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Dear Virus, Fear and Light

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Dread is a dark and mewling thing. A bit like you, Virus.

So many people--both strangers and friends--are talking about dark things right now. The collective mood is bleak, hinting at morose. It’s any number of things, really: the election, the economy, eroding civil liberties, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and you, Virus. Like a progressive event, this is, but instead of a dinner party with courses shared at different locations, it's nightmares we're trading.

Things aren't always identifiable in the dark, and the mind runs loose. We might start with night terrors and progress to a falling dream. Classic. Red eyes under the bed. Another and another. Sleep paralysis. Drowning. Feeling lost. The boogeyman.

Is that what you are, Virus? A boogeyman of sorts? My night mind stretches skin across your aerosolized particles. But no, you aren't a personified punisher sent to keep us kids in line. You're real. And I'm guessing you're also related to the last nightmare I have, which is always the worst. Sometimes I wake up sweating, my chest aching. I've been running in the dark with something snapping at my heels, something chasing.

These nights are heavy with your presence, a wet blanket woven not with cotton or a poly blend but with panic and despair. Maybe you're waiting for our guard to drop. Maybe it's all that waiting that unnerves me so. Waiting without knowing. Waiting and worrying on top of everything else. You're bigger now, more expansive, and it makes me angry. "Don't fear the virus," the orange one tells us. "Don't let it dominate your life."

Easier said than done.

This isn't surface-level stuff. Believe me, I wish it were. I feel you pressing me, Virus, like gloom creeping from a corner I forgot to salt. You think I don’t see it? Of course I do. You're stale energy. That's all. Or maybe a leftover psychic vibration. Perhaps it’s Ebenezer Scrooge and his insistence that the haunting ghosties were bits of undigested beef. Except I’m a vegetarian and veggie burgers are rarely poltergeist.

I think about burning rosemary when morning comes. Maybe some candles. I try to convince myself that a few deep breaths will help, and usually they do.

I think of something positive because worry takes up too much space in my head. Coronavirus burnout and being tired of being tired. I’ve voted and encouraged others to do so. I’ve worn a mask and practiced social distancing. I washed dishes and petted the cat. And this week, I’m pre-gaming my days, mentally preparing for what might come next. I'm throwing myself softballs this week. Nothing too difficult. Just in case. I like to think of myself as a glass half-full kind of person, but we've been going since March. I'm worn thin with no reserve. The glass isn't half-full of optimistic thinking, Virus. It's half-full of wine.


Positive thoughts. Yes.

Positive thoughts lighting up the dark

A bonfire of positivity and light on a blue full moon


Recently, I had my students write about a favorite experience in nature. Although it was daytime, I needed a bright break, an quick illumination of spirit. They wrote, my students, and so did I, my mind tripping backwards in space and time.

A most amazing memory, I'm walking in the foothills of the Northern Cascades. The day was neither too hot nor too cold with a crisp feathered breeze on my skin. Nature kisses. I remember tall evergreens, patches of dappled sunlight, ferns with shoots unfurling, and the occasional huckleberry bush. There was a winding trail and warmed earth beneath my feet. I walked on top of dropped, broken leaves that, over time, had become the softest of carpet.

Lying in my bed, 3,000 miles and an ocean away, I can almost smell that deep forest. Ancient green-on-green, stillness and not. Nature sounds, birds, wind through treetops. Abiding peace.

I go back to that place in times like this, at times when I’m feeling unsettled. I breathe my way back to the trees. Old-growth forest. Bird song in the branches. I find a deep, ancestral kind of magic there, and something else. It is one of the few things I can do when things fall apart. I stand among green guardians when I feel small, and they comfort me.

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