I finally caught the old Covid. Well, I guess technically it’s the new Covid, the Omicron kind that doesn’t go into the lungs, thankfully. But it wasn’t fun in the head and sinuses either.
At first I had to isolate for a few days from my family and from the outside world. That was, well, odd. But as I recovered I was able to take my oldest son for a walk in the afternoon with both of us masked. It was a beautiful and balmy day, and after several days sequestered I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the outside world: the sun’s heat on my face, the smell of damp brown grass and thick mud through my mask, the cool breeze on my face and neck, the sound of birdsong and hawk cry and the cars blurring by and the sunlight so bright it burned my eyes. Dozens of other sounds and sights crowded into my awareness, all beneath a bright cobalt blue sky of scattered wispy clouds.
And for a few moments life, existence, just being alive, felt so unbelievably gratuitous. There was just so much of it. Covid seemed a small thing, even as I could feel the effects of the virus burning in my sinuses. And matched with my growing gratitude for all that space and depth and breadth of being, for the sheer prodigality of sensation, and wonder, and for hope, yes, hope, that impossible virtue, growing within me, I was utterly overwhelmed just to be alive, to be in and of my body, to walk on the soft earth and hear the delight of my child as he climbed the steep hill to the playground above us.
And that night as my children gathered around the dinner table, and I at a distance heard them laugh, and wonder, and scream, and question, it struck me again. None of this is necessary. All of it is so contingent, so fragile, so delicately wonderful. But here it is. It is real and it is concrete and it participates in the love of the One who calls all things into being from nothingness, and sustains us in all and through all things.
And yet, the next day, it all sort of came crashing down. The babies had become infected, probably from a pre-isolation exposure, and the house started to close in again upon us as we settled in for another quarantine, and all the plans post-recovery were cancelled, and my own recovery stalled, with headaches and fatigue growing ever more frequent. And as I reflected on the roller coaster of covid-panic, contemplative-peace and gratitude, and then return of covid-panic, I realized that this had been a roller coaster we had all been riding for the better part of two years.
And it was collective, and yet it was deeply personal, and it was, seemingly, a phenomenon that twisted and distorted time and relationships and our understanding of ourselves and each other, of our world and our place in it.
And it is, as it was, utterly exhausting when you have small children about.
And then, overnight, as we all slept, it snowed the most beautiful snow.
And the babies’ fevers broke, and for another day, the wonder and the joy returned to my small little corner of middle America.
For a few days the peace reigned. And then, as we all re-entered the frantic fray of working and learning and productivity, a bit of that panic and dis-ease crept back in, and I wonder again about the rollercoaster we are on, the one that is exhausting all of us and that none of us signed up for.
This is our life. This is our time. Peace, panic, love, and covid. There is no bow to beautifully tie these strands together, save the ones we weave with the short time we have together on this planet. There is no “then” to wait for, no variant-free future to cling to. This is your life. This is your time. It may get better. It may get worse.
Regardless, my hope for you, and for myself and those I love, is that within the lows and the highs, deeper than sensation or feelings, or even insights or wonder, you awaken to the presence of the One who called you into being from nothingness, who sustains you in all things, and into Whose hands we will one day surrender our spirits.
And I pray that in quiet, still moments, amidst covid, peace, and panic, you find within you, however, fleetingly, a sense of gratitude and joy and wonder for what is, what was, and what will be.
Whatever may come.