Hello World, an enormous sign reads in my Swiss neighborhood. This big blue board marks the birth of a new baby boy born down the street from my home where I’m still thinking too much about death.
Nicolas is stroked across the backdrop of powdery grey-blue, silver and white flocked mountains. It is the same name as my child, and it makes me gasp while I pant up the cliff of my sunset jog. As I reach the top, I consider all the signs we pass but do not see.
Hello World. I am running cold, tired, and feeling my body at last. I am bone, muscle, wrinkles, mascara mixed with grief. I am salt against pavement, dark thoughts of two teens who have passed faster than I can run. One took her life, the other was taken by cancer. I run faster.
Hello World repeats the sign, the piece of wood. It’s repetitious in my head, stuck in my eye, even as I cry, especially as I race on. Two parents are filled with gratitude, I think. They have erected a big message, a life with their tiny hands, for all of us to see. They are joyous proof that hello, birth is right here while I search for a savior, while I ask the sky to tell me where any of us are going.
I run over the hill, up another. I see signs of celebrations in lighted living rooms, at glowing kitchen tables, in ways through all the windows I have failed to see before. Death and loss are craters in families, in illness, in a pandemic. But new life is an un-damnable ocean. It is every family, each child, all the sky filling the caverns in our throbbing bodies. It is a line of pine trees growing further up the hill, little lights pulling me onward beside endless signs.
A flock of mallards lifts off. The moon shows up. Across the field there’s a man with a girl, leading soft ponies over the path, under a star I finally find. I run, and run, around a cross, by the blink of more homes, more stars, more signs. I hear my breath like it is no different from the sound the now dead leaves made last fall when they were still so alive and bright.
On the way back, I stop to fold my body into a line that must look like a sign or the edge of a bench on the wanderweg. I am dark, firm, and breathing beside the mallards. They are still like boats, trusting an enormous space to hold them while they dream.
I stretch more, breathe, feel the year with each exhale. It’s almost new, it’s beautiful, it’s really a holiday.