I’m looking out my window at a perfect summer morning: The sky is clear, with only a hint of cirrus clouds.

Isn’t it beautiful? The way the sky isn’t dulled by all the sleepless nights and layers of worry.

My saving grace has become maximum appreciation of the smallest things.

Actually, I have become greedy in my quest for maximum appreciation of the smallest things.

The herbs in my garden understand perfectly. They don’t want for anything. They are doing great. I’m going to pop the oregano and rosemary into those little flasks with corks you can buy at Bartell’s then fill them with olive oil — each stalk suspended in time.

Ah! I didn’t realize what a great metaphor for present-day life this is.

It reminds me of the projects I used to do as a kid. Whenever family life became too stressful, out came the Crayolas. They helped. If nothing else, my parents’ arguments made me believe in self reliance.

I’m thinking all this when my friend Francesca calls, sad that the “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella,” statue has been removed from her State Capitol building.

She’s a relatively new friend, so I don’t want to say that Columbus doesn’t depict anything about being Italian, not to me anyway. Or how I wish that when they tear an old statue down, they would have one of a woman like Victoria Woodhull cast in bronze and ready to raise.

And she’s been a good friend since our first conversation back in March when, after she had to cancel my author luncheon, she said she still wanted to be my friend.

I was surprised because all I can remember was feeling depressed that the rest of my book tour was canceled and what I could have possibly “been so hilarious” about. When I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself I was grouchy. And when I wasn’t grouchy, I was commiserating with another out-of-work dance teacher, which was just another way of feeling sorry for myself, and then it was time to binge on Netflix again.

All this with the collateral benefit of discovering just how easy it is to drink low-budget wine, also from Bartell’s.

Francesca is pretty upset, so some other time I want to tell her that her wanting to be my friend has been a high point in these low months, tell her that it’s been too long since I’ve made such an expressive friend, like years too long. Tell her that, after I wondered aloud if maybe government is overstepping our rights a little lately, and she said, “Get with the program, Maria Luisa! Human rights are so yesterday,” I knew I wanted to be her friend, too.

After we hang up, I notice how familiar my flasks look, even though I have never made herb oil before, and probably never will again.

And with that, it’s time for a walk. One of my favorite parks (I’m not saying which one!) is crowded with people gorging on sunshine. I mean, really, the rain will be back.

Most have forgotten to social distance, well, not altogether. We make a casual stab at it, but it’s more like we are drawn to each other.

And I know I’m going to be blasted for saying this, but this makes me feel less afraid rather than more.

It’s as if too much life-affirming optimism pumps through everyone’s veins, and you know that nothing can contain the course of lifeblood. Restraining it is the antithesis of the human heart.

And we are only human, each of us.

And what are the two women next to me talking about? Nothing new, stories about their kids, the little stars of their lives. And I want to shout that it feels like we are all reaching for the stars just by being here!

The crowd is old and young and in-between. A couple walks their golden retriever. Two women sit on the grass, legs outstretched. A boy rolls up on a one-wheel. Honestly, who isn’t here among us hoping against hope with the rest of the world?

The way we live best is like this, in fresh air and sunshine with our bodies a little closer together. And while I do wonder if it’s too risky (I do!), mostly I wonder if other people are wondering the same thing: that our nearness is like the first “time” for many of us.

We know we shouldn’t.

We’ve been warned we shouldn’t.

And still, we do.


— Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Belltown. Her novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs” was recently published. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.