Rob jokes that we’ve been in quarantine since 1985, when we both started working full-time as writers, without part-time employment as a teacher or a journalist. But since we never have been strictly under a nationwide lockdown – unable to run to the grocery store the hardware store, etc., – the joke isn’t quite accurate.
Yes, writers do most of their work alone, but most writers I know also have outside interests. They get out of the house, out of their work areas, out of their heads. They make time for other people, for social connections, for doing things they enjoy. So in that sense, the quarantine, lock down, partial lock down, whatever you choose to call it, has been different.
Our gym, of course, has been closed. The yoga studio where Rob taught is closed. The mall is closed. The dog park is closed. We haven’t seen our daughter since mid-March, the longest period in many years. Even for Nigel, our Golden Retriever, life has been vastly different.
Until WHO declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic, we were doing doggie day care so Nigel would have other dogs with whom he could interact. We also boarded other dogs. Some of them he liked and played with, some he ignored, but at least there were dogs. Before the pandemic, we had Nika, our daughter’s dog, here for a month. Before the pandemic, he went to the dog park every afternoon and wore himself out chasing balls and Frisbees, and sniffing butts, as dogs do. Now, there’s no dog companionship. He’s lonely. He gets along well with the cats and vice-versa, but cats aren’t dogs.
When the dog park closed, we took him to our neighborhood park, riding down there on our bikes, Nigel racing alongside us. Then that park closed so we found a vacant lot where he could run. Now that park is open, so off we go on our bikes every afternoon. But no other dogs go there. A couple times a week, I take him over to a friend’s house. Arlene lives on two acres, has two dogs, and the squirrels on her property are plentiful and he loves chasing them and visiting with her dogs.
But. It’s not normal life. For any of us – humans, dogs, cats. Sometimes late at night, the repercussions of this pandemic, the economic meltdown, the entire mess, washes through me. I think about the people who have lost loved ones who might have lived if our country’s response has been quicker, more focused, and if trump hadn’t dismissed it early on as “a hoax.” I think about how my daughter’s future will be vastly changed, diminished, more restrictive. I think about the countries I’ll never see, the cultures I’ll never get to experience. I think about our mortality.
But tonight, as I listen to the wind outside, as Nigel and the cats and Rob sleep, I also think about how this country could emerge as a better, more egalitarian place. The age of Aquarius and all that.
In December, both Jupiter and Saturn enter Aquarius, the sign of the visionary, the rebel, the sign of revolution. Perhaps the 99 percent will find their collective voice and rise up against the one percent and demand a decent minimum wage, universal health care, and a real say in the system their taxes fund.
Perhaps the republican party as it exists now will be swallowed up by its own greed and corruption and the democrats will really stand up for what they profess to represent: the people. Perhaps the anachronistic electoral college will become as extinct as the 467 species that have vanished in the last decade and our presidents will be chosen by popular vote, not the parties, not the delegates. Maybe we’ll finally wake up to the threat of climate change and realize that COVID-19 may be one way the planet is fighting for its own survival.
And so are we. I mean, c’mon, we’re reduced to THIS?
If nothing else this, pandemic has revealed just how democracy has failed, where the constitution is weak, and where the inequalities lie. It has laid bare the simple fact that we haven’t had federal guidance, a federal plan, and that trump really is the manifestation of America’s dark underbelly. He’s the emperor without clothes, the little man behind the curtain in Oz, and he has served his purpose. It’s time we find and shout our collective voice.
So please, can we now move on?
IP.S. It’s now May 19. Florida opened up yesterday. The dog park is open. There’s toilet paper on the shelves, paper towels, flour. We saw our daughter this past weekend. We can go out to eat in restaurants, go to the gym, have our nails done. We can now move about as though the old normal is back and better than ever.Except: yesterday, Florida had nearly 900 new cases. More than 91,000 people in the U.S. have died. And although the curve seems to be flattening in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, it’s spiking in the rest of the country. It seems we’re still transitioning from the “old” normal to the “new” normal.