How the Pandemic Panned Out

As the first stay-at-home mandates spread to our little town, I stood in the living room and looked through the blinds at the neighbor’s lawn across the street. On a pole in the yard a new American flag waved slowly in the spring breeze. Sipping my morning coffee (which mere days earlier would have been enjoyed at the office, but now at home), I stared at that flag and thought about how we were all seeing our nation in that way – through slatted sunlight from our couches as we watched a flattened version of reality on our various screens.

Over the passing weeks, our family did the things that became the norm for many of us… 

We stockpiled a closetful of toilet paper and a pantry full of dried rice and beans. The toilet paper is now gone, but most of the rice and beans remain. 

We tried that weird whipped coffee once – just once – and pondered how this short stint in the Modern Dark Age gave rise to such a beverage that tasted like the very circumstances that brought it into being: boredom and scarcity.

We lost track of days on end as we trudged along without the normal routines of life. All the dawns and dusks fused into a monotony like a slow-flashing caution light.

We spent so much time looking at our screens by necessity that we wanted to put them aside and do things that we neglected for a long time: sitting silently on the back porch watching fireflies, playing old board games with the family and having long conversations about the things that truly matter.

We baked loaves of homemade bread until the very air hung heavy with that warm, sweet smell. Then we ate the bread until we lamented the fit of our pants, exercised religiously until we were back in shape…and then baked more bread again. The rise and fall continued as surely as the tides and left us washed up, either from the exertion of working out or from the excess of eating.  

We watched people argue, politicians posture and experts postulate.

We saw cities burn, unrest spread and fear grow.

We witnessed wildfires, storms, floods, extreme heat and Saharan dust dropping from the sky.

And all the while, with each passing day, that flag stood in the neighbor’s lawn. It flew through the torrents of the spring rains and hung limply during summer’s breezeless heat.   

I noticed just yesterday that the flag was a bit tattered and faded and worn thin. It’s been through a lot over the last few months. We all have. We may be a bit banged up, a little more than a little tired and missing the world we knew just a short time ago. But like that flag, we’re still here, and as long as there is breath, there is hope…and that alone is something to smile about.

(The incomparable Sean Dietrich read a version of this post at a recent appearance. Check it out below…)

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