COVID-19, a mysterious and particularly virulent form of coronavirus, has dropped into our world without warning. Few are prepared, and many are vulnerable to ill-effects that coping with quarantine has on our collective psyche.
Telecommunication platforms lure us to keep in touch. Corporate CEO’s and celebrities send emails and videos saying they care, insisting ‘we are all in this together.’ Radio talk shows, broadcast news, and up-to-the-minute mortality counters add to the virtual noise.
I am 65 years old and considered part of COVID-19’s ‘at-risk’ population. That means if the virus attacks, I am likely to suffer a long, miserable and messy end, squeezed to death by my own lungs. Like a throttled IV, this puts a pinch in my creative juices.
I decide to throw self-quarantine caution to the wind, grab a kitchen timer and head to the small floating deck amid the trees in my backyard to contemplate. But, en route, I am caught off-guard by an injured cardinal, a young female, flapping across the pebbled ground on the steam of an injured wing.
In our household, my husband is the go-to guy in the Creature Disposal Department – garden snakes, creepy-crawlers lurking in dark places, and possum squatters under the back patio all fall under Paul’s jurisdiction. My role is to quietly fade into the background. Unfortunately, I am home alone, and this wounded bird at my feet unnerves me.
Where is my husband when I need him?
I’d like to state for the record I’m not totally useless in a creature crisis. After his cataract surgery, Paul was given strict instructions to refrain from bending over and to avoid sudden movements. Still, when a cockroach the size of a small dog -- whom I am certain was aware of the situation -- skittered across my foot, I instinctively turned to my husband.
But a glance at his eyepatch and the array of post-cataract drops and lotions caught me up short. So, in a split-second decision, I neutralized the threat with the bottom of my sandal and a resounding Whack! Jaw agape – my husband’s, not the cockroach’s—he said, “Wow, what a turn on!”
Meanwhile, anxiety waxing in my backyard, I give the grounded interloper a wide berth, scuttle up the platform, settle in and close my eyes. Peace is elusive. This cardinal, for whom on a daily basis I throw out seeds and replenish the bird laver with filtered water, continues flapping in the near distance. I am further distracted by other turmoil from the surroundings: the yard-to-yard yap of neighboring dogs, a jay that nosedives dangerously close to my face, and the grinding bearings of an ancient air conditioner.
I am at a loss as to how to tune it all out.
I take a deep breath and, though I am an infrequent petitioner to any deity, go straight to the top. I ask The Source to return tranquility to my space, giving thanks in advance, a hedge against my celestial transience. Then, I wait. And in a manner more casual than I would expect from a divine being, The Source responds with, “Get up and do something about it yourself!”
Once again, it is up to me, but hell’s bells, I am not about to touch that cardinal. God knows -- or so my grandmother told me – birds carry germs harmful to humans, like COVID-19’s cousin, avian influenza. Still, I figure there’s wiggle room with this cosmic commandment.
So, I stand, and from a not-particularly-social-distance, channel energy through my hands to the distressed redwing below, then wave in the directions of the chatty canines, and enjoin the sound of that lone A/C unit on this torpid morning to cease. Then, I return to my chair, set the timer for eighteen minutes, and close my eyes.
For a brief moment, perhaps mere seconds, all is quiet.
And there, in the midst of clattery urban nature, I know I can loosen the grip that constraints have on my creativity, even if said nature turns up the volume -- which it does. Still, my mind meanders in directions it wants to go, though I don’t recall exactly where. But amid the wanderings, I experience gleanings of more interesting—more joyful—places in this empyrean atlas. Then, a wondrous thing happens. I start to cry. Not a blubbering outpouring; rather, a gentle stream, which washes away my anxiety.
When the timer rings, I offer a closing prayer, and open my eyes.
The cardinal has flown away.
Life in the Time of CoronaWithin weeks after March 11, 2020 World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, West Florida Literary Federation offered its writers a catharsis. By April, regional writers were submitting words and images to preserve this time in history. The ongoing project began with Phase I, a special edition of The Legend published in May. It featured more than thirty juried submissions. Life in the Time of Corona continues with Phase II, updated as submissions are accepted. Here are the voices of health care workers, poets, essayists, historians, and the images of artists and photographers, documenting this time in Northwest Florida's history. The ongoing project ends with the advent of a vaccine or declaration by the World Health Organization.
Social Distancing at Johnson's Beach
Six Feet Apart
The Last Haircut
The Passage to Paradise
When Hammock Becomes Mask
ProseRiding Out a Hurricane in a Pandemic
To Butt in or Not
Bends and Turns
Pandemic Pen Pals
Prayer to The Theotokos
Grieving Loss of Many Kinds
Why Wear Masks?
COVID 19 Sidewalk Chalk 4-16-2020
View from Within
The Enigma of Deadman’s Island
In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu
Meditations on the Coronavirus
Life in the Time, Again, of Pandemic
PoetryOnly 2 Things
A Muted Life
America is on Life Support; Prognosis Poor
Crossing COVID Bay
Next Week’s Plans
A View of the Stars
Some Inland Curse
From My Soul To Yours
Eating the Mango
Blindly It Slays Thee
Death in the Time of Corona
What to Do
The Earth Lives On
COVID-19 from the Beginning
Let This Scourge Pass
Earth Day, 2020
Old School Dream
Chronicle of Fools
Ghost of COVID-19
The Year of the Virus
The Mask III
Behind the Mask
Short FictionPassage to Paradise
Mardi Gras Queen
The LegendThe Legend Special Edition Life in the Time of Corona