To Pine

The daily word, or writamin, given to me yesterday by my writing friend Marti, was “pine,” and I spent the day rolling that around in my head.

What does it mean, to pine for something? The ache of longing, the emptiness of a missing puzzle piece—except the whole picture is a day, a year, a life. To want love, to want to love, to yearn for understanding or Nana’s butterscotch fudge.

I don’t do puzzles, because to me they seem both far too daunting, and also (forgive me, puzzlers) kind of pointless. Where do I begin, and how impossible it seems to have a thousand tiny shapes become one! And why, I ask myself, spend all that time putting it together, when the complete image is already right there, on the front of the box?

I write not knowing where I’m going, and I think I largely live this way, too. Leaping before looking, with minimal scaffolding or planning. But plans have also served me well once I decide on a direction. Like Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek, I have pointed my finger and said his catch phrase: Make it so. And more often than not, I’ve made my way in the direction I’ve pointed, albeit with a detour or two.

And now, six months into the pandemic? I pine for plans, I ache to make anything happen beyond the daily grind. I feed the sourdough starter, I fill the hummingbird feeder, I carry the indoor cats outside to let them feel the wider world, watch as they turn their little faces toward the sun, the breeze, the chatter of chickadees. All of those detailed plans for our journey through Italy and France are ghost memories, forever dead, because even if we make it there in the future, and I fully intend to try, it will be a different trip.

Today, while driving to the dentist, I stopped at a red light and looked at the street sign above the crosswalk: Pine Street. Below it, eleven toddlers in bright yellow pinnies held hands, a chain of children with three bigger links to keep it strong. This is what I’ve been pining for: normalcy. Kids being kids, outside, living as if they had never worried about anything to do with Covid at all. Getting back to my daily writing, because that’s what feeds me.

I pine for a world I didn’t know I would miss as much as a loved one, as much as a species, vanished. Some days the current world feels like a world without birdsong. At the beginning, it was worse, and the sound of children playing now, back in the schoolyards, walking with their play groups, delights me more than it ever has.

What do you pine for? It’s the end of September: the sun is strong, the bees are plentiful, I still have ripening tomatoes, and a friend dropped off these beautiful, juicy apples. For today, this has to be enough.