The Beautiful Indifferent

The things that ground me are the things that don’t care, don’t know, aren’t affected by the virus(es) in our world.

While I automatically assumed one of the last canary in a coal mine positions, I know I must not always be one who’s squawking, “No! Look here! See the numbers! Understand how they work! Do not turn away! Let your brain, your body, your heart and your soul (maybe most of all but not quite yet for now is the time for planning) acknowledge what this is! Let yourself name it, accept it, understand it so you stand—so we all stand the world over—a sliver of a chance at survival! Yes! Look here!”

Sometimes I need to look at the tree, its indifference, pet my dog who doesn’t know, watch the unaffected anole scurry across the stone as it did yesterday and the day before and remember that it will tomorrow and the day after regardless of anything the microscopic virus or the one in human form does today or tomorrow. Why be a canary if what I signal means nothing? Why grab you (proverbially, of course) by the shoulders if there is nothing beautiful and good to wake up to?

But then what? What is next when we all finally, FINALLY agree it is here? That this is a thing? Will there be a moment between that one and the one where the illness and the death becomes personal? Will we be able to take in a breath after the extra can of tomato paste is carefully scanned and placed in the bag, after we can squirt habitually a bit of sanity onto our fatal fingers? After the meetings are rescheduled, the kids are settled, and the TV offers nothing new? Will there be a breath? And, if so, what will we think, together, in and of that moment?

I am tired of the disjointed pace of understanding. But I also kind of fear the moment when we all come together. Or is it here? Today? Which begs the question, would I recognize it if it came? Because, really, I think maybe it would feel very much like today: Hushed but rushed, numbers marking the graph with a near vertical line, my husband texting me 485 died in Italy just today and I have nothing but a sigh to give in response.

I read this morning of a group of rafters reaching the shore of the Colorado River on Sunday after a three week trip. They’d had no internet. No cell service. No idea.

They left on their trip before ‘pandemic’ was in our daily vernacular, but maybe that was just yesterday. Maybe when they embarked it wasn’t even ‘hoax’ yet but just a thing on the other side of the world. Maybe when they left it was all numbers and exponents and worst-case-scenarios in the mouths of those who can read numbers, those who don’t trust anything coming from the desks of another country’s officials. I am guessing the rafters hadn’t heard those canary voices screaming into the void, a void as grand as the canyon where rafts were being loaded up with bliss.

Three weeks later, when they were greeted on the shore by an aged guide at the end of the trip, they thought he was joking. Though the article made note that the teens in the group were not so quick to dismiss the old man’s news—something in the pallor of his skin. They’d cut their teeth on such dystopian tales, had they not?

Yet as the reality they alighted upon solidified under their feet, they desperately grasped ahold of the all things in their minds eye which still didn’t care, still didn’t know, and still won’t ever be affected. As they should.

I think it is what we all must turn our attention to from time to time, should we be given time. Let me explain why I think this is so…

If not for the trees, there would be no reason to keep my hands away from my face. The sky is reason to wash my hands just a little longer, with a little more vigor. The doleful arc of my puppy’s brow is reason to walk a broader arc around you as we cross paths in the store, the store that has limited its hours and rationed its meats.

In other words, you, too, are the reason to avoid your smiling face en vivo. A photo now and then will have to do. But you are the reason—and all the trees you may one day see—why I will not go to my office (and I will add an obligatory and uncertainly optimistic “for now” at the end of that sentence). You, and all the yous around this globe we so palpably share, are the reason I need you to see exactly where we are, and that where we are has been predictable for weeks, even years. That some of you have (will) not see this…changes nothing. Well, actually, it will make it even more so.

So I will continue, through phone or video conferencing, to say No, look! because I want you to matter, and to know that you matter, and to fight for the fact that you matter. I will hear the tears when you accept that, yes, it is time to help the kids understand what is at stake, how you and they are at stake, so they wash their hands just a little longer and with a little more vigor and get down to the business of living.

With a word from our Italian selves: Forza! We must keep going!

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