Connectivity & the Coronavirus
By Molly Murfee
I have often said I wish the world would slow down so we could take a collective breath.
It seems this is exactly what we’ve been given.
Except, when news began rolling in during the first weeks of March that the coronavirus had suddenly not only entered Colorado, but was right here in our tiny town of Crested Butte, one of my first reactions was not just to get off the maniacal merry-go-round that is modern life, but to dive under the covers and not emerge until months later when this whole thing was hopefully over.
Lock the door. Shut my eyes. Stick my fingers in my ears and make inane noises to myself so I couldn’t hear what was going on outside.
This was followed by the irrepressible urge to clean and disinfect my house.
My colleague and fellow writer, Laura Pritchett, wrote an inspiring letter to our students and the faculty of the M.F.A. in Nature Writing program at Western Colorado University. She prompted all of us to write about our fears, our grief, our trauma, to give voice to what we were experiencing in this historic moment.
I wasn’t ready. I felt like I just might break apart if I did. Only thirty minutes of news was utterly destroying me, reducing me to a puddle of quivering tears. It has all, at times, just really felt like too much. So I put my writing aside for a minute, and kept cleaning.
A poignant meme circulating around social media said nature has put us all in a time out to consider what we’ve done. Indeed, I believe a little quiet space can be a helpful prescription in such difficult moments. The incidents in our lives that are the hardest to endure are often the ones from which we glean the greatest lessons. As I madly scrubbed my doorknobs and light switches, I bent my head to the metaphor of our current situation.
In the beginning I checked in on the maps, watching the spread of the virus represented in the little pink circles popping up all over the globe like a case of earthly chicken pox. China. Japan. South Korea. Italy. All of Europe. The coastal cities of the United States. Colorado. Crested Butte.
I felt I was watching one of those tests where they inject dye into your veins to watch how your blood travels through your body. Arteries of travel circulating around the globe, a visceral visual of our globalization and ease of contact. What began in a fish and animal market in Wuhan, China – a large city on the central China plain on the Yangtze River - had journeyed to a small, remote village at 9,000 feet in the Southern Rockies of Colorado, the speed of contraction exacerbated by our ease in air travel.
It reminded me of wind currents, ocean currents, the great swirling, undulating rivers in our water and air connecting Asia with North America, Africa with South America, Australia with the Indian subcontinent.
In my own town, the currents are no less visible. My friend who I went to a local fundraiser with had been in the office all week with the husband of a woman who had tested positive. Another community celebration turned explosive petri dish. A neighbor member coming in from New York. A friend’s boyfriend’s sister visiting from the Front Range.
Round and round and round.
I return to the air and ocean currents, the pollutants we spew into them, the trash we dump in them, riding the flow of fishes and winged ones in both aerial and watery rivers, toxic, to other parts of the world. From North America back to Asia, the Caribbean to Europe, Africa to Antarctica.
The coronavirus rides on a smaller scale, currents of air and water through our own droplets expelled into the world. Its most dramatic impact is on our lungs, a place spiritual traditions with a focus on how energetics reside in the body, say are the repository of deep grief.
We are, as a global community, grieving.
We are collectively destroying our home through a lifestyle that emphasizes material growth over anything else, including a system valuing profit over health. We have sequestered ourselves to strive only for our individual gain, instead of caring for others.
The coronavirus is obliterating all of these modern manifestations, communicating that we either remedy these maladies, or die.
The core of our souls has known these things for a while, no matter how much we tried to hide them under the bedcovers.
The coronavirus demands we think outside of ourselves. We might not be in a high-risk population group. Yet, we are learning in a horrifying way, that our individual actions impact vulnerable individuals, and by extension, the world. And we are seeing, how another’s careless action can impact our literal lives.
We must reprioritize not only our own health, but the health of others, and the health of this earth. The health of the air and water that give us life. The forests, that are the lungs of the planet, and with whom we exchange breath.
If we are to learn our lessons from all this, we must, indeed, emerge from the cozy comfort and face the reality of our situation, getting to work on cleaning up this incredible, communicable sickness we ourselves have created, allowing our individual actions to create a different kind of wave over the world.
Creative non-fiction and place-based author Molly Murfee specializes in nature and environmental writing cut with cultural and societal critique. Sign up for the Earth Muffin Memos Blog & Newsletter for more on her ongoing book project; field-based Writing & Connection Workshops; online advertising and syndicate column opportunities; and freelance writing services at www.mollymurfee.com.