Rather than bemoaning what I don’t have during the pandemic, like the spontaneity to run out to the store to buy groceries, or to schedule friends over the house for drinks and a home-cooked dinner, or needing to cancel graduation ceremonies, forego weddings and baseball, I can still easily appreciate many gifts and goods that have always been and are still readily available to me. I now have the time and I have the quiet to do a number of things. Even though I spend some time now connected with people online and attend Zoom meetings, I can now have greater awareness, to think, to feel, dream, plan, watch, reflect, create and share.
Not everyone is like me I know (and that’s probably a good thing – whew!) but I have a number of stay-at-home activities that I enjoy doing by myself: reading, writing, investigating or researching, studying, drawing, exercising, cooking, meditating. Of course I could do all of these things elsewhere too, outside, at other locations, but I’m comfortable doing them at home. As I’m writing this post, there’s a parade of wild turkeys outside the sliding glass door in the backyard. Big ones with red or blue combs bopping around the yard, walking back and forth, back and forth. They walk across the roadway too, comfortable with me walking carefully nearby. I can be as close as three feet, and then they scurry off to the side. I don’t need to socially distance from them.
We don’t live in a rural area but there are numerous animals walking amongst us. Occasionally a nimble fox makes a quick appearance, tip toeing across the same yard and a deer will show up on the outskirts of the complex too. The other day in broad daylight in full view of cars and trucks whizzing by I saw three deer chewing the green grass right out in the open on Route 495 in Bellingham. (What’s with them?)
I have relatively good health though I had an MRI last week. Just driving to the hospital made me feel like 2019 when there was no pandemic. It was fun to drive with so few cars on the road. I drive what I call “distance driving”; but I drive this way all the time. I keep a good distance between my vehicle and the one ahead of me. I couldn’t help but notice a sign on one of the vehicles: “please be patient – student driver”. That’s what social distancing is all about. We’re all “student drivers” making our way through this terribly disruptive time. And we’re being patient. And courteous. And respectful of the virus, and how it travels and infects. And causes disease and sometimes a bad death. Give yourself some space to mitigate contracting the coronavirus, and let others have some space too.
Back to the MRI: Before the MRI started and I was lying down in the MRI machine, I was asked which artist I could listen to while wearing the headphones provided. I chose Patsy Cline (and the operator threw in Willie Nelson for good measure) while the jack hammer sounds of the MRI banged all around the me. Patsy’s “Crazy” reminds me of Nashville which my wife and I visited in 2018 on our way west for the Arizona Book Festival. (I have written about this experience in more detail in this blog. See “a big disappointment”). If I had more time than just twenty minutes lying down motionless in the machine, Eric Clapton or James Taylor would have likely been my musical choice. They, like Stephen King, the author, can do no wrong in my eyes. If nothing special to read, I will read Stephen King. That’s why I started “Insomnia”. It’s possible to read through the online book service I get from the Franklin Public Library. I guess that’s called distance reading.
How hard should it really be to live during this time? There are times that are hard, and one recalls the bow and arrow tradition. This is the spiritual or mystical teaching that encourages one to “retreat for the sake of advance”. The bow and arrow operate on the same principle. By drawing the bow back, in the direction of one’s own heart, the warrior impels it a great distance. We’re all in retreat or on retreat, restoring the soul before venturing out again. When it’s really safe to do so. In the meantime, I for one am busy nurturing my soul.
In the same vein, I don’t really understand how people can be bored during these weeks and months. There’s so much to do, to learn, be curious about. Sure, it’s a dramatic change from one’s expectations, but it’s a dynamic, fluid situation. The times will morph into something else.
Bored? Unable to figure out what to do? Aside from learning how to save yourself and your loved ones from the virus, there’s a number of political and social activities bearing down on us that need people like you.
And I don’t want to be morbid or pessimistic but I believe Covid 19 is a harbinger of things to come. It’s a dress rehearsal for handling climate disruption. That’s because the coronavirus is a zoonotic disease. These are diseases which are transmitted between animals and humans. Ebola, rabies, plague, Lyme disease are all zoonotic diseases. And a warmer plant and deforestation is “expected to increase other infectious diseases through greater transmissions by insects and ticks whose numbers and range are expected to increase in a warming world” says Dr. Zhang of the Earth Institute in its report “The State of the Planet”. And April 2020 was the warmest April on record.
Just as we have to flatten the curve of coronavirus through social distancing, we have to flatten the curve of greenhouse gas emissions like CO 2 and methane. Time’s a wasting. Fossil fuels and Donald Trump have got to go. Renewables are less costly than coal. The future is upon us now. Tipping points show signs of tipping already – not twenty or thirty years out.
Looking for something to do? Looking to make connections and share your thoughts, experiences and hope with others? Want to make an impact that will change the world? You can do it all right now during this dress rehearsal. The pandemic does not put the climate emergency on hold. Be a climate activist with any one of the nearly 200 groups in Massachusetts alone. Let me know if you’re looking for one or two or have questions about what one individual can do. The movement needs all hands on deck. It’s simply the right thing to do, just as social distancing is the right thing to do.