Love in the Time of the Coronavirus

River walk

March 25, 2020 after an early-morning walk
(with a nod to Gabriel García Márquez)

I remember reading Gabriel García Márquez when I lived in Portugal. I was introduced to him by my erudite roommate, Michelle. A dreamlike state pervaded the pages of his books and my life at the time. It all seemed a bit surreal.

Likewise, today is a surreal time.

I am here, isolating, alone in my house in Florida, waking up concerned: both my daughter and son are in New York City, the epicenter of the virus right now in the United States. My sister and her family are there, too.

I’m scared. My son last went to work on Friday; we are at least a week away from knowing, for certain, that he does not have the virus. My daughter has been home from work for a week and two days, but she’s been to the grocery store. My niece just arrived home from

a gap year in Spain. Where might that nasty germ be hiding itself in this world?

I’m also worried about my 90-year-old father, alone in an independent senior living facility, having meals delivered to his door. What if I never see him again? When you die of Covid-19, you die alone, the paper said. So matter-of-fact. I insisted we order him a webcam, even though the prices had skyrocketed. Yes, I can call him on the phone, but he’s got a dumb phone, and it’s so hard to hear him with muffled distortion. I need to see his face.

I was thinking about this as I walked down the street
this morning at sunrise, black coffee in hand, my new tradition. I wanted to see the sun rise over the river.
Nature does what it does, unperturbed at my plight,
our plight. We are all in this situation together, in
this story together, in this “love in the time of the coronavirus” together.

We suddenly find ourselves at war, not against
each other, but against a different kind of disaster: disconnection. The only way to survive is to protect each other, not harm each other. We are dependent on one thing and one thing alone: Love. Love for each other. The question is, can we love each other enough to keep each other safe? Can we maintain the discipline of social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks because it could keep somebody else alive?

I am seeing more people on my morning walks these days. I step aside when we pass each other on the sidewalk, maintaining six feet because I care. I do
care. I did not even pet my favorite dog this morning. Animals are at risk too. In fact, this pandemic may well have started with wild animals we exploited. Animals we should have left alone, in intact forests, but instead bought and sold and trafficked for greed, profit, status.

We should have left the wild places wild. We should have let the wild things stay wild.

This is a reckoning, a correction to our collective trajectory. This is Mother Nature sending us to our rooms and saying, “Stay there and think about what you’ve done!”

We are humbled by this disease, all our usual defenses useless. War is not the solution. Business is not the solution. Power is not the solution. The only solution is empathy. Acknowledging that we are all indeed connected and responsible to each other.

Right now, we need leaders who will lead with love, empathy, and care for each other. Not ones who will divide us and teach us to hate each other. We need to stay away from each other because we love each other, not hate each other. We need to lead by example and keep loving each other. It is the only way to save each other.

Here. In the garden.

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