Ramblings During a Pandemic

by Barry B. Wright

The sky was a thick cloud of grey, not a hint of blue to be found. Conifers poked at the heavens while grasses emerald green and golden-brown shone; barren deciduous trees reached tall, stretching their spindly tentacles to scratch open a window to the azure found beyond. A deep chill had spread its frosty blanket mid-April as the tantalizing spring warmth had turned round to snow predictions that will soon cast frowns. Tulip heads have pushed from the ground, harbingers of hope that spring will soon abound and warp gently into summer’s easy ways. Life in the country is peerless in the quietude of its space. Air is fresh and life’s daily paced sanity is unlike city’s grinding medley of lacked sensibilities and over-wrought expectations.

Pandemic! Pandemic! Ink splashes in my daily rounds. Lockdowns poorly managed and applied ground my very soul into the space beneath my feet. Zombie-ness assails what used to be called norm. Yet, though a year and a bit later since its beginning, I feel strong and whole. Yes, I think all of us would agree that the pandemic has a lot of dark sides, none of which I feel the need to enumerate here. Our awareness has been skewered through personal loss and experiences and the medias’ daily barrage. 

You might say I am lucky to be able to exchange the ‘pandemic hot zones’ in the city for the tranquility and relative safety of the countryside. And you would receive no argument from me on that point. I know I am blessed to have that choice. My choices and their effects have nothing to do with where I am, rather they reside with who I am. Years ago, after a lengthy bout with depression, I made a conscious effort and promise to myself to fill my life-basket with the bright side of life. Sure, there have been a few bumps along the way, but for the most part I have stayed the course. Let me give you an example. One might say that life is like a roll of toilet paper because the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Before the pandemic I would have agreed. Now, I have a different perspective. Pre-pandemic, my life was stacked with social gatherings, restaurants, live theatre, musicals, and cinemas. Now all of that has been cancelled or forbidden providing me an abundance of extra time. My mind switched to more creative endeavours and learning opportunities. A new toilet roll, so to speak. Time to spend on other things or nothing or just enjoy the free time. Recently I got into designing and building raised vegetable gardens and an outdoor living space. I am not sure I would have done that otherwise. Most importantly, my wife and I have set aside time most days to play a short word card game called Quiddler. She is also spending more time landscape painting in watercolor. The other day we reflected on how much more laughter has entered our life. We have learned that after fifty plus years together we still enjoy each others company. YAY! All of this shows how easy it is to clear our calendars. I must temper what I just said because I know it does not apply easily to our courageous healthcare workers and other essential sectors, as well as for parents bringing up young children where insomnia has creeped into many parents’ lives. Though, there is a caveat as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure I would know which day it was if not for my laptop or phone. Hmm…Maybe life is after-all like a roll of toilet paper.

This coronavirus has without doubt disrupted our daily lives. The result: a lot of routines are now topsy-turvy. I see this as an opportunity to rethink old habits and routines and make changes to daily life that might be worth keeping once this pandemic is over. Though life is difficult and tough during these times, I have learned that I can weather this storm. Dammit, I have learned that I am one tough old bird.

Not able to visit friends and family during these times has really thrown a wrench into things. This was the upside to any given month. But the feeling of “we are in this together,’ has precipitated a plethora of ways to keep those human connections via technology, local initiatives, and any other means that comes to mind to just reach out to your fellow human being. Something as simple as just saying to someone, “You have made my day!” goes a long way to making another person’s day. It is those small daily happenings that can make life so much better, even spectacular, for another human being. What I am saying is “Be kind! To all human-beings!” You have the time. So do it!

Lately in the news, I am hearing more about environmental initiatives for a cleaner environment. Covid-19 has caused significant reductions in greenhouse gases and other pollutants in water, ground, and air. It appears that shutdowns and lockdowns of large parts of our economy are good for the environment, at least in the short term. But can we make a long-term commitment?  Can we grasp the opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize them in a way to impact less on our environment?  I hope so. If the soothsayers are correct, once this crisis is over, we can expect, at least, a mini roaring 20’s. That is when economic recovery will trump environmental initiatives, and the plague of narcissism will take hold again. Watching anti-vaxxers, ant-maskers, crowd jammers, anti-science espousers, disbelievers (and so on and so forth) worldwide, I am not sure the world is up to facing and defeating the most existential threat to our time, climate change. It would not be the first time I have been wrong. And I hope this will be one of them. If large swaths of society can’t/won’t apply four simple rules to daily living (mask, sanitize hands, social distance, don’t gather in large groups) that protects them and fellow humans, then I am not sure the world is capable of saving itself. What a shame if humankind reverts to the old pre- pandemic ways and forgets (excepts for a few) the lessons learned.

Some politicians muddied the water (for whatever reason) during this crisis at the expense of the vulnerable within our society. We know who they are. Does leadership and how a person rises to that height need to be re-examined?  The question appears simple, but its many working parts are anything but simple. An existential crisis faces us, environmental disaster. Different kinds of thinking and thinkers will be needed. And a different kind of leadership.

If there is one thing we should have learned during this crisis, it is that we are not in control. In almost every aspect of our life we like to think we have control. But it is an illusion to think that full control is possible. This crisis taught us that hard lesson, though it has been difficult to swallow by many. So where do we go from here? It is up to the individual and community. You! Me! Us!  An opportunity to reflect and introspect. An opportunity to actually make meaningful changes to deeply rooted habits and convictions. An opportunity to make fundamental and positive changes to our approach to Gaia, Earth.

As I peer out the window in my office, there is an azure sky. A warm spring breeze dances with the curtains. Deciduous trees have clearly visible buds. Spring heralds renewed life, new beginnings, and possibilities. We are all part of nature’s cycles; it courses through our veins. Being one with nature carries a responsibility to protect it because by doing so it protects us. Our lifestyle for the most part has separated us from that reality. We can change if only we use this time wisely to make that change within us.