There are some things about living in the COVID world that I hope last beyond the pandemic.
Today I’m going to focus on those of us who live in much closer quarters than we are used to with our own loved ones. Our family has previous experience with this, having lived for two different years on a 40-ft. sailboat. We saw the best and the worst in each other. Our daily fortunes were knotted tightly. We learned a lot! Being together cultivates ease and pleasure over time. Communication is immediate and direct. Meals together are the norm. Family adventures are abundant. Our influence on one another magnifies.
But other things are difficult, and the adjustment is one of them.
“I mean, I love my wife,” said my nephew. “But we’re together all the time now.”
Yes. Modern life has allowed us to live beyond daily survival. When we get up in the morning, we get to think about what we like to do, rather than just what we must do. We think about what foods we think feel essential as we struggle to maintain the autonomy that we are accustomed to. We are connected — but we are also individuals.
Still, when this is all over, I think many of us will retain some aspects of COVID-19 life that have been abruptly hoisted upon us. I urge us all to start making a list now of the new, desirable “normal” that was anything but normal just six weeks ago.
At the top of my list is our newfound adaptability, which shouldn’t take fear of mass death to prompt.
I could add more: the family outings, documentary evenings, reading aloud, dancing in the living room, the commitment to the more vulnerable, the cleaner air, the making-do, the shrunk expenses, the extended family Zoom calls and making sure that every mile traveled counts.
At the collective level, we could make another list. What is worth rebuilding? Bill McKibben suggests that “…we need to start emphasizing sturdiness, hardiness, resiliency. ... The resulting world won’t be quite as shiny, but, somehow, shininess seems less important now.”
What does that look like? What are hardy clothes, foods or appliances?
Decades ago I rented a house from an elderly man who had just entered a nursing home. When he subsequently died, his family offered me all his appliances. I gladly acquired several for my kitchen, including a hand mixer with very few moving parts, probably received as a wedding gift in the 1950s. Most of it has fallen apart ,but it still works like a charm.
What do resilient families, tribes, churches, communities and food systems look like? According to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board’s online newsletter, Access North Center for Independent Living just equipped senior homes with “new technology that allows them to remain in their homes longer, have added safety features, and be socially connected to family and friends.” It is hard to underestimate the value of this service in any world, COVID-19 or not.
Oh yes, and we’re stopping to smell the flowers. At least, we will as soon as they poke their noses out.
To celebrate Earth Day while at home, join Katherine Hayhoe, an internationally acclaimed speaker and scientist, and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in a virtual event at noon on Saturday, April 25. Register through the website at citizensclimatelobby.org.
Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.