Sycamore in Lawton Park, Brookline

We sit and wait.

It’s been over a year since all of this started, and now we sit and wait for our turn. Friends and now The Boston Globe say that one can jump the line simply by waking up at midnight and wrestling with the CVS website. No guarantees, but they have supply, and if you’re eligible, you can vie for an appointment each morning as long as they have capacity. So far, I’ve not been willing to disrupt a night of sleep for the possibility of inoculation. Is that nuts?

Mary and I first registered with the state, and then she received a note from Beth Israel offering an appointment. She jumped at the opportunity and took it.

“Do they say anything about partners?” I ask, wondering if somehow that would lead to a shot for me as well.

“Unfortunately, they explicitly say that this is just for one person. No partners,” she answers, closing the door on that path out of lock-down.

If there’s anything that this past year has taught me, it’s patience, of which I had very little going in to last March, but now seem to be quite full of. There’s this sense that we’re all in line for the same concert, and that the music isn’t going to start until everyone’s in and seated. Naïve I know, but that’s what it feels like.

“Let me see if signing up with my doctor helps,” I suggest. “That’s if I can remember her name.”

My regular doctor died in a freak accident two years ago. He was on vacation on St. Johns, a first in years his office wrote, and died during an open water swim. He and I talked about swimming quite a bit, about Total Immersion, the swimming technique that Mary’s taught me. He, like Mary and I, a passionate convert.

“I swim a mile a day,” he told me during one check-up, talking a mile a minute as he was want to do. Impressive, the talking and the swimming. “With fins,” he added. Still, that’s a lot of swimming.

My doctor died suddenly doing something he loved, which reminds me of the most obvious thing. Don’t wait to do the things you love, because there are no guarantees. His practice informed us that we’d be moved over to another doctor at Mass General. I had one appointment with that someone else over a year ago, and now can’t remember her name. She barely spoke. Quite the contrast to the man who made time to learn about ultimate, who said he read a bit of David Gessner’s book Ultimate Glory, who seemed to know something about everything.

It’s pretty strange, just sitting waiting for your name to come up. To be saved. To receive an email either from the state, or from my hospital telling me to sign-up. Mary’s a year older, so maybe that’s why she’s getting notices to my crickets. We’re reading about what it’s going to be like when some people are vaccinated, and others not. Pods of safety in the raging storm, still far from herd immunity — the new normal. Once before we waited for the newspaper to list positions in line, that time called the draft, which thankfully ended just before my older brother and I turned eighteen.

As we wait, we are all forced to confront our mortality in ways that didn’t present themselves before last March. We’ve all been touched by this. All know someone who’s been lost. All have to consider what it means to be alive, to have the privilege of inoculation, to live in a country with the capacity to reach a tipping point.

I contemplate my fate during my short morning runs which now include the brief hugging of a particular tree in a little park at the bottom of the hill. This idea coming after a dear friend talked about the medicinal effects of being surrounded by trees. The healing energy.

“Do you know where that book about the secret life of trees is?” I ask Mary.

“Maybe,” she says. “Should be on the shelves in our room.”

“I’ve looked everywhere,” I say.

Later, when the book plops in down in front of me on the kitchen table I say, “You found it!”

“It was behind the Bert & I CD,” she says. “Hidden.”

The Hidden Life of Trees, tucked away on our bookshelf. Fitting.

The book doesn’t take long before parsing out pieces of advice that perfectly organize what’s come to be. ‘Slow down. Breathe deep, and look around,’ it advises. ‘What can you hear? What do you see? What can you feel?’

This my biggest learning of the pandemic. Hidden in plain sight like the book about trees that make-up our various landscapes. Stop! What do I feel as buds begin to sprout, birds recommence their song, temperatures finally rise up to where we can leave coats on racks at home?

My father and I once spent a year, each observing a different tree, noting the seasonal changes in our journals, talking about what we were each noticing. His a European Hornbeam in Central Park by the Alice in Wonderland statue. Mine a tall maple in our back yard in Roslindale where we lived at the time.

Slow down. Look around. Take it in. The lesson then, and now.

Lola and I will take a walk in the Arnold Arboretum today, a walk through the closest thing we have to a forest here in our urban setting. I’ll be masked. I’ll be socially distanced. I’ll be waiting for my turn. My notice. My chance to move on. But I’m not waiting to take it all in.

Writer, photographer, wannabe musician.