Returning Each Nail to True

The Letters #155

Rainy weekends, I would find him in the workshop,
happy with his hammer and his tobacco can, working
against time to set things right, the only way left to him.

-A Straightener of Nails | Glen Sorestad

It’s been a good while, friends. I’ve spent most of it, at least since mid-March, volunteering as part of Ontario’s vaccine rollout, first on my own and then merged with Vaccine Hunters Canada. As part of this team of truly astonishingly fantastic people, I’ve dedicated hours of nearly every day to answering questions, updating eligibility information, and offering guidance to help people access appointments and drop-in clinics across Ontario.

Late one night, about two weeks ago, one of the group contributors suggested a couple of the clinics we were promoting might benefit from a translation targeted to its local community. Within a day, we had done translations for almost all of the pop-up clinics that followed, and we’ve since released tweets and resources in over 20 languages. Some of the translations were professional, but most of them were done or proofread by the team’s parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, and other members of the community who might not have thought of themselves as able to participate in what we’re doing.

It’s been a truly empowering, beautiful thing to be part of, and while it’s also often exhausting and frustrating, it feels so good to be doing something. We’ve met virtually with Justin Trudeau, been highlighted in sportscast and media, and are officially partnered with the City of Toronto. It’s been a truly magnificent example of how eager people are to connect with their communities, and just how much they’ll do given half a chance.

On a personal level, the past two months have pretty much been vaccines and parenting and not a whole lot else, if I’m being honest. Beans and I have been to the beach a couple of times, enjoying outdoor activities where it’s easy to be ten feet away from anybody else. G and I and about half of all Ontarians have a dose of vaccine (although our second doses and peak immunity are still months away, a situation I find both totally correct from a social pandemic perspective and also individually stressful). I know I won’t start to really feel better until Beans has been vaccinated and we see what large-scale vaccination means to the variants of concern and I know a lot more about how people are behaving in the transition out. I remain extremely anxious about things like travel, knowing we might be exposing ourselves or others to variants they might not otherwise encounter, and am going to at least really, really, really want to ask people to show their vaccine cards before I’m ready to gather indoors with them. I’m genuinely not sure I’ll be able to fend of fight-or-flight panic attacks if I don’t, at least for a while. I am incredibly anxious about navigating situations with people who’ve refused vaccines, and about my own re-entry given my history with PTSD. It’s going to be a hard year or two, I think.

So yeah, it’s slow going. It’s going to take time, and there’s going to be disagreements about what activities and gatherings are appropriate at which times. But we’ve started on our slow trek back out of the dark, and as frustrating as it’s been, I’ve also been privy to an amazing reminder of how genuinely powerful we all are.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

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