Teachers tend to children sick with Spanish Flu at Collège La Salle in Thetford Mines, Que. (Photo: Centre d'archives de la région de Thetford - Fonds galerie de nos ancêtres de l'or blanc [donateur: Juliette Dallaire]) - 1918 - Canadian Geographic
COVID-19 isn’t the only thing going viral.
It took just a week for us to be swamped with astounding new ways to help us cope with the dark days ahead.
We can learn to cook everything in our fridge just by taking a picture of what’s inside. We can join a virtual choir to belt out Hallelujah. We can learn to paint watercolours in just one day. We can even hire a drone to take our dog for a walk.
Most of these marvels are online, and we should marvel that this pandemic is hitting us when online life is endlessly diverting. So much to see and do, and so little…..
Well, actually, no. Not so little time. So much of it.
While this coronavirus has devalued all our savings, the biggest plunge has been in what, until two weeks ago, was the real world’s rarest and most precious commodity.
Back then, I was still trying to cram 30 hours of life into 24 hours of day.
Now, my calendar is clear and that emptiness hangs heavy.
What to do to fill all those hours?
I can do nothing, of course. But this is very hard for a hyperbolic extrovert like me. Especially to gear down from decades of 60 mph to days of zero. That sound I hear is my psyche stripping its gears.
Yes, I know help is a URL away. There are all those poems, including one in my last blog, Pablo Neruda’s Keeping Still.
I can read the novels of Charles Dickens that I had no time for in university, or in the 50 years since I was a freshman. I can go for two-hour walks instead of hasty half-hour ones. I can sleep in every day; gorge on Netflix every night (Hot Picks: The Scandi-drama Caliphate and the French comedy Call My Agent). Learn to cook what I’ve always ordered in, which means everything from soup to nuts.
In fact, isn’t this one of our abiding fantasies? “When I retire, I’m going to …”
Or “When the kids are gone….” Or “When I cash out…”
So now, we have time to start learning how to do those old things as well as some new ones.
Amidst all the deaths so far and the potential for far worse to come, we can take comfort in being visited by a plague that seems to kill anywhere from 1% to 10% of the people it infects, depending on where you live.
We are lucky – to have the internet, to have social distancing, to live in a country that treats COVID-19 with the fear it deserves.
But most of all, we’re lucky the plague that visits us in 2020 is not the one that shrouded the world in 1918. Back then, millions of people huddled in their homes with no way to contact the outside world. Unless they wanted to risk almost certain death, that is.
Wade Davis wrote about his grandfather, an up-and-coming lawyer in Calgary who “left home in the morning, leaving my grandmother and their three children. Though perfectly healthy as he woke that day, he never came home. He collapsed and died in late afternoon, just one of the 50 million stuck down by the Spanish Flu.”