Andrew Buckley: Treading Water

And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again.” – Captain Quint, “Jaws”

It was warm again this past Friday. The trend of milder winters seemed to be carrying through for a third straight year. Perhaps that was too early a call, it not yet being on the other side of the winter solstice, and therefore not actually winter.

But the ocean has been warmer than usual, thanks to this summer. And the NOAA seasonal outlook is calling for the same through March. In fact, it calls for warmer weather than usual all through next June. Except for the likelihood of cold and storms mid-December to early January.

Today, being Friday the 11th of December, it was in the low 50s. I was working outside in a long-sleeve shirt most of the day. Granted, it was 20 degrees colder a few days earlier, with a biting wind from the northwest. But it is the frequency of milder days that displays the trend very long-term.

And that was the theme of the day. Acknowledgment of change.

This evening word came of the FDA approval of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. This evening, the United States Supreme Court denied Texas’ move to invalidate the elections in other states. To be honest, December can be a dull month. But this was certainly consequential.

After a year of prolonged interregnum, it does feel like the ice is (and perhaps this is a poor choice of words considering the time of year) beginning to break.

Our family certainly has experienced that. Sofie’s high school education has been turned on its head. My plans for a spring roll out of my documentary and subsequent screening tour, both overseas and across the country, were really squelched. This was always expected to be a year of dynamic change. Now, well, that potential has been capped. Like a bottle of soda.

Of course, it will be months and months before much of the country gets their full doses of the immunization, enough to assure us that we do not risk death or disability every time we go to the post office or to buy some bread.

Likewise, we won’t know the balance of the Senate until Jan. 5 (or so) with the Georgia Senate runoffs. But by the third week in January, we know things will look different in Washington, D.C. There will be movement, if not in federal legislation, at least in personnel. That itself breeds excitement.

So much has been waiting this year, but now we at least know. Who is going to be in power. If the pandemic will end. How the two might be reconciled to our general benefit.

Meanwhile, today I wasn’t alone in doing some late fall cleanup in the mild December sunshine. Sofie was available to lend a hand. Some things will happen, based on the calendar. There will be a new president in January. My daughter will turn 18 this spring. It is not a debatable proposition. We just have to plan around it.

As for winter, to be honest, we’ve gotten spoiled. I have been, at least. I have been able to get through the past two years without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Of course, if we are still in limited lockdown or otherwise in Stage Number Whatever of restrictions, then being stuck in my driveway due to any possible snow is not that big a deal. On the other hand, it does mean snowblowing money to be had.

But, and here really is the thing, we are waiting. Knowing that things will be changing, opening up, moving. Just not yet. We are now at the highest numbers of death per day from COVID – right now, just as hope is at hand. We will be delivered from this. Eventually.

However, as of this writing, we still have no Congressional deal for financial relief to ensure Americans can make it through this winter. We are waiting, and that deadline is the day after Christmas. The day extended unemployment benefits run out.

Even more dire is the waiting for the vaccine. Nearly one-third of deaths are senior males. At the rate we are going, we could see another 100,000 deaths at least. While we wait our turn.

Perhaps that is why I focused on the unseasonably mild weather today. Winter has not started. Even with a few tough storms, things feel like they might not be so bad. That leads to a kind of hope that, from what we can see, is not so unreasonable. Yet, well, we know this isn’t Florida. We don’t get spring without earning it.

There will be awful days, seemingly random, cruelly it would seem, this winter. Here’s hoping we all meet the promise of a bounteous spring.