There are pivotal moments in each of our lives … the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the start of a global epidemic. While I do not know the day the coronavirus claimed its first life, I do know that it struck our lives in the western world on March 13, 2020. A Friday the 13th. In four days, it will be the five-month anniversary of its life-altering appearance. I am here not to bemoan the tragedy of lives disrupted and lost, but to sing the praises of pandemic.
Every day, I can ride my bicycle in Canada’s second biggest provincial park, Fish Creek Park, which spans nineteen kilometers from east to west and covers an area of more than thirteen square kilometers along the rim of our city of Calgary. It is home to deer, beaver, porcupine. Chickadee, bald eagle, raven. Pelican and the great blue heron. And this year, like no other, people. Families. Couples. Bike riders. Hikers. Picnickers. Lovers. Grandmothers and uncles … we all emerged from the solitary confinement of covid’s late winter arrival, drawn to the woods and the river, the bridges and pathways, the clean green air.
Not only was there a pre-emptive run on toilet paper, but thanks to covid it became nearly impossible to find yeast. It may have hopscotched a generation or two, but all of a sudden people are baking again. Sharing recipes. Passing on sour-dough starters. Rolling up and icing cinnamon buns on a Sunday morning. Posting onto facebook the photo of stuffed hen with fig and pecan suppers. Oh and the gardens … we are (again, after the lapse of a generation or two) growing our own tomatoes. Beans, carrots, lettuce and squash. Peonies. Astilbe. Primrose and phlox. I planted two trees this year – an apple and a pear.
I greet my neighbours. I greet strangers. There was a period of suspicion, those first icy days when people averted eyes and turned up collars. But now, even masked, we pass a warm hello through the eyes as we realize we are one community, all suffering, all surviving, all in a sense thriving. I have conversations with the children that I pass. Under four is best. They still see magic. And with every sun-filled morning, every thunderstorm afternoon, every silver-golden dusk, I am starting to see it too.
Covid has allowed me to put aside all that doesn’t matter. Cull the relationships that were not deeply rooted. Tend those that are. Question my prioritization and values and live my most authentic life. As my wise-beyond-her-years youngest daughter told me, it is causing a re-set. A vital re-set. It is as if we were caught in a mousewheel spinning ever faster, and it jammed. And we were flung. It was a bit of a game of freeze-tag at first … grab onto those closest to you and don’t let go. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. But the gifts, the gifts of this re-set are tremendous.
Cleaner skies. Clearer waters. I sometimes sit and watch the bees in the larkspur, the cosmos. Watch the clouds move in the sky, and wonder how Joseph Mallord William Turner chose the ones to paint, how he must have wished to live forever to be able to depict each moment of celestial glory. I wait for my heirloom tomatoes to ripen; I pick fresh lettuce for my lunch. I make my bed every morning and feel the air enter my nostrils, make its way down my throat and fill my lungs. I will die one day. We all will. But covid is reminding me to live this day, this moment, fully. To give thanks.
Josephine LoRe’s words have been read on stage, published in literary journals and anthologies in nine countries, put to music, danced, integrated into visual art, and interpreted through American Sign Language. She has two collections, Unity and the Calgary Herald Bestseller’s Cowichan Series. Josephine features frequently at live and virtual literary events. She has an MA in Comparative Literature from l’Université de Rouen and an Honour’s BA in Modern Languages and Literature from the University of Toronto. https://www.josephinelorepoet.com/