It happens to me involuntarily: I run into an acquaintance and I say, “Hi, So-and-so” (but I use their actual name — assuming I remember it). And then like a robot, I spew out what is possibly the most inane question you can ask another person when there is a global pandemic, rampant unemployment, social justice issues, a climate change crisis, and it’s during fire season in the Methow Valley. “How’s it going?” I ask them.
I know how it’s going! It’s not going well! People are sick, and dying alone. People are worried about being able to vote in the general election. People are losing their jobs, their small businesses. Schools are not reopening in the way that we all hoped they would. The polar icecaps are continuing to melt at an alarming rate. I know how it’s going, and yet I can’t seem to stop that silly “How’s it going?” question from falling out of my mouth.
So, it’s not going well. And yet — beautiful things are happening all around us.
People are, for example, still legally knitting their lives together in matrimony — one of the ultimate actions of optimism. A Twisp resident went for a quick hike at Maple Pass after work last Tuesday, thinking he’d be one of the only people up there on a midweek evening. He passed a couple of people along the trail, but other than that it was shaping up to be an uneventful hike until he encountered a very small wedding party at the high point. He offered the newlyweds congratulations and then hurried along, although not quickly enough to prevent his dog from photobombing the wedding photos.
As he began to descend to the flat expanse of the pass, he marveled to himself, “What are the chances of that — seeing a wedding at Maple Pass on a Tuesday?” Before he even had a chance to calculate those incalculable chances, he came across two women in bridal gowns exchanging vows!
The wedding crasher later told me, “There I was, just having a routine evening hike, something I didn’t really plan ahead for and which I completed only with the satisfaction of getting some exercise in a beautiful place, and here were these two other couples having completely meaningful and significant moments out there. It was really cool.”
I think we need to hold these tiny moments fast this year — these moments of hope, these incidents that remind us that although in some ways life seems to be on hold, time still marches on, and there’s no time like the present to do the things most worth doing.