Independence Day!

America is celebrating far more than independence this Fourth of July, or at least I am. I spent the past week free of my infernal mask, the baby blue surgical mask that has been protecting me from the coronavirus, for what – a year?

It felt good to enter the grocery store without a mask. To buy gas, yes, gas, the stuff needed to fuel my car, without having to wear a mask. I did use the sanitizer I’ve kept in my car since the beginning of the pandemic after I finished filling the tank, but I did not have to take off my mask first. I NEVER PUT IT ON. I picked up my dry cleaning without donning a mask. Kim, the woman who runs the place, has not changed a bit since she donned a mask a year ago. Without a mask, she’s the same old, Kim, quick to smile, quicker to joke, and quicker still to offer my dog a treat.

New Mexico, where I live, has been open since July first. Michelle Luhan Grisham, our governor, is very proud of us for taking care of business. According to the guv’s office, sixty-two percent of us have been vaccinated. So, we are out and about, even having parties.

I went to a party Friday night, a neighborhood gathering celebrating the end, THE END, of the quarantine. Now, we should knock on wood because we are not out of the woods yet.  There are pockets of America where vaccines are still sitting on the shelf. A variant is in the atmosphere. Let’s not think about that now, let’s party.

Wayne, a born host, decided we absolutely had to get together to celebrate life. We ate, drank, hugged old friends, made new friends, laughed, and told stories to one another in Wayne’s backyard, decked out for the holiday. The Stars and Stripes flew proudly from his gazebo. None of us wore masks. Or mentioned Covid. Just delightful.

Since the weather is warm, several of us mentioned other frights. Snakes. Wayne’s husband, Julius, a runner, told a story about coming across a rattlesnake during an early morning run. We all shivered. Betty, another guest, topped him. She told a harrowing tale about a snake snatching a dead mouse out of her garden basket while she stood by helpless. Mr. Snake ate the mouse without so much as asking for catsup while Betty watched, mouth gaping. We shivered again. That is what you are supposed to do when you talk about snakes, right? Shiver!

But I wondered if our shivers were an act because we were all delighted to be talking about snakes instead of viruses, those sneaky little guys that make some sick, kill way too many others, and shut down businesses, governments, and whole countries.

I also read last week in the New York Times that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could offer protection from the coronavirus for years. According to the Times, there is growing evidence that most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters. There are conditions say the scientists involved in gathering the research. We will not need boosters only if the virus and its variants do not evolve much from their current forms.

Please, let it be so. That’s news worthy of fireworks. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy America’s independence, hiking freely under the brilliant blue skies. Without a mask, I can smell the sunflowers, standing tall, reaching toward the heavens, golden blossoms wide, inviting, and vulnerable. Truly, a moment to share – even with a rattlesnake.

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