This: this experience we’re sharing as a species is a rare opportunity. To pay attention. To notice. What do you feel? Let’s start with something easier. What do you hear?
It’s quiet where I am. I walk in the middle of the street to keep my distance from people and hardly ever have to get out of the way of a car. Traffic is mostly gone. I don’t even hear many airplanes and we live near the airport. That quiet is the sound of fuel that doesn’t have to be used, of trips that don’t have to be made. How many of our trips really had to be made, before?
Are you able to work from home? More and more people can. If they can now, is there a good reason to commute later? Are all the conferences and meetings in person necessary, or even desirable? One person I know has been surprised to discover he’s getting more work done from home.
Are you counting squares of toilet paper? Are you wasting less food? Are you thinking of putting in your first garden? What happened to all the toilet paper? Did everyone just suddenly shit themselves? How scared are we?
Are you frightened? Stressed? Don’t waste this moment. Let it tell you who you are and what you’re afraid of. Dying? What changed? You were always going to die. All that busyness you engaged in before–was it just to distract you? Pay attention to your fear. Notice it, and move on to something else.
What are you thinking about? What does it sound like in your head if nothing is distracting you? Do you imagine you should be getting a lot of stuff done now? What if there’s nothing at all going through your head? Would that really be a bad thing?
What can you not do without? Why? Listen to yourself.
People are complaining about something they call social isolation…on the internet. They are discussing their loneliness with friends and strangers all over the world, all at once, all the time. They feel bereft. What happened? Not long ago, phone calls were too expensive to make often, or for long; we heard from each other at Christmas and once or twice a year by letter, if we were lucky. Friends, parents, children, everyone. It was fine. Not long before that, people would get in a wagon and go away from their friends and family basically forever. Now we are all rattled if we don’t get our text messages returned right away. Are we better off for this? We’re so tense. This super-connection: is it good for us? If you had to do without physical human contact, or do without the internet, which would you choose?
Do you feel compelled to read the latest about COVID-19? You want to keep up with the latest recommendations, sure. Then do you also need to hear and share everything you can about how dreadful Trump is? You already know how you’re voting. Those people defending that sorry soul online are only going to keep you up at night. You can’t spank them from your own device, and correcting their spelling doesn’t have the sting you think it does. They don’t care. Leave them alone. They’re keeping you from paying attention. From noticing.
So do that. Go outside. Don’t take any devices with you. Write a list for a scavenger hunt. Nothing is funner than a scavenger hunt! I’ll start you off. Find an insect you’ve never seen. Find a bird. Find a bird carrying sticks and follow that bird until you know where it’s going and what it’s doing. Find something on the underside of a leaf. It could be on the ground, or still on the plant; turn leaves over until you find a spider, a gall, a fungus, a bug, a salamander, a larva, life. Find something natural that is sphere-shaped. Find a feather.
Find a drawing of anything, or even a doodle. Done by you. Earlier today.
Find the thing you’re most afraid of. Stare it down until you’re bored with it. Until it gives up on you and passes by. Live.
All these photos were taken in one twenty-minute outing in my yard, just after I finished typing this up. This is the first day I’ve seen crows with nesting material, and I’ve been looking. And then Studley showed up when I was trying to get a photo of a bumble bee. He wrecked that. All my bee photos were out of focus. If I had worries, I completely forgot about them.