That’s a weird thought, isn’t it? Makes almost no sense, right? So here’s the deal.
Every spring, I ignore the calendar date for normal spring in March because it usually has NOTHING to do with where I live in Canada. Long after the calendar says “spring has arrived!”, I still have snow to clear and piles of it on my lawn. About ten years ago, I said, “Okay, enough is enough, let’s come up with a REAL date that makes sense.” I wanted a date by which all the snow was guaranteed to be gone from my front lawn, bearing in mind of course that it takes longer to disappear from there since that is where I shovel the snow to during the winter.
I wanted a day when all the snow would be “gone”. Well, at least the snow in my immediate vicinity. Initially, I thought somewhere around April 10-12 would do the job. Then it became the 15th to be sure. Then one year it went all the way to the 22nd with new snow arriving AND accumulating. I’m not willing to go all the way to April 30th, but I settled on April 24th. That’s my “PolySpring” (trademark pending). A day of light at the end of the winter.
Last year, PolySpring came REAL early. Almost the original calendar date. By the end of March, I had barbecued several times already. This year? The last snow melted on my lawn on April 16th. A house around the corner that doesn’t get good sun morning or afternoon still has a huge pile on their lawn, which nobody else in the neighbourhood has left. A few malls around the neighbourhood who create huge piles each year still have their large piles, but the piles at my son’s school are out in complete sunshine all day and were gone before my house snow was gone.
So I should be feeling something, right? Excitement? Hope? Freedom? Nada.
Over the course of the pandemic years, I was work from home the whole time (except a little bit the last few months), and we were pretty careful given our relative high risk. My biggest release of tension was when my son was able to get his vaccine, although I was happy for my wife to get hers too, as she went through chemo etc. I was nervous for myself, sure, but more worried about them. Over the three years, Jacob had a mild case once, while Andrea and I have managed to avoid COVID so far. Andrea and I have 5 (or is it 6?) doses now.
But we had not really “emerged”. When some of the first mask mandates lessened, Jacob was excited to go to a restaurant and sit on a patio, which we did near the cottage. It was nice. But it didn’t feel normal. Since then, he wears a mask at school every single day by choice, along with about a fifth of his class. He’s avoided the flu and colds, so his call.
Up until recently, whenever Andrea and I went out anywhere, such as shopping, we were masked. Don’t care what others were doing, it was just what we felt comfortable with at the time. We have loosened up for restaurants, partly as it is a bit silly to wear the mask until the food comes and then breathe in everything for the next 30 minutes like that will make a difference from the first 30 minutes. So, for restaurants, we have loosened up.
At Christmas, people started talking about going to “events” like concerts and plays again. I had two very strong reactions.
First, I did a gut check on the mask / virus thing. Was I comfortable going and being surrounded by unmasked people for 2 hours sitting in close proximity? Surprisingly, I was okay with it. I felt like I had emerged enough that I was willing to do that with other people. I would still wear a mask, but I was willing to go.
Second, on a totally different level, I had NO IDEA if I’d be able to handle it from a social perspective. I was feeling almost agoraphobic or severely introverted with the idea of being around a lot of people. The crush of people? Would I be able to handle it? I had no idea.
In March, we went to the Harry Potter play in Toronto. There were eight of us in two rows. And I was fine. I didn’t feel crushed at all.
Well, to be honest, I had a problem with my knee, I had taken a bad fall at the house before we went, and my kneecap was throbbing. I didn’t have my knee braces with me, haven’t needed them in 3 years because I don’t DO anything that would aggravate them, but I was wishing that I had them. So I was surprised that all I was feeling was anxiety that someone would jostle me or I wouldn’t be as agile trying to work my way through large crowds. Other than trouble on stairs for the theatre and the parking garage, I was fine overall.
Which even that is misleading. I wasn’t just “fine”. I literally felt NO ANXIETY at all. I wasn’t affected by the crowds, didn’t even feel claustrophobic a little. I was sure that I would, I had been stressed in advance and tried to talk myself into a good brain pattern in advance to handle it, but then I was there, and it was nothing.
I had “emerged” from the last three years.
We still take basic precautions, sure. There’s no reason not to take them. But we’re wearing our masks fewer and fewer places. Not just me, Andrea too, and she has been the more diligent of the two of us. Obvious, of course, with her chemo. Jacob still wears it, although I think part of that is more habit than safety, and he is only wearing a cloth one, so not the most effective of protections.
A small bump for my psyche
When I realized that I had made it through the play, that I wasn’t affected and fearful and claustrophobic, I had a small bump to my psyche. And so I started looking into options for plays in Ottawa to see if I could tap into that source of external pleasure.
Each year, I used to go through the Ottawa Little Theatre, Gladstone Theatre, National Arts Centre (Pops orchestra music, English Theatre, and Broadway), the Great Canadian Theatre Company, the Kanata Theatre, and the Meridien Theatre to see if their season was worth a careful perusal.
So, after I was back and looking around, I was like, “Hey! I should go through those again!”. And then was disappointed. GCTC is the avant garde theatre, and while I used to find some stuff when they were still on Gladstone, since they moved to their new venue about 7 years ago, I haven’t seen a single play on their roster that I would pay to see. Their latest offerings? Let me give you two descriptions so you can see for yourself:
Play 1: The Doctor introduces the gang: The Cobbler (Wanted: name redacted), The Lover, The Dancer, and The Kid. A story about falling off the map of decency and becoming an outlaw. A contemporary female Western. A hero myth for girls.
Play 2: This is Gilles Jean. This is his mother. Those are his brothers. That is his friend, and his friend’s wife. This is the distance between Gilles and goodness. What will Gilles do for love?
I have NO IDEA what either are about, nor do I care. I’m happy that the people who want to watch that type of theatre have a place in Ottawa to go. I would prefer more mixed offerings across the spectrum for each venue, as I would with the NAC English Theatre series. A few years ago, the artistic director stated it quite plainly — they could do something commercial, fill every seat, and be a great success, or they could “push the envelope”, fill most seats for most days, and break even. They normally choose to break even rather than be tainted by anything so commercial as success.
While at first glance that would seem just a question of venue, the problem is that those are the only two real venues putting on plays with professional actors. The rest is amateur theatre or travelling shows. Yet, I’m okay to aim that way.
We used to have seasons tickets for The Ottawa Little Theatre, and their season list is okay without screaming “pick me, pick me!”. The Kanata Theatre is very similar offerings, and there are two I would consider. One is Brighton Beach Memoirs, a popular offering, but it is rarely done with much panache, and not enough usually to warrant another viewing if you saw it recently. I confess I’m really looking for something for Jacob to experience. I can’t match the offerings of the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, but I’d love for him to see something professionally done. In the absence, there’s an amateur mystery one for Sherlock Holmes he might enjoy in Kanata.
I’m still waiting to see what NAC has to offer for next year. Most of the rest were a let down. And with it? A bit of a let down in my psyche. I have very little interest in going to movie theatres, too many people talking or playing on their phones while the movie is on. I’m fine to watch it at home on our TV, even if I rent it shortly after release. I miss big screen stuff, but not enough to leap towards a movie theatre. I’ll get over that, I hope, for the new Indiana Jones just so we can see it in a big theatre together.
I need more though
We’re in the middle of a home reno (3 bathrooms!), and I have some projects of my own to finish. But I think I’m going to have to commit to some astronomy stuff too that will get me out of the house. The theatre stuff is just too far away and not spontaneous enough.
Is it possible for my psyche to start to smell like Spring and bloom like re-birth? Let’s find out.