Soundtrack of 2020


I kneel in the grass and breathe in the cloying fragrance of the earth. Head bowed, eyes closed, veil of hair stirred in the warm breeze, I inhale the quiet and clutch at thorny stems that remind me beauty and pain can coexist on the same flower.

Far in the distance, an ambulance announces passage between the narrow streets. The sirens have become more frequent…or perhaps I’ve simply become more attuned to their wails. For many years, the sound evoked a deep sadness in me. The herald of Death. The final notes of a stranger’s life muting to white noise and then silence on the hard, bloody concrete as a slate-gray sky fades to black.

But in the newfound lull of the world, I now find the sirens inexplicably soothing. I like to think that they are not the wails of Banshees mourning a death, but rather the hopeful horn of the cavalry, the lifeline tethering a drifting soul to this world—something to focus on as the senses sputter between planes like a radio tuner seeking notes between the static. A promise that help is on the way. Just hold on a little bit longer.

Contagious restlessness seizes the neighborhood dogs, who tip their noses skyward and accompany the shrill notes with long howls as if devolving back to their wolf ancestry and serenading the Cold Moon on a winter’s still night. Birds take flight—robin and blue jay, nuthatch and finch, the fleeting cardinal a brief ember glowing against the browning foliage, a symbol of orange skies and a chorus of sirens to the burning West. The birds have celebrated our isolation and reclaimed the skies and backyards with a dry rustle of feathers, and flapping wings, and varied trills and chirps lending to the ghostly orchestra. Above, in the treetops, the cicadas crescendo and recede in waves deafening at their apex. The pieces of this song bring back memories.

The dogs—a reminder that a piece of the wild survives in every soul and yearns to emerge, even if for only a moment.

The cicadas—the sound of childhood summers, of hunting for their discarded shells and collecting them in a shoebox.

And the sirens, once a foreboding and heart-dropping cry breaking the peace, but now…somehow…the sound of hope in this disease-ridden turn of the new decade.

As the sirens fade away on unknown course, I lay the blood-red roses on the base of a new gravestone. It’s one of many new stones in this resting place. The breeze whispers sweet nothings through the crisp-edged leaves. The cicadas begin their clicking buzz again, oblivious to the woes of humanity.

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