Several weeks into coronavirus-induced isolation, my mood is now entirely dependent upon one thing, and one thing only: sunshine. I now rely upon good weather as the central determining fact of how my day will proceed, as though I were a 17th-century sailor. Every morning, I wake up and almost immediately assess the situation, even though I already know what’s going to happen, because I check my weather app constantly. Blue sky bodes well; torrential rain is enough to reduce me to futile tears.
It’s been an uneasy spring, one consumed by coronavirus. The daffodils have pushed their way out of the ground and the leaves have begun to unfurl against a backdrop of ominous ambulance sirens and absolutely staggering job losses. I dread the thought of the coming weeks and the pandemic summer that will follow, a summer where even if they’re open, formerly joyful public spaces like pools and beaches will seem shot through with danger, recalling the polio outbreaks of the first half of the 20th century.
But at least there’s sunshine, I think to myself while sitting in the brightest patch I can find in my house, like a lizard with a laptop. Thank god this happened as springtime was just beginning, instead of November.
Partly, it’s about what sunny weather allows me to do. I’m not exactly spending long hours relaxing outside in all this desperately yearned-for sunlight; juggling childcare and a full workday doesn’t leave much time for long, rambling, responsibly socially distant walks or backyard picnics. (Though god knows I’m grateful that I even have that problem, instead of endlessly calling unemployment, hoping somebody picks up.) But those brief snatches when I can take the toddler outside to bounce a ball or draw robots in sidewalk chalk, instead of bouncing off the walls makes all the difference between a day that feels hard but okay, and a day that feels like a damn disaster.
Even if I’m mostly cooped up in the house, it feels much better writing at the kitchen table for the sixth (fifth? seventh? what year is it?) straight week with sunlight pouring into the windows, filtering through the green olive oil bottle I reclaimed to hold dirt-cheap grocery store flowers, another attempt at good cheer. Everything seems more manageable with golden warmth beating insistently down upon my head, warming the top strands of hair. Even my three-year-old gets it: “It’s a nice sunny day to mail letters,” she announced today, scribbling yellow on a piece of notebook paper.
The flip side is that bad weather inspires a burst of anxiety-fueled fury. When I throw two extra blankets onto the bed, it’s with burning resentment; spotting a freeze warning on Weather.com feels like discovering somebody has just stolen my wallet. But nothing is as bad as when it rains. Sure, sometimes we can take a page from Peppa Pig and spend half an hour jumping in muddy puddles, but it’s not enough to make up for the sheer grayness of a rainy day. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I lived somewhere it’s still snowing. Scream at the sky, probably.
On Saturday, after almost six weeks (first thanks to a vicious ankle sprain, and then the lockdown), I went for a drive. I didn’t get out of the car at any point; I just drove in a big circle through the suburbs. It was a perfect spring day, one where the trees are just beginning to go bright green and the faint clouds just make the sky look even bluer. I wore my sunglasses; I opened up the sunroof to let in the light (though not the air). It was almost enough to take the edge off the highway signs periodically blaring STAY HOME, SAVE LIVES—but not quite.