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Observations, Coronavirus: Week One

Day 1. I do not know what to think. My feelings feel too much. I spend the day spinning somewhere over my body.

Day 2. Venturing out, I drive to the north side of town to run an errand. I pass by a man walking down an oak-lined path, moving his hands over his chest in the shape of a cross. He is focused, intent on blessing himself. Intent on staying alive. He repeats the motion. Repeats it, again. Walks, repeats.

Day 3. A man opens his front door to receive a package that had been dropped on his doorstep. He grabs the disinfectant already placed on the porch table and cleans the box like it is the most natural thing to do. I wonder: is it a gift from a loved one? An Amazon package? A box of more cleaning supplies? When sufficiently sanitized, he takes it inside and shuts the door. Perhaps he lives with others. Perhaps he lives alone.

Day 4. Going the other direction on the trail, a woman passes by me at the wildlife refuge. She looks up from the ground and intently into my eyes. With a depth of sincerity, she says, "aren't we are so lucky to have this?". Her voice and gaze don't waver. Aren't we so lucky to have this… this trail, this encounter, this voice, these legs, this earth, this life in it… aren't we lucky? Aren't we?

Day 5. What my body knows how to do right now is walk, talk, and write. I met a friend at another trailhead. We hugged from six feet apart. We move along the path and speak about how our work has changed with the news. With the virus. We talk about how everything is already in place and that it doesn't have to be perfect and that now is the time. About how serendipitous all the happenings in the year prior were, to this. All who pass by on the trail – I sense they’ve changed. They feel so quiet, so vibrant. They've halted auto-pilot and their running and have touched the earth and one another again. We have touched into life again.

Day 6. At the co-op checkout line, I engage in conversation with the person at the register. They kindly place my items in a neatly arranged pile and I tell them that I've really been thinking of all the folks working at grocery stores, banks, or at the coffee shops and restaurants – that are still open— as heroes, lately. I realize my misspeak: lately. They appreciate my attempt and, with a quiet confidence, correct my words, "well, we have always been heroes". They're right. They always have been heroes. We just struggle to recognize what's true, sometimes.

Day 7. On a late afternoon walk around my neighborhood in Southtown, I pass between two homes on opposite sides of the street, both with soft music playing. I'm between a brightness of sounds and realize that the music is live, it's being played by real human hands right in that very moment as the soft, warm breeze drifts by. One of the musicians I cannot see. The other, I can – he's sitting cross-legged on the porch, eyes fixated on a banjo, strumming gently. A moment where everything immediately near feels right… perfect. I smile and joy pulses through my core. I watch him out of the corner of my eye as I walk, until the trees in his front yard obscure my view. The sound trails off until it's out of my range. I hear children playing in the yards nearby. A jay in the pine, exclaiming.

Of course, these are the people I see and hear and speak with. The people I cannot reach but I can feel are elsewhere. They are the ones that have lost their jobs. They are the ones that have lost a loved one. They are the ones that are coming out of denial that they keep coughing. They are the ones that are in line at a hospital. They are the ones that need to process all of this but must keep working. They are the ones that are quarantined in an unsafe home. They are the ones without shelter. They are the ones that are feeling the weight of their aloneness. They are the ones that are panicking with the uncertainly. They are the ones in wise old bodies who need groceries. They are the ones that can no longer pay rent. They are the ones with compromised immune systems. They are the ones already crushed by systems and dominant society. They are the ones who are struggling to breathe. They are the ones who are holding the hands of those who cannot breathe. I close my eyes and I feel what it must be like to be them. My lungs tighten a little. My feet feel the earth beneath me. I feel that I'm alive.

It's springtime in Oregon. I've noticed that the turkey vultures are diligently making circles in the sky and that the rabbits have emerged from their burrows. As if all was in its right place. Cycles will continue to be cycles, though the arc of time has a new pin point. Today, the people pass by on their bicycles with a brand-new look in their eyes that I feel inside my being. I see it when they look right at me, or when they quickly avert their eyes and fixate on the horizon. Perhaps, in these moments, it is that they are thinking of and are afraid of dying. Perhaps, it is that they are so brilliantly and radiantly alive for the first time in a long while. Those two feelings, I've learned, often move together. They walk side by side.

They keep walking.

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