The world was ever,
way where we were
-from "The Long Song," Nathaniel Mackey
A dear friend died this week. It wasn't a Covid related death, except it was. The facility where he had been living for a while had so much Covid these past months that his family could not get in to see him enough. Isn't it time to rethink how we "house" the sick and the elderly? And because it's no wonder that a virus can spread like a wild fire in multi-generational households and communities—slums and close-to habitations, institutions, all of the residents and workers at risk—it leaves me wondering what's best in the long term for our survival, and the survival of the planet. In it together? Only partially so.
60 Minutes on Sunday had an item on the flight to Mars, a mini helicopter hovering over the surface searching for boulders that might contain fossils of living or once living organisms. It's breathtaking, this achievement, this get away to another planet. It takes our minds off what we need to do here. Between my lines there's also the worry: If we ever do get there to form a "colony," will we replicate the insane violence, war, and callous disregard for our environment we have managed to perfect here on Planet Earth? Will Mars become a war zone? According to the Council on Foreign Relations, there are twenty-five wars raging on our planet as I write. Yet, we carry on creating havoc in the world, letting ships carrying desperate migrants flounder at sea, selling arms to militant nations, spilling sewage into our rivers. And what's this about not sharing vaccination patents? Really? Do the words "global pandemic" register? In another time, Dr. Jonas Salk released the patent of the polio vaccine, no discussion.
Post-vaccination, I've started to hear friends, colleagues, students, and family mumbling and grumbling about the need, the absolute necessity, of getting away. How awful has it been for most of us? Really, how awful has it been? If we haven't had Covid, or we are not mourning a loved one who has died of Covid, how awful has it been? The answer is rhetorical, in part—not that awful compared to many others. Scary enough, awkward, too, as we navigated the logistics of everyday life, I'll concede that. But if we've had food in the house, a job, access to medical care? Not that awful. Most people I know have survived very well indeed. Cooking fancy NY Times recipes: that's a luxury of the privileged few. Selling a home for a gazillion dollars when others are living in dire poverty? Not that awful. Having the technology to Facetime and Zoom? Not that awful. Silver linings? Plenty of them. I even took care of my tooth ache. My dentist had outstanding protocol and expensive protective equipment. Thank you. Apart from the medical necessity, it was a place to go, someone to talk to, and something to do. Dentists talk a lot. Don't they know we can't answer? Usually I mind not being able to answer. Not this time.
Missing people was the worst for me, not being able to touch and hug, enjoy micro-connections with strangers, but travel, no, I didn't miss that. I was already upstate when the lockdown in New York City started. I didn't need to get away, and I don't need to get away now; I am away. All I have to do is step outside the door and breathe.