The virus is creating new geographies of time. It has swept us up and dropped us in this valley filled with still air and sweet birdsong, with craggy walls and rushing streams, carved out of the lives we knew.
Where once time was measured in hours and days and weeks, now it is measured in the passing of realities, in the shifting tone of leaders’ words, like rolling storm clouds passing overhead.
We wander soft fields, looking for a path. We are startled when we stumble over objects from the past, delicate specimens preserved in amber. A crumpled receipt pulled from a pocket, for a restaurant where we gathered to eat and breathe the same air as strangers. A green houseplant, somehow still growing in its pot, not watered for an eon. A backpack, hanging casually on a chair, waiting to be taken to work.
Here with you time is a gentle stream. Cold water softly filling the space around my toes, gentle currents bubbling through my fingers. We measure it with moments – eating breakfast, drawing together, playing tag. With empty jars of applesauce and treasured loaves of bread delivered to our door. We sit on sun-warmed banks and toss our moments into the stream like smooth worn stones. Plop, plop, plop. All of them remembered, but each one forgotten.
Across the way time is measured in the flow of voices. It is a rushing stream, and I steal away to stand on the shore, reaching for something there. I shout, whisper, and awkwardly toss my words into the current, hoping they might catch the something I need, or be the something caught by someone else. Dipping my toe in, I am pulled under and tumbled. It is hazardous and enticing. I return in spite of myself because I am afraid if I stop, no one will notice that I am gone.
In the distance time is a precipice, carved from the valley walls and growing steeper and closer every day, with sharp edges and crumbling stones. Here time is measured in numbers – the number of tests, the number of masks, the number of unemployed, the number of people clinging to the edge, the amount of earth that must be dug, the count of souls we’ve lost.
In the old world we had heroes. There were great men and their millions, who, like stoic fathers moved to a moment of warmth, turned the great eye of capitalism toward us, granting the gift of being seen by a world that would ignore us. In return we gave them praise and adoration, returning to them the virtue and privilege we longed for them to share. There were martyrs and soldiers, heroes risking themselves to save us. They granted us the gift of being loved by a world that had dismissed us, told us we didn’t matter. In return we took their lives and their stories, writing them as we like, so we might never have to feel that this love was undeserved. But these are the stories of children, longing to be seen, longing to be loved, but hiding from the world under blankets of fairy tales, unable to see and unable to love back. In the new world, there are no heroes. No great men with their millions, praised for meager sacrifice. No martyrs, no soldiers, no one asked to give more than we would give for them. And if anyone ever has to risk their lives, we do everything to offer them safety, to act with the love we each deserve, and to listen to their stories when it is done. In the new world, there are no heroes. Just people helping people, in the best way they can. And the great men and their millions, were merely paying the price of admission to a world where everyone is seen, everyone is heard, and everyone is loved and fed.
Everyone is tired now. Of course we are. Where once we moved past city blocks and streets to go to work, or school, or visit friends, now we must traverse entire realities. Climbing hills of the past and scampering over boulders of the future to get on with things that are stuck in-between.
The days are long. The tiniest things make us sad and irritable and bring tears. But we are learning. We eat breakfast, we do yoga, we play tag, we draw together.
I want to be in the empty space, to see the city, but I don’t think it will be empty enough.
It’s hard to reconcile all the scenarios that are possible right now. I have forgotten to call mom.
What do I write here for the sake of history?
Schools are closed for 6 weeks. We are still in limbo, standing on a plane with so many possible futures laid out before us. Some are still hopeful. The Earth at least is getting a rest, too.
Already we are getting better at not wasting food.
Work continues. Trying to find a routine.
Now is the time of the virus. It is March 13, 2020.
A state of emergency has been declared. Schools are closed, daycare is closed. Offices are closed. Events are cancelled. A went out today but we are starting quarantine now.
Now is another moment when there is a before-time and an after-time. The before-time is already gone, but some of us don’t know it yet. I don’t know yet when the after-time will come.