For the last two days I’ve felt an uneasy sense of grief, or of a heavy pressure on my heart. At first I could not figure out the cause of it.
Nothing unusual was wrong in my personal life. My loved ones were safe and well, thank God. The battle for liberty was ongoing, as it has been for over two years, but I was used to the rigors and stresses of that. What was the matter?
I was just driving with Brian over Taconic foothills, and through the vast early-Spring expanses of the beautiful Hudson Valley. The sun was shining. Daffodils, creamy-white and bright yellow, displayed their trumpets shyly in shadowy recesses under old ash trees with wide-spreading boughs. The lighter-yellow forsythia dotted the roadsides in a riot of buzzy color.
We’d just been talking to a realtor acquaintance who described how the area had changed when the city people fled their Brooklyn apartments at the start of the pandemic, to sit out the crisis in the gracious, creaky old farmhouses that they could purchase for a relative song.
We’d driven through reopened businesses flush with newly transplanted money. An old railroad car diner had been revamped and now offered curated organic-beef hash, and tasty, if ironic, egg creams.
We drove past little 1960s ranch houses with some land around them, now being redone with costly cedar shingles and white trim, for the farmhouse look that the ex-Brooklynites liked. Sotheby’s signs were out on the lawns already, in preparation for the lucrative flipping.
On driveway after driveway of the ex-Brooklynites, of the former weekend people — (and I confess that I too was once a weekend person, but something has happened to me in the last two years that has changed me even more than my change of home address) there were now Ukrainian flags. Not American flags. No one cared or even asked about the town halls being closed for the past two years. Tyranny overseas was more pressing than the rights that had been suspended just up the road.
Otherwise most things were almost back to normal! Almost pre-2020 normal!
The masks had recently come off. Hudson, New York, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the two cities nearest us, and also, by chance, both left-leaning, had also been two of the maskiest and most coercive of places when it came to pandemic policies and pandemic cultures. Now businesses were being allowed to reopen.
(I’d been fired from my Great Barrington synagogue because I’d dared to invite people over to my house at the depth of the pandemic — if they had wanted, as adults, affirmatively, to join me — to watch the Zoom Friday Evening Shabbat service together. Shocking behavior on my part, I know.)
As if a switch had been flicked, now the cruel moral judgments, the two-tier society, the mandates, the coercions, the nasty looks, the desperate masked children with their laboring breath, the loneliness, the desolate centrally-planned economies — had evaporated and were no more.