Small Magic

This morning on a rainy-grey walk, I followed an ink-black squirrel through the woods until it held still long enough for me to get a single blurry photo of it, and then it vanished with a flick into bracken and shadows.

Black squirrels are not unheard of, of course, but they’re rare enough to make a moment’s magic on a cloudy morning in the woods, when I am out stretching my legs and my lungs after nearly two months of aches and fevers and fatigue. We had COVID in March, my entire family, thanks to the careless — in all senses of the word — parent of a child at my daughter’s school. The vaccine was in sight; I actually had my first appointment booked, and I thought we were emerging at last, intact and relieved, from the long fallow time, and then someone else kicked over our year’s worth of careful caution.

It was mild, as these things go. No hospitals, not even any breathing trouble, which had been my greatest worry as a pneumonia-prone asthmatic with some associated PTSD. It was mostly just a long week and a half of fevers and bone-weary sleeplessness and crushing aches, and then it was gone.

Well, it was mostly gone. It was gone for my husband and daughter, thank goodness. In the very last days of my own infection, as I could see the light around the corner, I lost my senses of smell and taste. It’s been a month and a half, and they haven’t made their return. I have hand tremors and pounding headaches and still toss and turn at night no matter how exhausted I am. (I am exhausted.) Some mornings I write a page or two before realizing that I’ve put words in alien order, or I have to stop every couple of sentences to look up the meanings of words I know. Some mornings I’m just dredged in fog. Every once in a while, a fresh fever ambushes me from nowhere.

I got my first vaccine shot on Monday. “You’ve had COVID so recently,” the nurse warned me, “that you’re going to feel like you have it again for a couple of days.”

That’s okay, I didn’t tell her. I already feel like that a lot of the time.

She was right: The last two days reared up brutally in a storm tide of headache and fever and fog. But this morning I felt better, so I went out to the trails for a walk despite the weather. And I saw a black squirrel flowing like a shadow in the undergrowth, and I followed it, and it stopped just long enough to let me take a picture.

At the end of May, I’ll get my second vaccine shot, and the warding circle will be complete. Meanwhile, at the start of May — the day after tomorrow — I will begin the Wyrd and Wonder challenge here, and track some small magic through the month, and hope it holds still long enough that I can share it with you.

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