Facing the World Again

I had just arrived in Colorado last month when the CDC announced the new recommendations for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Go ahead, bare your face!

So we did — my spouse Tim, my sister Andrea and I on a short hike at Browns Canyon National Monument.

As many others have commented, it still feels strange after a year of hiding our faces, hanging back from hugs, and counting the number of cart lengths between shoppers. Restaurants took down the signs requiring face coverings and people moved closer when boarding our flight. When we returned to Chicago, we had long mask-free visits with our grandchildren whose faces have changed more distinctly than those of adults.

This is such a good time for introspection and questioning: what do you look like now? What kind of human connection do I need? Who are we after all this suffering? How do we face this new world?

I thought of this poem by New Zealander Fleur Adcock who wrote about her aging face. For many of us, the phrases “My hair will grow grey” and “my waist thicken” just about sum up the months of pandemic life!

Weathering

Literally thin-skinned, I suppose, my face
catches the wind off the snow-line and flushes
with a flush that will never wholly settle. Well:
that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young for ever, to pass.

I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
But now that I am in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy,

happy is how I look, and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well

that’s little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells, when simply
to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.

Today I hope that “happy is how I look” and that my soul has emerged with a “new complexion” underneath my weathered and opened face.