I was working at my desk last week when a sudden movement beyond my laptop caught my eye. I glanced up at the window and there, on the outside screen, was a fly. Nothing special, just one of those housefly-type flies, moving spasmodically around the screen. And I smiled.
You take your harbingers of spring as you find them.
That’s how it's gone lately. A fly, a few robins, the chatter of birds at dawn, the crocuses pushing through the soil, on some days the absence of a chill in the breeze, the daylight lingering a little longer. And a needle, and then a hundred times a million more needles. And a good feeling begins to permeate a nation.
We’ve spent a long time in the darkness. At times it’s seemed longer than it was. And now it seems like the light is beginning to pour in.
Optimism and pessimism are ocean liners, formidable and hard to turn. But when you do get them to turn, watch out. One can quickly overtake the other.
It’s not that we haven’t wanted to feel optimism. We’ve craved it. But we’ve had a hard time convincing ourselves that it was OK to feel that. Because we need to see some signs first. For me, the tingling started a few weeks ago. And it strengthens by the day.
Some of that is seasonal, of course. Nature’s signs abound. Gardens will soon be planted. Baseball will soon be played.
Some of it is the progress against the virus. The growing circle of friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who have gotten the vaccine, the vow from the president that all of us will have an opportunity for the jab by the end of May, the possibility that backyard barbecues on the Fourth of July can take place, and the promise nearer on the horizon of hugs — long, warm, enveloping, soul-satisfying, life-sustaining hugs — with our loved ones.
Some of it, too, comes from the random events that you might not dwell on otherwise but now, because of their timing, add to the surge of good feelings — like the news that towering oaks in French forests have been felled to rebuild the spire of Notre Dame. And you smile, because the great cathedral and symbol of Paris, the City of Light, is also coming back to life.
I’ve been working from my perch by the second-floor window for a year now, watching my sliver of the world go by. On my first days here, I marveled at the strangeness of all the walkers and dog walkers I’d never seen before. Now, I watch them and it’s a comfort. They’re still there. And they seem to have a certain jauntiness, a bounciness, a spring if you will, in their step. Perhaps that says more about me. Perhaps I want to see that so badly that it’s more in my interpretation than in the fact. But I don’t think so.
This still could go awry, of course. We still could get ahead of our proverbial skis and set ourselves back again. Too much optimism is as bad as too much pessimism. The latter kept some of our schools shut down too long; the former could shut things down again. Instead of being steamrollered by our optimism, I hope we hitch a ride on it and use it to get somewhere else. As we become more confident, I hope we remember all that we did to feel more confident.
It's been a long time coming. But like new flowers, we're bending to the light.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.