March 29, 2020 § 9 Comments

As humans, we turn to other humans for comfort. They are us; we are them. Most of the time we take turns needing and giving comfort. Hard times and heart aches are usually targeted, person-specific. The one who is okay eases the pain of the one who is not, and in time, the comfort will flow the other direction.


But what happens when all of humanity needs comfort as it does, for instance, in a time of war—or pandemic, which is where we suddenly, unexpectedly, find ourselves now and the very human expression of comfort, holding or being held by someone, may open the door for the virus to slip in and steal a life?

And how much comfort do we have to spare when we are all at risk, all jangled, all scared?

But Covid-19, while a threat to all humanity around the globe, does nothing to other forms of life. They go on about their business all around us, oblivious. The virus cannot hinder the joyous unfolding of spring just outside every self-isolated home. You don’t have to go further than your own front step to hear the rest of life singing, or to see it strutting as it displays the plumage of courtship, or bursting into bloom or leafing-out with that green that happens only in the Spring. This is the time when life invests in itself without reservation.

On a normal, busy, day we hold ourselves apart—there is us, and there is nature, which we visit on our vacations or foray into briefly as we power-walk. We forget that we are a part of the web of life, part of the exuberant awakening that is spring.

Since we have to step away from the company of other people, perhaps we can step toward the company of other living things, quit seeing nature as something separate from ourselves. We can enlarge what we notice, look up, listen to the songs that celebrate teeming life, life on the rise, life in recovery from the lead grey months of winter, the long sleep that precedes the burst of Spring. Perhaps we can find our place in a picture far larger than the view from a desk, or from behind a restaurant counter, or in a classroom.


If not now, when?

Suddenly, we have time to watch the bumblebee bump the window screen, and study the jewel-like milkweed beetles beating the monarchs to the milkweeds, time to listen to the back and forth conversations of the birds, watch the first Sulphur butterfly fly a wobbly and ecstatic path through the sunlit air—and by doing so find comfort that takes us out of our small, closed, fear-filled human life.

It is hard not to mourn the absence of arms around you, the at-work chatter you’ve always taken for granted, the casual affirmation of a handshake, but there are other sources of hope and solace and they are all around you. Set down your fear, your isolation, your preoccupation with this dire moment in human history and lean on life.

All you have to do is step outside and be still.


The Pollyanna Report:

March 22, 2020 § 15 Comments

The Corona virus is spreading silently, invisibly. Even if, for now, its presence is only in our minds, and in the news that runs nonstop, it has changed our lives in just a handful of days.

It will make us sick.

Or not.

Either way, it instills fear, pulls the safety of paying jobs out from under us, makes us shun human contact. It mocks our plans and promises that some of us—perhaps a substantial number—won’t make it out the other side.

That’s the bad news, and it is about as bad as bad news gets. But there are peripheral consequences, ones we are just beginning to experience, and some of them are good:

The sky is blue over Bejing, the smog machine of industry temporarily stilled. All over the world, the pouring out of CO2 has been turned down by the hand of the virus.

I called my sister in Manhattan, my brother in North Carolina, an aunt in Connecticut I don’t call nearly often enough. Friends too. Sure, we begin with the virus, but it is just the ice breaker. After that we catch up, have the conversations we were too busy to squeeze in when we were high steppin’ to keep up with our so-called real lives.

That same attentiveness applies to the people we are around physically, even those we don’t know. Although we maintain our distance, we greet each other, even strangers, because, hey, we are joined to everyone else by our common fear. And so, strangers feel less like strangers, more like companions on a long and uncertain, but shared, journey.

We appreciate those we love in an active way. Taking-for-granted is for those who consider themselves too busy to feel or express love right now. It is a human trait to appreciate, eyes-open, what we fear we may lose. We love with greater fervor, and admit it more honestly.

We become suddenly capable of differentiating between what is important and what is just noise—in this new normal every ad on TV makes me indignant. We’re worried about our lawns? Wrinkles? Spots on our dishes? Really? When time is no longer endless or a given we are harder to distract with the trivial.

We notice the small moments of grace provided by the natural world as the beauty of Spring busts out all around us. I write this on my front stoop where a caterpillar is wobbling across the concrete, two tiny jumping spiders are doing just that, a bird is warbling out an alluring invitation to a prospective mate. Unafraid, nonhuman life is going on, exuberantly, all around us.

Finally, sequestered, we have time to do the small, quiet things we have pushed aside, and pushed aside. We read a book, organize a shelf, write in a journal, think.

I can’t deny the darkness of this hour, but there are glimmers of light, always, and I bet in our current state of mind we will not only see them, but appreciate them with a gratitude we rarely take the time to feel.

Note: Please add positive things you have observed in the time of crisis. It doesn’t alter the crisis, but it gives us hope, and hope can go a long way.

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