(The forsythia turned green early.)
Life in the era of Coronavirus in southwest Virginia is both beautiful and scary. The dogwoods are in full bloom. The forsythia springs forth, first sunburst yellow, now Saint Patrick’s green. The sun is shining, and the wind is blowing. Our cupboards sparkle for the first time in years, devoid of long-expired spices. The trash collectors want everyone to get the hell out of the house so they don’t have to handle years’ worth of household detritus. I’ve tried to develop a taste for hard cider, but I can’t. It smells too much like early motherhood.
I just went to look up more information about the names of trees in this place I’ve lived so many years, and I can’t get onto the Internet. Too many people in my house seek bandwidth. In this house, we have two teachers and two students and never enough broadband to get all the assigning and assignments done. We are the lucky ones. Many people I know have no WiFi and have to hop in their cars or trucks to park near a school or library to find some. They also get in the school line to pick up breakfast or lunch or both for their school-age children. Every basic need becomes more urgent, more acute, during this time.
Life is both busy and slow. The busy-ness stems from our local community relief effort (https://www.50waysrockbridge.org/), which points us once again to the many holes in the so-called social safety net. I’m one of the privileged ones who, at least for now, can donate thought, money, and time to the needs of others in our area. This work feels like a crash course in Social Work 101, 202, and 505. I am in awe of what our friends in social services and NGOs do every day, how they bear the expression of need and the occasional heartbreak and then attempt to fill in as many of the gaps created by brutal market systems that continue to privilege the privileged.
(Maybe it’s scary that I am taking, from the bathroom, photographs of latticework shadows?)
The slowness, well, many of us are getting to know that slowness now, aren’t we? Even as I transfer my courses to an online format, teach them, and grade students’ assignments, I know that none of this pace is like the actual pace of life—the meeting after meeting after meeting, the meeting minutes, the meeting phone calls, the advising, the emails, the text messages, and the constant being “on.” None of this is like that. I am relieved. I am relieved by living a little more like I did when I was 5 and 10 and 15, and even 20. I am grateful for social media, but also delivered from it in some ways. And I love that. I hear the birds, I walk the dogs, I read the books, I play games with my children, I snuggle up to my partner, I bake. These are things I easily forget to do and to appreciate (or simply can’t do) when there isn’t a pandemic.
(The dog is exhausted.)
I feel far from my Pennsylvania, California, Texas, and Madrid families, and I worry about them. I wish I were nearby to do…what? I guess I would be isolated from them still, just at less of a distance. I think constantly about what will happen over the next weeks and months, about how many people have lost jobs already and will lose jobs, about the inability to pay employees, rent, utilities, about the availability of food, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, about healthcare personnel and their safety and protection, about the loss of life. I am worried about current danger and more loss. May you all be as well as possible. I am sending hugs out into the world. We have rarely needed them more than now.
(A friend sent a card from the next town over. It still felt so far away.)