A Plan For Tomorrow

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

By the time all this is over, my hair will be gray at the temples, gray at the roots–and not from the stress of quarantine, though it is stressful–but because the gray is something I’ve been covering for years.

By the time all this is over, I wonder: what else will be laid bare that has been hiding in plain sight?

I picture myself in mid-May–or will it be August? Or November? Will we, after so many days unmarked, even know? I’ll drop the kids at school to gather supplies abandoned before their worlds stopped turning. They’ll clean out their desks and discover little bags of goldfish crackers and nutri-grain bars shoved to the back of their cubbies, long forgotten; wrinkled papers covered in math they used to know; spiral-bound agendas whose daily trends toward progress will look, even to them, naive.

No one will be able to fool them then. Tomorrow, it will be clear, is only an idea, a matter of hours.

But it is the hope of tomorrow that still gets me up in the morning. Nine days in to quarantine also means nine days out.

When it happens–when the world opens up again–I will be radiant. So will you.

I will be fearfully, joyfully, wildly gray; kinder, maybe.

I will be older. So will you.

We will enter in to the world then with a tender awareness of the many things we each have been covering up all this time and how they have been laid bare.

It will be okay, whatever you are afraid of. You can’t see the helpers now, but they will be there, emerging from their homes; appearing next to you, where they maybe have been hidden all along; walking alongside you on a road you’d thought abandoned, all your own.

Have you woken up each morning of quarantine and wondered when it will all end? How it will? Me too. See? We are not alone, after all.

One more thought to get you through today, the many hours ahead that will be spent behind your own four walls; the hours you will spend cajoling your children to go outside, to take deep, healing breaths in celebration of those who, as of this moment, cannot fully breathe; the hours that you will hold the sick and those who care for them up to the light; the hours ahead of you which will be filled with buzzing news alerts; the hours ahead of you in which you may feel you are sealing your own leaking boat with paper and scotch tape:

Maybe what we were living before was its own sort of quarantine. There would have been no way for us to know it. We couldn’t have seen.

But in the after that will be, months from the isolation that was and the quarantine that is now, we will see the world differently.

After all this, it won’t be hard.

We will reach out and link arms and find ourselves buoyed by a generosity that had been buried so deep within us that we’d forgotten it was ever there in the first place.

We will find ourselves reaching not only for our hair dressers, but also for one another.

We will see all the grays that everyone has been covering and offer a shrug of dismissal. Of course, they’ve always been there–the roots of things, buried deep, that tell the truth.

We will need to be gentle. We will need to apologize, maybe. We will need to listen, and to act, and to do so as though we were called to it, to do so as though this was all meant to be.

Change

For over a year now, Andrew and I have held a membership to Stone Mountain Park, just outside Atlanta.  The Rock, as we like to call it, just twenty minutes from our house, is heavily wooded and surrounded by a fresh lake in which our dog Ivy loves to swim.  The Rock, itself, which stands at the center of the park, is a humpbacked granite slab resembling a somber whale or a planetary hemisphere.

We love the place’s peacefulness – the view of local crew teams gliding across the lake’s early morning glimmer in conjunction with ducks in low flight is truly soul-settling – and we love that it gives our little family a taste of the great outdoors in the midst of a bustling metropolis.

But we also love and are intrigued by Stone Mountain’s irony.

The Rock is of sad history.  In 1915, hooded men in white robes revived the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) atop the lovely granite monolith, burning a cross in celebration.  This “reincarnation” of the Klan was led by a man named William J Simmons, and featured Nathan Bedford Forest II (the grandson of the KKK’s original Imperial Grand Wizard) administering oaths.  The group had permission of The Rock’s owner to hold all its rallies there and in 1924 commissioned a stone carving of the South’s Confederate heroes on its mountainside. (The KKK supplied half the funding for the artwork; the US government supplied the rest of the money.)

Today, however, few signs of the hatred and fear that characterized Stone Mountain for so many years remain.  The carving is still there, of course, and throughout the summer the park puts on a campy laser show to which tourists flock and clap along to the tune of Dixie.  The Confederate memorial, which details information about Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, is also there but rarely highlighted and does not appear to draw any crowds at all.

Far more prevalent than signs of bigotry at Stone Mountain are the African Americans who use the park grounds as a meeting place for cookouts, who bike, walk and run the trails surrounding The Rock, who fish in the lake and let their dogs run free through the woods. They have claimed Stone Mountain for themselves, not any more or any less than the rest of us, but equally, in light of forgiveness, in light of progress.

The juxtaposition of these two entities – proud Confederates and those they fought to oppress – is just downright bizarre. But it is also because of this juxtaposition that it feels as if the spirit of Stone Mountain has been set free, as if something very wrong has been righted there.

Earlier this summer, Andrew and I saw a group of young black boys – maybe between the ages of seven and ten – chasing one another up the sidewalk by the park grounds.  They were laughing and squealing and running as fast as their little legs could carry them. And I was so glad for them to be out of the city, to know the feel of fresh air, however hot and humid, to be assured for them that times do change, and that they have.

I saw in the boys’ faces the joy that I hope for our country, a country that may, indeed, be at the cusp of electing its first African-American President.

If Obama is not our nations hope – the leader of a revival forced from hard times – he may still be the hope of all the little black boys sprinting full speed through the trees at Stone Mountain, an iconic figure for the future America.

The future America.  What will it be?  I pray for a place, like The Rock, that can overcome its history; for a place that seeks justice and loves mercy; for a place that makes those who live in it healthier, happier, and freer in both mind and spirit.

Until then, we will seek refuge among Stone Mountain’s ironies, waiting, patiently, for change.