Sometimes, winter follows winter

One year ago, we were in a short-term rental and had just finished a 14-day quarantine after crossing the border into Canada.

On our second night in Ontario, after Khalil went to bed, we ordered tacos and sat in the backyard, in the cool northern breeze, and remarked on the physicality of this new safety. Our shoulders were lower. Our breathing deeper. We had moved because of statistics, but our bodies also sensed the change. A robust social safety net makes the air feel different. Medical bankruptcy isn’t a pervasive threat in Canada, addiction treatment is funded instead of criminalized, public education is strong, gun violence is lower, and new parents have guaranteed income and support. It took this move to show me how much policy matters. 

It’s important to qualify any Canadian praise. Canada isn’t perfect. Just ask the thousands of families with fresh grief from the uncovered residential school graves. Racism is insidious and dangerous here, too. But Khalil is much less likely to be harmed by law enforcement or to experience a school shooting and incremental improvement matters, especially when it’s your baby’s life. 

School is starting in a few weeks. Some days we are positive that we will send him and some days we are positive that we won’t. Like so many families, we were certain that this post-vaccine fall would be closer to normal. And, due to Delta, it isn’t. We are preparing for school as if it’s happening, though. Khalil is practicing wearing a mask and opening a lunchbox. He’s becoming an expert at “independent toileting.” I ordered his school supplies yesterday. Sometimes we just need to do the next thing while the world falls apart. 

Seeing the people packed into the cargo plane leaving Afganistan this week, and the unimaginable loss in Haiti, I wonder how any of us hold it all and keep moving forward. This summer, the world has burned and flooded and hospitals are full and and and. 

And, it’s the magic and the nonsense of being alive that we just keep trying. We read and donate and learn and allow our minds to change. We stay open and let our hearts break. And we try to protect our babies and know that all we can do is our best.

This poem in the Summer 2021 edition of The Paris Review took my breath away. Winter sometimes follows winter. Try harder, little moons. 

An Oversight
Kaveh Akbar

I murdered my least defensible vices,
stacking them like bodies
in the surf. An armada of nurses rode in
to cherish the dead: try harder, little
moons,
they said to the corpses, spooning
eggplant into each mouth. Winter
followed winter. Horses coughed
blood into the sand. Some pain
stays so long its absence becomes
a different pain —

They said it’s not
faith if you can hold it in your hands
but I suspect the opposite may be true, 
that real faith passes first through the body 
like an arrow. Consider our whole galaxy 
staked in place by a single star. I fear 
we haven’t said nearly enough about that.