Semana Blanca*

*Taking the pulse.

So here we are, come full circle. The kids have Thursday and Friday off; it’s the time of year known as Semana Blanca (White Week), when, back in ye olden days, Europe headed happily for the pistes.

Now, of course, we understand that the main thing all that après ski jollity created was perfect super-spreading conditions. Now, the thought of fondue-eaters packed sardine-like into warm petri-dishes/bars causes a visceral recoil. People actually went to Italy????

This time last year, I was just back from Lisbon and snapping pictures of El Entierro de la Sardina (the Burial of the Sardine), the culminating event of Carnaval, when “costumes are put away, the fanfares fall silent and the humble fish is buried with honors to indicate that the time has come to wrap up the celebrations and get ready for Lent.” Because I had what I thought was a cold, I didn’t stick around the four hours until the bonfire that “closes the ceremony, as though driving away all evils and negative thoughts, with the ashes representing the happiness, peace and harmony that characterise Madrileños.”

This year, I tell myself I’d stick around until the bitter end. This year, I can’t think of anything I’d like better than a symbolic gesture meant to drive away evil and negative thoughts. But Carnaval, of course, has been canceled. Next in the sights: Semana Santa and Easter. (The health minister said he didn’t know when Easter was when he was asked if we would be able to travel by Easter.)

We do what we can. It’s a small consolation (I’d much rather watch drunken Spanish carry the coffin of a fish through a park that once was the hunting preserve of a King) but to mark the date, I’m erasing certain websites I bookmarked a year ago, back when I thought — what? What did I think then?

Gone, Worldometer.com’s covid count. Vanished, Covid Act Now, real time metrics to understand where we stand against Covid. Deleted Covid Search By Streets, Find out the incidence where you live in the Community of Madrid and Covid 19 Map: These are the confined areas. I don’t have the foggiest idea whether or not we can drive out of the province of Madrid at this point, and I’ve given up on knowing.

This morning, I passed six college students sitting together at a table on a terrace drinking cañas, because Madrid has upped the number who can sit together to six. Tomorrow, if the powers-that-be change everything again and decree that only four can sit together, they’ll sit in groups of four instead. They’re full of equanimity; they roll with the punches.

In short, life goes on. Parque de Oeste was going to be closed for 2 months, but they’ve gotten enough of the downed branches taken care of that it’s already open. When I walk past, the workers in the park are burning pine twigs in a bucket beside their truck. I surreptitiously pull down my mask to breathe in that resiny, piney scent.

The big dogs are walking the little women.

The little dogs (pugs, mainly) are walking the big men.

Life goes on.

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