As the sun begins to shine once again on Groningen this week, I am left feeling a little better than I can recall for a long time. It’s almost as if the sun rising and heating the air has grown a little bit of hope inside my head and heart. It seems there might finally be an end in sight to the nightmare of the last year and a half. And no, I don’t mean my masters; I’ve actually decided to extend that.
Things are looking up as (admittedly slow) vaccine rollout and the winding down of covid-19 lockdown measures ebbs and flows onward. The extension of the curfew in particular has seen life return to the city. My neighbours now regularly sit outside on a bench and enjoy a beer in the sunshine. Such activities have always been enjoyable, but now they take on a new meaning as a sign of hope.
I can even see it in my neighbour across the street. We both share big windows facing the other’s second floor room on opposite sides of the street. Over the last six or seven months of lockdown, we’ve often had little else to look at except for a screen, the dead street between our windows and each other trapped inside our rooms.
We no longer avert our eyes for fear of meeting the other’s gaze; we smile and wave
Week after week we have sat and largely averted the other’s gaze as we searched vacantly for something to bring us a little hope, happiness, or at least distraction for a moment. Almost as though we were too embarrassed to look at each other in the cage opposite, for fear we might be reminded of our own.
Now, the new activity on the street between us is a sign of a rapidly growing freedom. The return to our pre-pandemic freedoms which has seemed impossibly far away for so long, now seems inevitable, and the shared joy we feel is just as evident as the pain which came before it. Now we no longer avert our eyes for fear of meeting the other’s gaze; we smile and wave.
It’s long been my opinion that hope grows like a flower. It starts buried in darkness waiting for its time to see the fresh air without knowing how long that may take. The process of gaining that freedom is slow, but then, one day, it feels the sunshine and it has the chance to grow from a green shoot into something beautiful.
I am a green shoot.