A shot in the arm and Spring

Essays
February 23, 2021

Some days are so perfectly synchronized to events in your life you must take a deep breath before their significance sinks in. Yesterday was one of those days.


It began with removing the row cover from our vegetable fields and assessing last week’s storm damage. Some plants had completely died (broccoli and cabbage); others fared amazingly well (kale and collard and spinach) while some were still hanging in there, their prognosis too soon to call (onions and garlic and leeks). These fields were a microcosm of this entire region and how we all fared to different degrees from last week’s blindsiding destruction, the cost of which is on track to exceed Hurricane Harvey or the Drought of 2011.


The day ended with President Biden marking a terrible milestone, one magnitudes more devastating: half a million people in this country dying from COVID. I can’t think of a moment in my lifetime when a leader seemed made for the moment. Every word Biden uttered was crafted with empathy and sincerity because he had lived through many dark hours himself. Like the hero returning home from a long and arduous journey, he had earned the right to speak on this most solemn occasion. His message was the same one we all could see and hear and feel in Central Texas yesterday — the promise of spring made all the more welcomed and appreciated because of the storm we lived through.


A few hours before the White House ceremony, I was taking Erin’s 83-year-old mom, Elizabeth, to receive her COVID vaccine. Her long-awaited turn had come. The women’s health clinic off Highway 71 was hidden amid a collection of brick buildings I’ve never noticed despite hundreds of trips driving between Austin and Bastrop. This day, I felt like a pilgrim arriving at a holy place, a cheerful, good-news gathering  where dozens of volunteer risked their own health to assist the elderly, many of whom arrived in wheelchairs. Every single person here was grateful and gladly patient as Bastrop’s senior citizens made their way through the various stations — signing in, filling out paperwork, listening to CDC messages about the vaccine ,getting the shot, waiting 15 minutes for reaction signs before released. And then home again, protected at last by this virus that has caused so much pain and suffering.


As with this winter storm, our farming business and our family have been lucky amid the pandemic. So far we have been able to grow and sell our food, stay active, and avoid infection. My brother and his wife experienced COVID’s 10-day knock-down punch but avoided hospitalization and have fully recovered. A rough patch came when my father died last April, not from COVID fortunately, although the outcome was the same as if he had: we could not say goodbye to him in person and still have not come together as a family to bury him.


All in all, I feel incredibly lucky. Yesterday’s message was unmistakably hopeful— from the still-green kale shaking off its frozen coat to our president promising that our tears will one day turn to smiles. Seeing Elizabeth get that shot in her arms was a shot in my arm too — gratitude-making for the teamwork and tenacity from countless scientists and healthcare workers who had delivered her immunity from the suffering so many others could not avoid.


Yesterday’s taste of spring and promise of better times was proof that this long dark winter is on its way out.