The Pandemic Academy
These days, it’s a lot like what I remember from being a young child: You can’t go out, stay away from strangers, you have to do what adults you don’t know tell you to do.
Most days I walk in the neighborhood with a mask on and with my dog Beau, not venturing more than a half mile from the house. Since March 23rd, I’ve been in the car twice, and the furthest I’ve gone (once) was five miles away to pick up a pizza that the clerk put in the trunk of my car.
Fruit trees are blossoming, as we know, and squirrels eat the buds. The other day, a young one went as far as the branch would take him, not realizing that the weight of his body was too much it to bear. He plummeted into a small pine tree and took off. I haven’t seen him since though it’s not as if he can be distinguished from the others.
I don’t mind the relative lack of concentration, the inattentiveness. Writers are reactive, both to their inner workings as well as what goes on around them. The observations are the narrative. So if it’s more difficult than ever to piece together things, then it’s…more difficult than ever to piece together things.
That’s always the task for writers and everyone else: To try to make sense of things, to observe the world until it no longer seems quite so ferocious, unsparing, and indifferent.
One reason why people are more unhinged now is that we are required, and it seems sudden, to put our trust in one another and in the authorities at levels unprecedented for many of us.
I spend a lot of time among individuals who have been incarcerated, and the fear and helplessness they describe is hard to imagine.
The restrictions will lift slowly, maybe by June. But goodbye for years to come to theaters, clubs, sporting events, etc. My gym said it is not opening, if it opens, until 1 July. Time to put air in the tires of the bicycle.
The folks under 35 will be more out and about than the others, but when the virus hits their demographic hard, they’ll soon understand. Oh, well, too late, there were warned.
Tim Parks, an English writer long living in Italy, wrote recently in the Times Literary Supplement about life in Milan: “What a distrurbing inertia there is in our day-to-day activities and concerns. What an important spiritual exercise awaits us.”
The virus itself is unlikely to have a direct physiological effect on mood, but the isolation, stress, fear of the future, and so on can devastate someone frail, like your mum.
I spoke with my aunt M yesterday; she’s about 85, and completely isolated, no family, no friends can visit her. She said, “I could get used to this.”
Strangely enough, me, too. I like being left alone, I like not going anywhere. I only miss the gym.