When spring came to the Northern Hemisphere, the pandemic had the world firmly in its grip.
The vernal equinox arrived on March 19, the day that California delivered its first home stay request in the United States. Most of the country would soon follow suit. In the coming weeks, vast strips of humanity would be largely confined to their homes.
Now, in the middle of spring, people are already worried about summer. Spring 2020 – at least for humans – has become the season it is not.
Long considered a period of renewal and rebirth, spring is increasingly precious in a world plagued by climate change. After the dark winter, spring arrives and the land turns green again. The word itself is shorthand for revolutionary movements – the Spring of Nations (1848), the Prague Spring (1968), the Arab Spring (2010-2012). Igor Stravinsky chose "The Rite of Spring" in 1913 to draw new musical frontiers.
April is in the heart of the poetic spring. Shakespeare has a happy view of this in his "Sonnet 98", personifying it as a month that "put a spirit of youth in everything". In "The Waste Land", when T.S. Eliot famously punishes the “cruelest month” of April as a “mix of memory and desire” moment, he could very well have described the entire season on the strange days of 2020.
"At the moment, when we are stuck in our apartments … we get a glimpse of how we experienced spring last year, when we experienced all the people taking to the streets and the rebirth of life," says Matthew Mersky, who teaches a modern literature and the environment at Boston College.
"And now we experience it negatively," he says, "through memory or its absence."
May doesn't look great either. As the weather warms up, many public pools and beaches are still inaccessible. Baseball stadiums remain empty; students remain at home. College students who still walked from one class to the next in parkas were sent home before the spring semesters could actually live up to their name.
The gifts of spring are not completely out of reach, mainly because home stay requests expire. But in New York City, which is hit hard, densely populated by millions of people who often have no backyard, residents are left to enjoy the spring sunshine, fishing awkwardly on fire escape stairs and small balconies – or at risk.
Samali Nangalama, 23, has lived in New York for six years and recently moved a short distance from Harlem Hospital, where she wakes up and falls asleep to the sound of sirens. As the virus destroys vulnerable communities of blacks and browns, she describes a "paralyzing fear" that kept her in her apartment this spring, a severe fit for a season that she often sees as "a time full of opportunity and optimism".
"I know that Generation Z is supposed to spend their lives glued to the screens, but there is no substitute for personal contact," says Nangalama, a junior who studies global public health at New York University. "I miss that precious contact and this spring, I will feel more alone than ever."
In addition to the sun and lost landmarks, spring is intertwined with culture and religion. Easter is literally about renewal. Sikhs celebrate the formalization of faith in Vaisakhi, a holiday that shares its name with the Punjab spring harvest festival. May 1st marked Beltane, a fire festival of Celtic origin and a Saturday in the middle of spring celebrated by witches and pagans.
Haley Murphy, 32, owner and operator of ATL Craft in Atlanta, has been working on hidden practices for 14 years. For her, Beltane is a significant ritual in which communion with the Earth through planting is a centerpiece. She says it is "what needs to be planted, but also looking at each other and seeing us coming out of our winter hermit shells, watching each other bloom and putting the sun on our faces and the freckles on our faces".
But with terms of social detachment, her clan was unable to join Beltane, whom she led in solitude this year. In the midst of the pandemic, she is forced to send packages to members for other rituals, which are conducted on FaceTime.
"We have to change with the times," she says, "and we need to adapt."
Spring is also a time to sow what cannot be harvested for months. But uncertainty is all that is rooted in other people whose future livelihoods depend on the metaphorical seeds normally planted during that period.
Katie Lloyd doesn't even like spring. She lives in winter, growing up in Buffalo, New York, and spending years participating in mountain sports in Colorado. She currently lives in Alaska, where she and her husband are co-owners of the Alaska Dogstead Mushing Company with Nicolas Petit, pastor of idarod.
Newly born from her own debut season as a dog sitter, Lloyd says the Alaskans call it spring break-up season – not for relationships, but for the melting ice that creates "a big sloppy mess for more or less one. month "when snow becomes rain. It is an important moment, an opportunity to prepare for the summer tourist season, vital to the Alaskan economy.
"Usually, it's the excitement for summer adventures and the excitement of tourists who come here," she says. "Now everything is paused indefinitely or a giant question mark."
This feeling of uncertainty is widespread, with a lot of uncertainty. Some U.S. states and states have loosened restrictions, but experts fear it could cause a resurgence of infections that could, over the course of the season, produce even more cruel months than April.
Absence is inherently intangible. This can make it difficult to measure losses. But many people will be delivered directly to the summer oven, emerging from the coronavirus months with losses that fundamentally alter their lives. These voids are there to reflect while the clock never ran in the spring.
Mallika Sen is editor of The Associated Press's East Regional Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mallikavsen.
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