Living in the COVID-19 era is, well, eerie. It is day 14 in our prescribed 14-day national social distancing (March 30, 2020), with the President extending the social distancing guidelines thru April, with even stricter stay-at-home (shelter in place) guidelines for our state and county in Colorado. I listened to a great podcast this week by my friend Boyd Matheson who recorded an episode called the New Now. Check it out here.
It’s a Saturday morning; and as I do every day, I took Chewie (our Star Wars named Aussie Labradoodle) for a walk. Usually we depart at 7:00a.m.—his clock is even better than mine, so he reminds me if I’m running late. A cold wind is howling from the north—it rained last night so the smells are vibrant and it’s good to have the wind in our faces.
We are in a newer development, and model homes sit like vacant property a short distance away. A large flagpole is there with the stars and stripes flapping with gusto in the wind; the rope clanking on the pole. Usually, I see a few folks out walking—sometimes with their dog. This morning, I feel like the only person alive. I can tell folks are looking out their windows—drapes drawn. We all wonder when this pandemic will fade into the past and life can resume.
This forced “pause” is causing many of us to re-evaluate our relationships, our values, our purpose. Many sit at home this morning, having lost their jobs for the moment. I pray how I can help relieve the burdens of those I know, and yet maintain the social distancing and such. These are unprecedented times. I’m passing time when I can’t focus on much by watching golf on TV from a year ago. It relaxes me and helps me to dream of a new day; plus, at my age I can’t remember who won last year anyway.
I have a dear friend in New Hampshire, Rabbi John Borak. He had a “down” day recently, like many of us. He has two friends in his reading area, a Ganesh (a piece of art from India, given by a Hindu friend), and a cheap lime-green solar powered toy cactus which stands beside Ganesh who John named Pepe. Pepe wears a yellow sombrero with a red stripe and dances when the sun is bright. John mourns the loss of normalcy, yet Pepe and Ganesh are unaffected. I too have a couple of friends in my office that remind me of perspective: a goat named Gonzales, and an ape named happy. Gonzales was a gift from my son who took the goat all over Chile for two years. I don’t know who gave me happy, but together, they solve many of life’s issues. I stare at them from my writing perch and receive inspiration from them from time to time.
Chewie senses some anxiety I’m sure, but he shows no signs of it as long as he has a bone in his mouth.
Talking about perspective in these strange times, I’ve been reading of the CLOTILDA, the last slave ship to reach the U.S. shores in the mid 1800’s, years after slavery was illegal—and the horrendous and challenging lives these 108 captives had as they were “sold” into slavery. Over time, many were freed and told their story. To imagine in our day, that this evil practice—-called “America’s original sin” actually existed, is haunting to me. Couple this with a book I’m reading Unknown Valor, by Martha MacCallum, which talks about the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war by the Japanese during the WWII era…..then even though this pandemic is no small matter, it doesn’t seem to compare to what other humans have had to live thru and endure over history. Martha’s book is about those who rose above these horrors to demonstrate uncommon valor.
I suppose our lives will be forever changed by all of this, and that the New Now—will shape how we live our lives moving forward. It’s a great time to put in perspective our challenges—enjoy the unjudging guidance of Ganesh, Pepe, Gonzales, and Happy, and enjoy the space we are in (like Chewie). Not easy—but possible to emerge to the other side, better human beings by experiencing the journey.