Do you remember the summer of 2019? None of us knew then that it was the last summer before coronavirus would change our world. For me, it was the summer that our neighbor’s roof caught on fire, and I came home one day to find my yard swarming with firefighters.
It was the summer we found a poisoned rat curled up and dying on our lawn. Before we could get up the courage to do anything about it, the crows tore open his body, smearing his insides all over our brick patio.
It was the summer that I developed an allergy to the sun, and I had to wear a hat outside or my face would get coarse and puffy and red. I have always loved the sun.
On my 36th birthday, I went for a run around my neighborhood, wearing long black pants and a black baseball hat. As I ran on a grid of sidewalks beneath a canopy of leafy green trees, a crow dove down at me. He arced up towards the sky and then swooped again and again, just barely missing my head each time. I ran so hard I felt the sharp tear of a muscle in my thigh, but the crow kept after me until I ducked under the cover of a stranger’s front porch.
“I am being hunted,” I thought, panting.
It was the summer that Americans were debating the definition of a cage, the rainforest was burning down, and everywhere I went a quiet rage smoldered just below the surface.
It was the summer my marriage fell apart. Or perhaps it was just when the crows found my marriage, curled up and dying, then ripped it open so everyone could see the insides.
This marked the beginning of a long, dark season for me. In her beautiful book Wintering,
Katherine May defines wintering as “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” No one gets through life without these periods. But, May says, "We treat wintering as an embarrassing anomaly that should be hidden or ignored. Thus we’ve made a secret of an entirely ordinary process and have thereby given those who endure it a pariah status, forcing them to drop out of everyday life in order to conceal their failure.”
It was the summer my winter began.