by Keila Diehl
No matter how close to home you’ve stayed while sheltering in place, every so often your mood has likely been lightened, your heart quickened, by something you have seen or heard around you. It could have been a volunteer delivering essential groceries (including those Hershey’s bars with almonds that you love to bake with, or – I’m not making this up – the celery my neighbor really likes to put in her oatmeal). It could have been the sounds of a multi-generational family Easter egg hunt hopping over your backyard fence. Maybe it has been watching your daughter, wrenched out of her first semester at college, delighting in planting and nurturing a garden. Or was it simply the imagined clink of your beer bottle with the wine glass of your neighbor sitting in a camp chair yonder in his driveway? On a recent walk, I noticed family groups closing in on a particular house on foot and by car at an appointed hour to sing “Happy Birthday” to a surprised child playing on his front porch. I lingered and watched, vicariously celebrating with those friends and feeling delighted for the child. Like you, I’ve smiled at countless messages and quirky pictures chalked on sidewalks and stairways, stapled to telephone poles, and taped in windows. Even in the best of times, I’m someone who has to make a concerted effort to “look on the bright side” – especially so when facing unemployment during a pandemic in a context of political instability – but the bright side, the sparkling moments, are so bright these days that they are impossible to ignore. Thank you for setting up a sprinkler so your kids could splash on the front lawn that has only been a path to your car since you moved in four years ago. Thank you for handing me a bag of lemons when I brought in your packages. Thanks to my international students for showing up for class at 11:30 pm ever since you had to fly home to China in the middle of the semester. And on and on. In the words of Emory Austin, “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” I think that’s a fancy way of saying, “Fake it ’til you make it.” Whatever it takes, let’s create and notice the bright moments as long as we need to (and – why not? – beyond).
Editor’s Note: Keila Diehl has lived in Crocker Highlands since 2003. She works with international students at UC Berkeley and is the managing editor of Cross-Currents, a journal of contemporary research on East Asia. In addition, she has previously written feature articles for the Splash Pad News and regularly edits the content to ensure that we dot our i’s and cross our t’s and don’t, add, commas, where they don’t belong.