The world has shifted and I stayed stationary. I stood on the axis and felt the Earth pull forward in its creakiness and I stare at the sky with a sense of befuddlement.
I am not afraid of Covid-19. Maybe it’s due to the isolated, rural community in which I live, even in spite of the 6 cases (and growing) of the virus which slithers down the streets and slips through cracked window panes. Maybe it’s the sunshine cracking apart the clouds and fog that hovers over the hay field stretching behind my house like a golden-green estuary.
I am safe in so many ways. My career as a teacher has insulated me against the fear of joblessness and unemployment. My children are pretty must snug within the house given that their in-person classes have ended. My husband still works, but his employers have done all they can to ensure that the men and women working for them are as safe as absolutely possible.
Two weeks ago, my mother went to the emergency room and insisted that they test her. Her lungs were concrete balloons and her spiking fever caused her to huddle in her bathtub with hot water pouring around her shivering body. At first, she was refused. She hadn’t traveled. She hadn’t been in contact with a person who had definitively traveled in Europe or Asia. But, her indomitable spirit won out and her sinuses were swabbed and she tested positive for viral pneumonia.
Pretty much, she had Covid-19. She still hasn’t received the actual confirmation of her test. The ER doctor, who wanted to hospitalize my mom, was going to call the results in to her doctor whose office shut down the week after mom was tested.
For a week, my energetic mother who jogged three miles a day, who volunteered without rest, who immersed herself in life, couldn’t hold a conversation for more than a couple of minutes before wearying from the coughing fits that quaked her ribs and squeezed her lungs together. And then, things shifted. She spent time in the sunshine on her patio. Her strength slowly returned.
Mom is still recovering. And while she was sick, I was worried, but I wasn’t really scared. I worried about my father who, even though he is in excellent physical condition, still has a pacemaker which makes me see him as a bit frail or, at least, compromised. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to drive south to their home so that I could care for them. I worried that I would become ill as well and that instead of caring for them, my parents would care for me.
For the last two weeks, I have been trying to find activities that would hold off the cabin-fever which is brewing in my cerebellum. I have cleaned up gardens. I have walked my dog between four and thirteen miles a day. I started coloring again. I started two crocheting two blankets.
My house isn’t perfectly clean. But I taught myself how to make some pretty decent white bread after binge-watching three seasons of The Great British Bake Off. And yet I’m so unsettled.
I’m unsettled by the vitriolic politics leaking out of my television set when I just want to know what is happening in the world. I am unsettled by the unseen nemesis possibly living on the grocery store counters or the canned goods I put into my cart. Or maybe it’s on the cart handle that I grasp even though I wipe it down with Clorox wipes that I then wrap around the handle.
I’m not scared of getting sick.
Maybe I should be. I had walking pneumonia twenty years ago and I still remember the pain from hacking up phlegm that was so congealed, it looked like spaghetti noodles.
What I’m noticing is a sense of grief, a mourning that I can’t comprehend. I have not lost anyone whom I love. I am in a beautiful home and am following the guidelines of social distancing. I do my best to be a good citizen and to be a good caretaker of my family so that we are not a casualty of the virus.
I do not fear for the future. And yet….
In some way…..
I think I do. I dreamed last night of a swirling Milky Way, the stars spiraling and shifting and being drawn in as though a sash was being tightened on its midriff. I dreamed of an orange night sky whose turbulence bled through three branches and I stared in horrified wonder as the constellations bled from their stationary locations and swirled into a pulsating organism.
This morning, I tried to walk Leia, but she pulled constantly and which eventually snapped my temper and we pulled against one another down the sidewalk until we reached the house. She tried to crawl onto my lap, to apologize, but I commanded her to return to her bed in the corner of the living room and curled into my own cold ball and pitied myself and my aching back.
I am unsettled.
The numbers continue to rise. What seemed like positive news is shingled into words of questionable wisdom and I just don’t know. I read statistics and look at maps and research articles and try to understand the foreign language of the medical world. I want to find a reliable resource that hasn’t been through the flimsy filters of the media or politicians.
As I slumped in this uncertainty that hasn’t bothered me until the last couple of days, I went to my office and sat at my desk and selected from my spectrum of greens to find the right colors for the leaves surrounding a cardinal I’ve been coloring. And as I laid down a base of light green, a pale yellow, I turned on NPR and listened to clips of online religious ceremonies from around the world because so many houses of worship are closed.
I listened to a rabbi reading from the Torah, counseling his followers that together we will come through this and, together, we will be stronger.
A Christian minister begged his followers to adhere to the CDC recommendations so that people like his son, Andrew, who is immune compromised due to leukemia, would be spared.
A Muslim cleric praying to Allah, speaking to his congregation about the everlasting love of God.
Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Basilica, leading the world in the Lord’s Prayer. I have stood at the altar. Once when I was nineteen. And again, two years ago, with my daughter. I have stared at the coiled, black columns which house and protect the altar under which rests the gold-encased bones of St. Peter.
I am non-denominational. I hold no one person as my absolute religious leader. I attend a Methodist Church and love my pastors. But I don’t really recognize the bishops who are apparently in charge of our…district (?…I don’t even know the right words). But I kind of love Pope Francis.
And as he shifted from his homily which was being translated and into what I thought was the prayer, I selected a darker green and twitched the sharpened point along the veins of a leaf and I prayed.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy will be done.
Thy kingdom come.
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.
Forever and ever.
Pope Francis and I concluded our prayers together regardless of each of us being in different time zones (and likely I was not listening to a live prayer recitation). And the worries, the unsettledness…
It didn’t disappear. But I felt a sense of…holiness. Not that I, the most unperfect being on Earth, am righteous. Puleeze. I am such the sinner.
But I felt a one-ness. A unity with a much higher being. I felt a tenuous shifting within me, that I was still on the planet and part of the world as it moves and goes through its orbit.
I worry about the future. I worry that after the summer will come another round of Covid-19 because health professionals are already talking about “the second wave.”
But I also know that, right now, my future is today and a bit of tomorrow. I only need to focus on tomorrow. I need to focus on the sunshine pelting into my garden and awakening the tiny seedlings I transplanted two days ago. I need to focus on the songbirds clinging to my suet feeder. I need to focus on my children, my husband, my dog, my cat.
The galaxies will settle without my meddling or worrying.
And that is enough.