Monday, March 30, 2020

An Afternoon Walk

I just got home from a short walk in my neighborhood on this last Saturday in March 2020. Such a walk has not generally been a part of my daily routine. But with Covid-19 keeping everyone home, and my regular gym at the nearby YMCA closed due to the shutdown, it seems like a reasonable temporary substitute for daily exercise. It is not a long walk due to my physical limitations. But it provides a challenge to be accomplished, a beneficial movement of the body, and makes the chocolate chip cookie reward at the end even more satisfying.

On this particular day, we are experiencing a summer day preview: sunny, in the mid-80s, expected to last for a couple of days more. Then it will be back into the normal mid-50s/60s mountain temperatures, with more rain. It was a very mild winter, but I am still glad to have that season behind us.

We are preparing for a statewide “stay at home” order on Monday 5pm, though we are already in a county/city version of the same. During this walk I was struck by the abnormal silence of the city. Minimal traffic on the roads, a few people out for a walk or jog, keeping a safe distance as they pass one another. Meanwhile, the sights and sounds of the birds are more than happy to fill the air space. The garden plants are gradually peeking out to fill the eye space, perhaps dwarfed by the cascade of colors from the rainbow of fruit trees that make their appearance at this time. There is much to see and hear that is normally missed in our hurried busyness. Humanity thrashes around in its self-made chaos; Nature follows its own timeline and routines relatively undisturbed.

In the quiet of that stroll, there is time and space to think. To listen to my thoughts – thoughts different than those that arise during a formal mediation sit on the cushion. The pandemic virus seeks to consume much of our thinking time and energy. I feel the unavoidable concern about my own well-being, yet offset by a calm that says “do only what you can do when you can” – deal with what comes as it comes. Planning is good, but too many “what ifs” are not helpful.

I am aware of feeling intense anger at the erratic conduct of our President, his pettiness and complete avoidance of taking responsibility for anything. His untrue information. His lack of a cogent and coordinated plan. His ineffectiveness in directing badly needed resources and support to where it is needed most. But then that anger is replaced by a calmness and pride when I consider all the people stepping up – either in their official capacity or simply ad hoc, voluntary  responses. Governors, mayors, county/city officials, health care providers, CDC scientists speaking truth. Public service employees keeping our infrastructure running. Law enforcement officials, and numerous first responders. Meanwhile, the overriding priority is to remember the anonymous sick, the faceless statistics often known only to their family and loved ones, lying alone in their bed, in pain and trying to stay alive, accompanied only by the medical workers trying to keep them alive in the face of too many falsely-raised hopes and broken promises. The lament continues unendingly: where are the test kits, the masks, the ventilators?

We also need to acknowledge the everyday citizens responding to what is being asked of them. Voluntarily cooperating in what is a massive upheaval to their lives – emotionally, economically, professionally, socially, and daily family life. Most are improvising, making it up as they go into a future filled with blind spots. Doing what needs to be done, adapting on the fly, all because they care. Care about each other. Care about their connection to others. And thereby, their responsibilities to each other. Individually and together, they make us proud.

I have written before about our connection to one another, most recently an essay on this blogsite “A Slice Of Toast” (12/10/2019). Across the globe, for the last several years we have been experiencing a drive to separate ourselves from one another. To hunker down in our own cultural and geographic pockets and keep out those who are not like us. When this pandemic virus finally passes – which it ultimately will – things will not be the same. There will be much retrospective analysis needed, questions to ask, lessons to learn.

One of those biggest lessons will most certainly be a reaffirmation of our connection, our interdependence to one another. Indeed, our connection to all forms of life, and the gift of Nature that makes it all possible. Covid-19 knows no borders. Differentiates no race or ethnic group. Endorses no religion. Ignores variations of age, gender, and lifestyles. None of these labels affirms or exempts us. We can choose to respond by separating out of fear, or coming together out of love. Underneath our words, our practices, our costumes, our skin, we are all fundamentally the same. Equally vulnerable, equally of great potential accomplishment, equally in need of each other to survive and thrive. It appears that we need to continue to be reminded of that periodically.

These were my thoughts on a quiet spring afternoon’s walk. What will you think about on your next afternoon’s walk?

©   2020   Randy Bell