet and peace is a real balm. With the gift of changing seasons, I look forward to hearing the kids squealing with excitement as they play kickball in a nearby cul-de-sac. And to doffing the winter togs that make me look like Nanook of the North. Also, peeling off layer by layer as the weather warms. This does not include thinking so far ahead that I remember I’ll have to bulk up again a few months down the line.
I await the arrival of seed catalogs, some of which are already sitting on my table. Even though my gardening does not include plotting out a garden the size of Versailles, I can dream, can’t I? This year, I dream of buttercup squash proliferating in the little flower garden at the top of the driveway. So what if the plot has been neglected and sparse? This is the year! Squash, brown sugar, butter. I’ll put in more coneflowers too, and perhaps a wash of impatiens. And maybe… Part of gardening should always involve visiting the gardens that are the size of Versailles. It’s just as pleasurable to admire the efforts of other gardeners, especially on a scale I’d never attempt. Imagining the hard work of others is almost as good as plunging my own hands into the soil.
Travel again. Now there’s something to look forward to. Maybe only to the local park to picnic with the extended family. Maybe to pack the camping gear and head out to share a campfire with friends and strangers. Or not travel much beyond the dining room, where we can all share a meal with our children, grandchildren, friends. Where we can laugh and talk without a thought to how far our breath is carrying microscopic organisms that may sicken or even kill those around us. Maybe…the possibilities are endless.
If crossing this threshold has taught anything, it’s taught us to keep our eyes on the prize, whatever that prize may be. For many, it’s the people, both far and near. We’ve discovered many ways of connecting, many ways of working, many ways of playing. Though we may forget the stress and the necessity of pivoting to new ways of doing things, we retain the awareness of our flexibility, our ability to be creative. Janus guards not only doorways, but transitions. We’ve just survived a major one. We’ll be forever stronger because of it.