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Sunrise and Wheelbarrows

Notes from the Pandemic

I’ve been getting up at 6:30. After dressing, the first thing I do is walk down the driveway and pick up the newspaper. When I do, I turn to the east and look at the sky. It’s a simple thing. It seems mindless. But it has become an important part of my day.

This time of year, the sun has just risen. There are puffy white clouds. The sky behind them is a bright, yellowish blue, with white wisps between. Rays fan out from the horizon.

In a way I don’t understand, sunrise looks different from sunset. It’s a beginning, not an end. It gives me hope. Another opportunity to put the past behind me and move forward. A chance to get the day right. A clean slate.

My father always said that sunrise was proof of forgiveness. Yesterday may have been terrible. I may have been terrible. But today I’m rested, ready to try again.

In the pandemic, somehow the new day is starker, clearer. Before the virus, when I faced the new day, I thought of the events that would fill it, as if they were the day. But they weren’t.

Now that the events have fallen away, the day is revealed to be a thing of its own. Not an empty space. A substantial space. A space that means something, or could mean something.

I’m reminded of the old joke about a man who pushes an empty wheelbarrow across a guarded border each day. The guard, sure the man is smuggling something, checks the wheelbarrow for goods but can never find any. Years later, the guard runs across the man and asks what he was smuggling.

“Wheelbarrows,” says the man.

A wheelbarrow is a fine thing. It moves. It serves a purpose. It can be filled with useful items. Sometimes, though, it can be empty, and there’s beauty in that.

I walk back down the driveway toward the house. The sun is rising. So am I.

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