In the early spring in this year of the pandemic we live in a house on a street that divides the city from the county. The trees in the fruit orchards nearby are past peak blossom and west winds scatter their petals onto the pavement. Strangers walk by the house, in groups of two or three or alone. Some wear masks, some don’t. The roads are quiet as families shelter in place and many are out of work and few cars drive by.
Downtown, some retail businesses operate a version of what was once a normal schedule. They restrict access to limit exposure for customers and staff. Hotels are closed to deter tourists. Restaurants provide takeout meals only, which further discourages outsiders. Deserted streets and empty spaces prevail.
In my garden, I plant petunias and nasturtiums in the sunshine. Coleus plants go where indirect light filters through the overhanging branches of trees. Birds chatter and sing and bathe in a concrete trough, oblivious to the worries of us humans.
At the hospital, which I visit twice a month to treat my cancer, everyone must wear masks. Nurses, in the infusatorium, move among us like bees attending a hive. They set IVs, adjust the flow of chemo drips, and take vitals.
The coronavirus has yet to deplete the hospital’s resources. Gloves, masks, face shields and paper gowns seem plentiful. These protective measures minimize the dangers. True safe distancing, however, is an illusion one accepts in order to continue treatment against the more visible foe of a malignancy.
As of the 26th of April, our town has just five confirmed cases of the disease. No one has died and none of the five are hospitalized. The air is clean to breathe, the colors of spring bright, yet concern about the future mars the improving weather.
In the last month, global deaths from the coronavirus occurred at a rate of 50,000 every eight days. The elderly carry the load of this mortality. Paeans to beloved grandparents pepper human interest stories in the media. Many die alone, in the twilight of their lives, absent the providence of human touch and the presence of loved ones.
Illness and death aren’t the only factors in the equation that defines our current hardship. Restrictions on movements and livelihoods can lead to isolation. For many, financial ruin is a reality. Everyone feels the weight of an uncertainty that goes on and on and on. Bailout checks signed by an empathy challenged president won’t soothe the anguish. Weeks become months, and a sticky cobweb of contagion adheres to our consciousness.
We all want something settled and predictable to counter the chaos caused by Covid-19. Patience is our ally. Hanging in there is good advice.