Jubilation Exhales

By Miguel Hernandez. I can’t find a good English translation but I like the idea of “jubilation exhaling.”

On Monday, Madrid and Barcelona will move at long last into Phase I of De-escalation. We’ll still have to exercise according to the previous timetable, but the sidewalk terraces will be open with 30% (maybe 50%?) capacity (and masks). People can go to each other’s houses, as long as they practice social distancing (and wear masks). Movie theatres will also be open (with 30% capacity and masks), but I don’t plan on seeing a movie anywhere other than on Netflix for a while.

—How do you think Monday will be? I asked a friend.

—Debauchery, she answered.

It feels a little strange to be so ebullient about this change when opening-up vs sheltering-in-place is so horribly fraught in the States. Here, we hit El Virus with the Hammer before we stuck our noses outside for the Dance, but there, all is ambiguous, nebulous, obscured, charged, chaotic.

During the four or five days we had back in March between the announcement the schools would close and the beginning of the State of Alarm, I kept saying I was going to go to the neighborhood garden store. It was still open then, the university students were still sitting on the sidewalk terraces drinking beer and playing cards, but in the end, I didn’t go: it felt too frivolous and scary. No one had told us not to go to inessential stores, but should we?

Throughout La Cuarentena, when our apartment terrace, our tiny square of nature, became our saving grace, I kept saying “before the next global pandemic, I’m going to fill this terrace up with plants that bloom.”

Yesterday I toted some geraniums home from the garden store, my first time in anyplace other than the grocery store since March 4 or 5. I was shopping, not exercising, and that’s allowable during the time when parents and kids under 14 get exercise. The weather turned summery this week — Madrid has gone from wearing puffy coats to wearing shorts between Monday and today.

Kids were everywhere, on bikes, on scooters, in strollers, toddling with their parents. I’d missed them — without really realizing they were missing. At least three times, I saw a parent whip out a bottle of hand sanitizer and wipe down a kid. The moms standing on the corner were chatting from 2 meters apart (with masks). I hope this works.

All afternoon, we spotted people walking down the street with pots of flowers in each hand, a parade of summer. To be honest, geraniums weren’t one of my favorite flowers before now, but post-COVID, they slay me. That fuschia… those velvety leaves… that peppery scent…


  1. Lovely to hear. Fill up with green and flowers. There are geraniums that smell like roses! I hope your reopening lasts. The worst thing about ours is that our state government is so untrustworthy I am not going out until I do not know what. Enjoy, dear Katherine.

    1. Now I’m going to be on the lookout for the geraniums that smell like roses. I too hope we’ll be able to keep our numbers down here. I’m thinking of you all in the untrustworthy governor state.

  2. I don’t like geraniums in the US but for some reason they are perfect In tropical/Mediterranean climates. Your terrace looks so inviting!

    1. Exactly! You need white walls and bright sun for geraniums. Someday you’ll sit on our terrace!

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