Writing on paper has magical qualities. Putting the pen to the page has the preternatural ability to tell us who we are. My brain fuses feelings with thoughts and grief I’d rather not acknowledge. Screens screen us; paper reveals.
Fall is the time to buy office supplies on sale, so I have written by hand frequently this month. I bought some composition books (50 cents each). I’m not writing a diary. Yet I write about what I don’t want to think or talk about: Covid-19. And I recently scrawled a few notes on a conversation with another Covid-obsessed friend.
“What will we do when we can’t meet outside?”
“Go inside and wear masks.”
“I don’t think this will end, do you?”
“Not in this lifetime. We’re lucky to have made it this far.”
“This isn’t so bad comparatively–if you stay home.”
“If it ends, it will be more climate change events.”
We were being bores, but the shadow of Covid-19 hangs over us. I want to be distracted, and then I find an article about midwestern hotspots, or read about new outbreaks in Italy.
So many factors underlie every conversation about the virus. When we talk about Covid, we are really talking about climate change. In the wake of deforestation and urban sprawl, the chance of viruses jumping from wild animals to human beings has increased.
And it’s not just viruses: scientists predict more terrifying weather events. Hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos (inland hurricanes), more floods, more wildfires, and extinction of species. Did you read about the starving birds dropping dead from the sky in the Southwest? Now I did cry about that, though in general I’m against crying.
People have not been at their best during the pandemic. Don’t take me literally on human behavior, which I don’t pretend to understand, but human beings are unpredictable, sometimes helpful in emergencies, other times raging and violent. We can agree on one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic: people all over the world hate staying home.
What do we see in the future? Perhaps more protests against lockdowns, masks, and vaccines, or more protests like the sympathetic Black Lives Matter movement, or unsympathetic events like the motorcycle rally in Sturgis. Perhaps there will be even more connectivity to electronic devices–people need distractions.
Alas–and I know I’m not supposed to say this– gathering in crowds has the potential to spread the virus. The truth is, people are in denial. It only hits home when when large numbers are tested (as they have been at the universities–terrifying), or when someone you know gets sick.
And so we wash, we wear the masks. Yet I worry about the isolation of people who gathered in libraries (now closed) for a quiet hour, attended yoga classes at community centers, or took continuing ed classes. Continuing ed is a regular Lonely Hearts Club Band.
And now I’ll go write something frivolous and bubbly to lighten the mood. People used to call me effervescent. Wow, that was a long time ago. I doubt I’ll recover that quality–“not in this lifetime,” as my curmudgeonly friend and I like to say.