EVANS, Ga. (AP) — I woke up this morning to the sounds of birds instead of sirens.
Rather than dodging potholes and swearing at all the incompetent drivers complicating my 10-mile commute to the office, I spent the 45 minutes leading up to my work shift watching the steam from my coffee curl in the air as the branches of a tall pin oak, lifted by a morning breeze, fanned me with a thousand feathery leaves.
Luck brought me here.
When I got married in September, it was with the understanding that my husband and I would — for the foreseeable future — continue to live two hours apart: I in a city just outside Atlanta, where my office is located, he on a cul-de-sac in a quiet, rural subdivision outside Augusta, Georgia.
The work-at-home order in response to the coronavirus changed that. At least for now, I am living on the cul-de-sac, in a house on an acre of land that is a mini-paradise. I'm moved by the backyard bushes bursting with fuchsia azaleas, dizzy with the scents of pine and freshly cut grass, lulled by the wind in the trees and the constant chatter of birds who haven’t heard we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
COVID-19 has stolen too many lives and jobs, stretched resources too thin, isolated too many. It has swept us all up in a wave of sadness, desperation, grief and uncertainty.
And, perversely, it has allowed me this unexpected gift. It’s sheer luck. I did nothing to deserve it.
This is a lesson I have spent a lifetime teaching myself during bad luck’s frequent visits: when I was sexually assaulted at knifepoint; mugged by box cutter-wielding thugs; and involved in several serious car crashes, one of which left me with a dislocated hip.
It’s what I told myself when I watched helplessly over the years as illness and violence ended the lives of two siblings, a niece and nephews, and a brother-in-law — and what I am repeating like a mantra right now as I wrestle with the hard, horrible fact that one of my sisters is losing her battle with cancer.
For as long as I can remember, I have spent the first conscious minutes of every day wondering what piece of bad news might be headed my way. But it also works the other way: Just days and weeks ago came the exuberant announcements that two new great-nieces had been born. I am the last of 14 children and an aunt, great-aunt, and great-great-aunt many times over. How lucky is that?
Luck, too, helped me find the man I would marry, after decades of enduring but ultimately doomed relationships.
Luck was with me on a recent morning before dawn as I lay curled in a ball on the floor next to our garage moments after a tornado warning shrieked over my cellphone. The lightning, winds and rain were strong and terrifying and toppled giant trees nearby, but we weren’t hit.
So, yes, I know that — for the most part — luck is on my side right now. And I also know that can change.
I am well aware that when this self-quarantining thing is all over, I will have to trade my existence as a newlywed in this bucolic backyard of birds and breezes for potholes and unskilled drivers. Ambulances and cop cars, not birds, will be my siren songs once more.
That’s OK. For now, I will continue to start my days in the pin oak’s shade, marveling at the resilience of a 20-year-old tree that has been pushed, pulled and shaken — but never broken — by passing storms.