The spring that dared us all to hope

Those aren’t just leaves budding on tree branches; they’re promises. In March 2021, the world is ready to awaken from the winter of the pandemic.

Terry Prather/The Ledger Independent/AP
Crocus and grape hyacinth blooms peek out from beneath a fresh blanket of snow near Maysville, Kentucky.

As a lifelong New Englander, I’ve learned to greet the first shoots of spring with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. After all, it’s not uncommon to see early crocuses peek up through the earth, only to be buried in snow mere hours later. 

This has happened so many times that those first little slivers of green, bravely slicing up through the still-thawing ground, inspire something protective. It’s too soon, little buds. Go back into the ground.

So when I noticed a tree awash in sprightly buds the other day, a chorus in my head urged my heart to remain calm. The calendar was just barely knocking at March’s door and weeks of raw weather most assuredly still lay ahead.

And yet, something in me started to sing. Because those weren’t just leaves budding on the branches of that tree; they were promises. 

This March, the world is awaiting another kind of spring, an awakening from this year of winter brought on by the pandemic. 

Our first story featured in this week’s Humanity Behind the Headlines explores the cautious optimism that is starting to take root in communities around the United States, as people allow themselves to hope that society might be turning a corner on the health crisis.

Full victory may not be on the horizon just yet. “I think we are at the beginning of the end, but not the end that everybody’s hoping for,” one epidemiologist tells our reporting team. 

Masks and some degree of social distancing will likely be with us for some time. But even as public officials urge continued diligence, sprouts of possibility are beginning to break through. 

COVID-19 cases have dipped to levels not seen since October, and within months, officials expect that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. Families and communities that have been keeping their distance are once again starting to think about coming back together.

It may still be awhile before we regain a full sense of normalcy. As any New Englander can attest, the first glimpses of spring almost never mark the final passage of winter. But that’s never stopped anyone from throwing open the windows to welcome in the first balmy breeze.

And those courageous crocuses? They always seem to weather the storm.

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