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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Fifty-Five

 The World Out There



I had a little bird/Its name was Enza/I opened the window/And in-flew-enza


-a 1918 children's rhyme


There's a big wide world out there, in case we've forgotten, I said to my husband the other day. He was gazing longingly through the slats of the blinds into the setting sun after we returned from a curbside pick-up at our local grocery store. It was too cold to stay out, even to walk. Our new apartment is bright, facing west and south, lots of windows. But the landscape is still out there, and we're here, hunkered down again as the numbers started rising in our county and the variants appeared in afflicted COVID-19 patients. The vaccine roll out is slow everywhere. We lucked out and got appointments—our second shot is next week—but we felt awful when we learned our local friends were not as fortunate. I had hoped to celebrate my March birthday with them in situ at Main Course, our favorite local restaurant, where exactly one year ago, almost to the day, we had our last indoor social gathering. So much for that idea. Even after we are fully vaccinated, the scientists tell us, we must remain cautious—distancing, masking, indoor gatherings still discouraged. No hugs for a while either. Oh, I cannot wait to relinquish the by now perfected virtual hug. It will take some adjustment I am sure. Will we be fearful, I wonder? Can we imagine the whole world out there hugging and hugging and hugging?


So, what's the upshot this week as I write? We are still distanced/isolated physically, but not bereft I'd have to say, after doing an informal unscientific survey, fortunate to have one another most of all, and to be deepening our relationships near and far with phone calls and zooms. Personally, I'm grateful that we moved closer to our daughter a couple of years before the pandemic and that we've had walks and talks on a regular basis. Had we not, oh, well I don't want to think about that; I commiserate with all the separated families. What must it have been like in 1918 without technology? How hard that must have been. So much heartbreak in the midst of coping and surviving, even with modern technology.


As for teaching, I have been impressed by the efforts all my students have made to stay connected with me and one another, mostly through their writing, but also on social media, email and phone. My NYU classes have been full with waiting lists, students from Canada and Portland, even Colombia this term. Intimate distance learning, if that is not an oxymoron, in proximity on the screen, backgrounds staged like a mirage: paintings, interesting book cases, plants, ceilings occasionally. The shop steward of the NYU union told me this week that meetings will continue on Zoom because people show up. How interesting that is: People show up.


I think we have to commend ourselves for showing up during the pandemic. We get online, we participate, we listen to lectures, go to museums, volunteer, continue working, continue loving, love even more. Most recently, I've been enjoying "Cocktails With the Curator" at The Frick, one painting every Friday, the perfect day for me as I always treated myself to a Friday museum foray when I lived in the city. Now I get to listen to an erudite curator talk, up close and personal. I hope digital cultural offerings continue after the pandemic is over and, if so, that I continue to take advantage of them. They are not a substitute for being in front of a work of art, or at a live concert, but they do amplify curiosity and knowledge.


The world out there, globalization beyond economic globalization, shared culture, shared concern, the world inside our homes, the worlds within us, history witnessed and written as we live and breathe.

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