While Dr. Bonnie Henry tells us how to proceed, we prepare to open the skylight of the bunker and follow the yellow arrows on the ground that lead toward the city again. Will it be as it was, or will it be in ruins? We won’t be the same as we had been, but we will soon be tentatively reaching out for recreational shopping, the luxury of dentistry, the indulgence of elective surgery, the wild risky experience of being with others. People, places, and things will once again be part of our physical lives. Hell, we’ll have physical lives again, expanded past the bunker that we affectionately named “the bubble” as if it were temporary, transparent, sort of fun in a futuristic way.
To understand this shift, I thought of mapping the experience over a fairy tale like Sleeping Beauty. In the bad fairy’s curse the princess would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and the whole kingdom would die, but the good fairy countered that, saying it would not be death, but only sleep. Even though the king went throughout the land to destroy and eliminate all spinning wheels, one that was hidden and unfound was enough to put the whole kingdom to sleep. We’ve been in such a spell. Other spells turn royalty into toads or other animals, and people who fail the riddle end up turned into stone until the spell breaks. It is usually broken by one who holds the magic mirror, or has the confidence of animals because of former acts of kindness or who is befriended by the old woman on the roadside.
However it happens, when the spell is broken, no one remains spellbound, and everyone returns to their former selves, often far better than before. Then there is a royal wedding of the exalted spell-breaker with the formerly enchanted toad or fish or screaming gull who has become a prince or princess royal. Or the people learn never to forget to leave a little flax house in the field for the Lady. One way or another, the kingdom is restored.
These tropes of embedded folklore are part of the substrate on which we are building up the promises of the future, the success of our global re-emergence. Re-opening, gradual resurrection, restoration of the kingdoms that once were. My question is: which kingdoms will return?
Put those on a graph - we’re very very good at reading graphs and charts now. Who knew that we’d be graphing out stats daily and becoming, as they say, “armchair epidemiologists”? We examine all this in the same way we follow the weather, or the air quality index during fire season.
Our tenuous hold on this transforming earth is shaken again but we cannot be shrugged off so easily. We are here for the duration. We humans can learn to live with Covid19 as part of our environment even if this virus is like tigers pacing outside our huts, and we will be extremely cautious until there are weapons or deterrents to protect us.
Have you written the great novel, discovered the secrets of your ancestors, learned a completely new complicated skill in this time? How did all those productivity plans work for you? Everything we thought we’d do or be during the lockdown was based on a premise that didn’t include the sheer sadness and energetic transformation of the entire world during this time. Those plans were based on a world that no longer exists anymore, so there really was no foundation to support them. There is no blame that you didn’t achieve x, y, or z. But it is to your credit if, ear to the ground, you could intuit the rumblings of our new foundation.
Interpreting that is our real work, implementing that brings into form a more sustaining life. The skies are more blue, the air brighter, the stars visible for the first time in so many years. That clearing is also a sign of the pollution that has been washed away from our dream of a life that is no longer tenable, from the fairy tale that PR manipulators somehow used to turn us all into stone. Well, a lot more of us have woken up and shaken the dream out of our heads. No longer spellbound, we can answer the riddle. It is a sweet morning and we’re here for the duration. Let’s clean up this mess, keep an eye out for tigers, and start up the world again with love.
It seems like I’m reading charts and graphs every day - and to all my old math teachers: I take it back. It was useful after all!
Tech Support: How Can I Help You?
Updating my voicemail setup, I was talking to a guy from Telus tech support (yes I switched to Telus: don’t judge!). When he asked me to call him to test it, I saw his area code was 416, so I asked where he was in Ontario and how they were doing there. (Looking back now I think he was probably working from home.) “Mississauga,” he said, and then went into the kindest talk about how we are all doing the best we can in these times, and being good to one another across the country. Really beautiful warm full thoughts that were so helpful and heart to heart. I was surprised to feel so very moved. After I ended the call, I just cried, because of everything, all opened up because of the warm voice of a stranger.
Tips From “An English Auntie” for Keeping Up Appearances Before Going Out
Look in the mirror and check out the situation. Be brave, don’t be alarmed. Take what you have learned from Zoom and apply it to your appearance to the outside world.
Sponge-clean any food drops that remain on your t-shirts and other tops. Just moisten a facecloth with water and rub. As the shirt dries, the blob will hardly be visible. If the mark is still there before you step out, take a tip from this old English Auntie and pop a sparkly brooch over the spot.
Open up old makeup containers and smell them before using the contents. They may have been bought long ago in the before times, so be careful!
Artfully flip hair into fancy formations that say “I mean it to be like this.” Alternatively, use a hat, scarf, repurposed cloth or artificial flower as an accessory. Be creative!
Eliminate the habit of wearing day pajamas, and gradually begin wearing more structured clothing, with buttons, zippers, collars and tailored seams. You may need to practice at home: start with 10 minutes per day and work your way up to a full hour. Do the same with shoes.
Remember, it is your choice if you wish to put on lipstick before adding your mask.
When outside, cover your eyes with sunglasses to hide the tears of confusion and joy when speaking with others again, even at the required distance.
Inadequate PPE. Once again, our front line fully-trained and brave nurses refuse to consider adopting the uniforms Pierre Cardin designed for them in the 60’s, saying, “We are not part of your nun/nurse fantasy, and what the hell is that little egg-chair car for?”
Retro pix from Vault of the Atomic Space Age on Facebook, Share Kindness houses from UN Covid-19 response psa on Unsplash, graphs from Google image search.
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