“Fine,” I’d say. From the first media mention of Coronavirus, the early reports about China and other far-away places, I had figured this was another big-deal news item that was no deal for me, for us.
As comedians such as Trevor Noah kept updating me. I appreciated how they cleverly educated, while at the same time tickling. No prob, the Virus was still just interesting and remote. Like hearing about a hurricane flattening some trailer park somewhere.
Then, my creamer-of-choice got dangerously low. Uh oh. So I confidently entered Natural Grocers, where shock entered my body. A handful of worst-flavor yogurts keeping their distance from each other; moonscapes in the meat cooler. A grim, gray vibration hovered up and down the aisles. ‘This isn’t the Third World. Oh, this thing is real.’ I thought. I asked a food stocker, “People really are hoarding?”
“I guess,” he said. “And we haven’t had a dairy delivery in two weeks.”
‘That’s not my problem–I’ve been laying off cheese anyway.’ I thought. ‘But look – no soy creamer! It is my problem.’ I grabbed my chocolate-of-choice and “healthy” corn chips, stood in the sad line, slathered the credit-card machine buttons with disinfectant, paid, and retreated to my “shelter.”
We all have our stories. “Where were you in the Plague of 2020?” we’ll ask each other someday. Some of us will. We’ll tell how we’re linking “virtually,” sharing jokes, songs, shows; spiritual teachings, meditations, poems; pages to color, dances to try. A word game: Substitute “Toilet Paper” in the title of a well-known book: “Gone With the Toilet Paper.” “The Toilet Papers of Wrath.” That game from our library!
- This, too, shall pass.
After adopting the term “Social Distancing,” I learned it’s inaccurate and not so good for us. “Physical Distancing,” we need to say. We’ve been consciously social, staying closer than normal with family and friends far and “near.” I’ve Zoomed with my singing circle, multiple-party phone-called with my writing group.
I keep in more frequent “touch” across the mountains with a friend who has MS and thus has to stay extra sequestered. We synced our Netflix and “together” watched “Paint Your Wagon,” chatting on our phones louder than we could in a theater. We belted out “They Call the Wind Mariah.”
I real-time watch-partied my fiddle and guitar friends’ St. Paddy’s Day gig from their living room. I danced up an Irish storm in my kitchen, and if my neighbors saw, through my window, the crazy lady trotting and kicking, well, that gave them social contact.
My daily walks with one friend at a time are stay-on-your-edge-of-the-trail and talk-louder adventures. I’m grateful that, for now, we still have the river, and trees to hug—rather, smile to. May many of the children kept from playground bars be able to climb, swing, and become enthralled, in nature.
I’ve made and delivered enchiladas to the mother of a new baby (glad they did not name her Corona). I’ve grocery-shopped for others. And I’ve been the one checked-in-on, by phone, by a few neighbors (‘How nice. Oh, dear, do they think of me as frail?’)
My biggest hit-home moment: A Vermont friend group-emailed. “I have a fever.” Clench. I send her love –really sense it from my heart to hers, visualize her in “healing light.” I replied-all about such praying.
I may put my fire-bowl in the front yard; others could join me, with their own lawn chairs placed a safe distance from the flames and each other. Oops, maybe not–-a gathering of more than two is now against protocol? Except families? Good for those with that in-person cushion. A different kind of haves and have nots. Well, neighbors looking out home or car windows might enjoy the fire.
As the Rabbi recently reminded us, This Too Shall Pass, the phrase which folklore says will make sad people happy, and happy people sad. Now, it gives us all hope.
In the days between my writing and your reading this, more has changed. After this passes, as after 9/11, our Brave New World will not be the same. May we stay in touch, kindly, mindfully, in our fragile, brilliant lives.
-Jana Zvibleman is a local writer and a winner in the 2017 Source Poetry Contest, winning an Honorable Mention for her poem, "Widow/Window."