Everything is the same; everything is different. Both are true. Everything is the same: the sun rises, we breathe air, we love our dear ones, we linger over conversations. Everything is different: the earth warms, the air can kill, virtual is a poor substitute for a hug, face time and FaceTime are not equal. Everything is everything. We are all everything, all connected to one another in our peril and our pandemic, to one another in our hope and our possibilities. These last are the most important – hope and possibilities, turned to collective action.
— Teresa Stern (Seattle, Washington)
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Moist earth cascading through nimble fingers. A melody enhanced by the spicy fragrance of lemongrass and turmeric remnants
lingering on dew-kissed skin.
Content joy radiates from the pair of us, eager to absorb the
nestled in Green mountains.
We are the lucky few.
Fortunate to not have been uprooted in disarray
Spring blossomed and
we never lost trust.
We never learned not to touch or to inhale through masked fabric
Isolation symbolized our boundless expansion of being still,
Cloaked now in misty fog cityscape, I remember the freedom of our lungs
in the refuge we built.
— Imara-rose Glymph (San Francisco, California)
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All of us connected in our not-knowing, in our common, drastically-uncommon plight. Our questions are many, many more than our answers, our breaths more dearly counted. The bright lights of my friends and family are further off, yet closer to my heart. Nature is my most constant familiar, my salvation.
Will we emerge from these strange days of disease joyfully opening our wings of freedom or will they be bound tightly to our bodies by fear or ordinance? Many of us will be much older then and many of us will have grown much younger. Merlins and baby butterflies.
— Sherilyn Wolter (Princeville, Hawaiʻi)
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I’m depriving my skin of material correspondence and withdrawing the ability to contact other bodies. My skin feels the loss. I envy the machine who can survive without touch. I video-call constantly: uploading myself, my eyes present, moving mouth and megapixel skin. I see other bodies, but not like I know them. Flickering, stuttering, fading. I’m becoming gradually “other.” I’m getting to know my computational personality. I’m feeding my electronic body. It exists without feeling, without pain, grief, or humor. I’m living somewhere in the machine, both here and there, existing in between multiple borders, staring at the unknown.
— Molly McAndrews (Plymouth, Devon, UK)
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Yesterday, I saw the heavens open up. I stood in the grass, arms uplifted, and marveled at the gentle teardrops streaking through the air. For a moment, I forgot who I was. For a moment, it was like I didn’t exist.
That night, as I sat in my room accompanied by the groaning sky, I thought I had been deceived. Amidst our crumbling world, an unfeeling moment feels like a betrayal. Today, impulse leans us toward hyperawareness — not apathy.
What is the rain to give me permission to forget? What is the rain to patch that hole?
— Claire Yuan (Woodbridge, Connecticut)
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It’s summertime and the cat’s pink paws are turning black. Lentigo, says Google. The spots will spread over time. I wonder if the cat notices. These spots are as unsightly and asymmetrical as our most tender bruises: that thing I wish I’d never said, your secret I couldn’t keep. It is the unrelenting stillness of this time that is most unsettling—there is, at last, nowhere to hide from the self. The comforts of modern life (yoga studios, trinket shops) dutifully obscured the truest things we will ever know: who we are, alone at night, our paw spots spreading insidiously, imperceptibly.
— Stephanie Nicolard (Los Angeles, California)
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Leah, psych major, says COVID is karma – mental health’s reprisal for its public stigma. Fear of sickness, fear of going out – they’re not so crazy now, are they?
Madeline, poet, says COVID is a media metaphor. Tech disconnect has sickened us socially. The cure lies in noticing. Hummingbird on wire still or delicate petal snow-fall. Slow down, look up, breathe, pay attention.
I think the answer lies in between these disparate views: perhaps COVID is a reminder that we cannot prevent all ills, but observation may inoculate us from the myopic view of the screen. Protect yourself.
— Kathleen Bergen (Santa Monica, California)
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Gold and green, with an iridescent blue head, nowadays a wild peacock shows up, infatuating me with full plume, feathers down, then helicopter leaps onto the rooftop, resting beside the front door, eating the proper birdseed – banana when I have it. He doesn’t care for apples. Absolute supermodel material.
In an organizational fete both cultural and digital, I discover photographs of his visit last autumn. Could explain why housecats yowling is reserved for raccoons on the deck.
The unnamed peacock’s telling begins: Strawberry blonde, midlife, nowadays a friendly human shows up, seems she was a workaholic, now birdfeeder slash photographer.
— Eileen E. Schmitz (Sequim, Washington)
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An “empty nester” no more, my twins back home. I’ve gotten good at crises. Facing fears and unknowns. My children just four when their dad was murdered in the 9/11 attacks.
This plight is tougher. They should be out socializing, working, finding more of themselves. It’s a pandemic, where else should they be? Precious time back for us three. Re-bonding. My privilege to show up, yet this crisis is really testing my proclivity to keep my energy upbeat.
Playing together each day, till I can resend them into the world. Again. That release will be harder than the first time.
— Lisa Paterson (Hudson Valley, New York)
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Trumpish billionaires are especially thriving in quarantine. How?
The richest New York City billionaire landlord does it through wanton disregard. Disregards a court order to fix chronic leaks until the ceiling collapses. Catastrophic flooding destroys a sweet lady’s apartment. She loses belongings, furnishings, and her thirty-plus-year rent-stabilized home.
Sickened from mold, immune compromised, homeless for over two years, with zero compensation from the billionaires, she’s vulnerable, quarantined in yet another friend’s house.
Papers arrive! Settlement? Finally? No, billionaire landlord’s still suing for thousands of dollars in “back rent” – for when she was homeless.
The Virus of Greed persists. Superspreader President, no vaccine.
— Keni Fine (Astoria, New York)
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