Clearly, someone is laughing at our 21st century arrogance.

If the last six months have taught us anything, it is how little control and power we really have. Turns out, we are as vulnerable to plagues and natural disasters, fires and corrupt politicians as any other century. We may have better hygiene, but we have fewer inner resources to survive a pandemic than our forefathers. Or so I’m starting to think.

Previous generations may have had sketchy sewer systems, but they never assumed they were entitled to a long life of perfect health and no hardship or inconveniences. They worked hard, toiled long and difficult hours in the factory or in the field or in the coal mine. When darkness fell at the end of the day, they were bored, or went to bed. Perhaps often both.

Almost daily I am reminded of the wisdom of the eight-year-old student who, earlier this summer, lost his LEGO privileges for fighting with his brother. “The days go by so slow,” he told me, “but the weeks go by so fast.” And collectively, we have all lost our LEGO privileges, I thought to myself, agreeing with his assessment of the shut-down.

Furthermore, when it’s dark and we’re bored, we’ve lost the ability to amuse ourselves. This was my thinking several weeks ago, when I suddenly accepted the reality that the pandemic is not going to end any time soon. “We must learn to play gin rummy,” I announced to Matt. “There are a lot of empty evenings ahead of us.”

It’s true, sort of. Pandemic or not, the reality of my teaching schedule means a lot of evenings filled with piano lessons. On August 9th —a lifetime ago already—I began the fall semester of lessons under a hybrid system: every other lesson is in-person. This means a complicated dance of safety procedures. Students wait outside until I come to the door masked. (No more hearing the screen door slam as kids come crashing into the sunroom when I’m in another part of the house.) They make a beeline to the kitchen to wash their hands while I wipe down the piano. Then they get settled at the piano, open their notebooks, set up their practice pages for the next week, while I wash my hands. At the end the lesson, the do-si-do is repeated. The kid walks out the door, I remove my face mask, and get online for the next lesson. And so it goes, every 45-minutes for the next five hours.

It is exhausting. And yet, we are ecstatic to be back in person again. “This is SOOO much better,” one kid exclaimed after the first three minutes together. God help us, but it was almost like during the last sheltered six months we forgot how easy and effortless piano lessons could be if we are not shouting through a screen. “When can I come back?” almost every kid asks me at the end of their lesson. “Two weeks,” I say, determined for now to keep the full quarantine period between every exposure. Even with all the mask-wearing and hand-washing, I know there’s a risk. I keep every window and door open to increase air circulation. I stay six feet away, demonstrating on a digital Clavinova I inherited last summer, never touching my real piano during lessons so there is no cross-contamination. It’s not totally normal, but it is SOOO much better.

Matt feigns normalcy by going into the office most days now, relishing in the quiet of a  church building that remains closed to anyone but staff. From his office, he sits through hours of Zoom meetings and committees endlessly discussing a future no one can predict. “How was your day?” I ask him when we connect over dinner. “I’m running a lemonade stand,” he says.

As we try to make lemonade out of lemons, we keep our eyes on the COVID case numbers in New Mexico. Our state-wide obsession with “Green or Red,” which used to indicate only chile preferences, now takes on a new dire meaning. In addition, lately the weather has burdened us with another layer of restrictions, the heat wave of the last month driving us indoors to escape the sun between 7am and 7pm. Everyone is cranky and hot, bored and restless, any inner resources we once had long gone. All we do is complain. We complain about the heat. We whine about wearing face masks. We gripe about how inconvenient all the COVID precautions and protocols are.

And then last Tuesday something strange happened.

It was 99 degrees Monday night when I went walking, a record high temperature for September. Tuesday afternoon the winds started in, winds of 40-60 mph, which led to a drop in temperatures to the 40s. By 5:00pm, tree limbs were down everywhere, and our electricity had gone out. I had just started an in-person lesson, when I realized that my next lessons—due to take place via FaceTime—were now impossible without power and the magical internet. It was enough to make one laugh: Really, how many more LEGOs could we lose here?

Without electricity, my digital Clavinova became obsolete, something that brought the part of me that hates and resists all technology no end of joy. I quickly texted my 5:45 lesson: “No power or internet here. You have to come LIVE today.” What a wonderful problem when the solution is a real live lesson on a real live piano. No technology allowed.

But clearly, someone is laughing at us, taking away our LEGOs one by one and watching us flail. After my 5:45 LIVE lesson, I cancelled the last lesson of the evening due to darkness. Matt and I lit candles and ate dinner on the couch, listening to the wind wreak havoc around us.

We are playing with so few LEGOs. Forecast ahead is one messy hybrid of real LIVE connections and contact and a steady dose of screens and isolation as well. There will be face masks and weird wild weather. We have so little control.

Dig deep, friends, we are all in the lemonade business these days. Cover your face. Wash your hands. And for goodness sakes, VOTE. Faced with the darkness, it is still our task to light a candle and shield it from the winds roaring around us.