what if nothing goes back to normal?
“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.”
I remember sitting with my roommate, Courtney, as we ate cookies in our living room, turned on our old fairy lights above our television, and found Under the Tuscan Sun on Hulu to stream. We were in the mood for a movie to make us feel something, and while quarantined at home, we couldn’t think of anything better than to imagine that we were in the middle of the Italian countryside.
In the film (and the book, if you want to give it a good read!), Frances spontaneously decides to start over, to give her life a new beginning. Alone, she buys a fixer-upper Italian villa, Bramasole (please read that in an Italian accent), that needs a good paint job, some reinforcement, and people to fill it with laughter.
There’s a scene where Frances sits in her slowly renovated home and wonders, “What if no one ever fills these rooms?”
My heart felt a familiar pang; something had resonated deeply within me as I heard her speak those words.
I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty and art and dreams in this quarantine time.
I went for a walk the other day around my neighborhood because I couldn’t shake the anxiety in my body. I felt rested, I felt hydrated, I was taking naps, and I was getting myself moving. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was that felt so unsettling, so I popped in my AirPods, threw on a playlist, a mask, and some shoes, and got myself outside.
I felt the sun rays hit my face as I counted block after block. I waved at my neighbors on their front porches, laughed at the yard geese down the street in their inflatable swimming pool, heard the melodies as they flooded through my headphones.
I closed my eyes.
What if nothing goes back to normal?
There it was. That was the anxiety-inducing thought.
I had the urge to stop by my neighbor’s house and give a big high five. I wanted to hear how their days were going. I wanted to pet the dogs on my walk. I wanted to believe that one day, we’d be able to express ourselves with our words, not just with our eyes as we passed each other on opposite ends of the street.
Will I dance again at a concert?
Will I laugh again with strangers at the movies?
Will we dream as we look at art again at a museum?
What if no one ever fills these rooms?
The corners of my eyes felt watery and I paused my music.
Beauty was what kept us going, wasn’t it? Music made us dance, movies made us feel something, art made us dream. It filled rooms and created hope and gave us permission to hope.
So what did that look like these days?
This season looks like reframing our confines of hope.
As I made my way home, I began to notice the glimmers of hope that already existed around me: there were lavender petals on the ground and in the trees, the sky at dusk was painted hues of pink and orange, a neighborhood cat sat on the wall near my window. I snapped a few pictures to remember that night.
What’s beautiful about this life is much less about what’s out there but what’s right here, Morgan wrote in her interview with Aundi Kolber.
“Right here” looked like masks and groceries and wearing pajamas to Target. It looked like giggling on the couch with my roommates and making coffee for each other in the mornings and watching Disney movies with subtitles while we sang at the top of our lungs and danced across the living room. It looked like getting handwritten letters in the mail, full of encouraging words and thoughts from across the states, reminding me that someone out there was thinking of us.
Sometimes it looked like green outside the doorstep after the rain.
@divya_putty said it this way:
“So when you sit here at the center of the clouds, the rain, the bleakness,
You are what was present in the sunlight and still are what is present in and after the rain.”
Beauty to me that week looked like joy invading, flowers blooming, a small rebellion of hope.
We hope fearlessly, boldly, unabashedly, soaking in the things before us. We operate in expectation, putting pen to paper, knowing that one day in the future, someone will read the words we’ve written. We create melodies traced in hope, knowing that today and tomorrow and three weeks from now, and ten months from now, we’ll dance. We take pictures and film the shadows and the light in our corners and the mundane, everyday things around us because we want to remember.
Week six, and we diligently lay down track after track, knowing that the one day, the train will come.