As summer’s soft breath greets wisteria and peach trees, stores are closed and schools have barricaded doors. In Massachusetts, the plague still hovers close. COVID asks humans to shut bodies inside, not to shut off attention. Fear is on steroids but hiding helps noone. Thin iris blades are rising, and swans arrive ready to nest. I want to show up too. Early in the morning I start by running off yesterday’s stress. Being on Earth, 60-something years, I should be a pro at curbing stress. Keep dreaming! My spine is riddled with ropes of tension. Luckily I can still run the Quinibecquin River that meanders through Watertown and Cambridge. I go most days… religiously. Quakers don’t worship the church. But without doubt the riverbed runs sweetly in my soul–it’s a religious experience. You doubt me?
It’s not just the huddled baby geese, or the wind curving around the willow tree, or the new warbler song. The water is poetry. Tree talking to hawk is a sermon. When I isolate from humans, I can learn more of Creation. In a time of pandemic we are invited to carve new ways of seeing. SARS-CoV-2 calls on new spiritual disciplines.
I share with humans so much fear and foreboding. But humans aren’t the pinnacle of evolved species. As we retreat into our dens, animal habitat thrives. In downtown Toronto, a family of 5 kit foxes were born and are romping under a boardwalk. I appreciate seeing wild turkeys, bees, and coyotes in my city even though they can be pests. Human settlements splayed over the face of the Earth are causing extinction. We are loosing seals, bears, tortoises, and cetaceans. With the force of Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus let’s stop the death machines that human hubris created. Stop the cargo choppers, the supersonic jets, and the superfluous fracking. Stop mining fossil fuels. And while we’re at it stop all nuclear weapons. As humans in 2020 we agree to safety, can we agree to slow down? First slow down ultra consumption. Less flying, less plastic, less corn syrup, less pesticides, less avarice.
In truth, the pandemic infects humans. But it’s injustice and carelessness that murders us. SARS-CoV2 kills human beings. A war kills human beings. Also pollution kills human beings. But our social scaffold imprisons humanity. Our injustice towards others is killing humanity long before this corona virus. We can’t return to normal, because previously we were shooting each other. Finding a vaccine for the virus is insufficient. For our survival as a people, the pandemic and climate destruction both must be addressed. Since the Industrial Age humans have been overtaxing Earth, our home. Since the Anthropocene, which started in 1945 with the release of radioactivity, we have scarred the Earth. We can change this.
Look! [We are] doing a new thing; now it sprouts up;
Don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
Paths in the wilderness, rivers in the wasteland.
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
—Isaiah 43 & 58
The Great Pause allows us to reassess which behaviors need to change. I’m not at all grateful for a pandemic, but I am grateful to practice humanity in a new way.