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Aye, Captain.

Wise words from the incomparable Kate Mulgrew. I adore this woman.

Letter to my fellow Pandemicites,

All of the words and phrases du jour have already become cliche: unprecedented, social distancing, mitigation, quarantine, isolation, sheltering in place. They are clear, arresting words that evoke any number of sensations, depending on the hour, the news of the moment, the behavior of your loved ones. They are new words, quickly aging. To me, it is both fascinating and absolutely astounding that we have been united globally by a virus that allegedly emanated from a wet market in Wuhan, China.

It could be called: a wee bat shat and it was felt around the world.

We are in this together and we will climb out of it together. There are choices to be made. Big ones: will I be philosophical about this, or will I be furious? Will I be patient, or will I be impossible? Will I grow or will I atrophy?

Small ones: will I make the bed every day? Will I plan and execute interesting meals? Will I take a walk in the early morning and watch the sun, unmoved by this pandemic, untouched by our despair, rise as it has done for the past 4.5 billion years?

We are, in ourselves, utterly insignificant – but what we do with that knowledge is what raises us above the rest of the animals.

So I say: in this time of extraordinary challenge, exercise your right to be deeply human. Be surprised by your own generosity of spirit. Don’t be afraid of fear, confusion or anxiety. We are living through an Unknown Pandemic, and we have every right to be unsettled.

I have a suggestion. It is something that has always worked for me and might work for you, but you need to give it a good shot. A few hours of uninterrupted quiet. Enforced discipline, if you will.

Read. Start big, too, because life is short, and once you start you will probably find that you cannot stop. The following books have led me through more catastrophes and heartache than I can possibly count, because their authors understood the essential drama of being flawed, of yearning for love, of courage, of being deeply human.

Here’s a partial list of my all-time favorites. Try them. If you don’t come out of this a better human being, you will certainly be a wiser one. Bring new meaning to ‘sheltering in’.

  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern
  • The Rachel Cusk Trilogy:
  • Outline
  • Transit
  • Kudos

I’m currently working on a novel, so that takes me temporarily off the hook. Which is to say, I’m reading Harlan Coben for my sins.

Stay in, stay horizontal, feed your ravenous brains.


1 Comment

  1. I have a suggestion about the virus that has now attacked our country (USA). Every day doctors and nurses wear masks when they are in the hospital to keep from contracting deadly diseases. Why do the companies who hire people to work, furnish all of their employees with masks so that they can go back to work. We do not need a complete shut down in our country. If we have a depression, which is what is going to happen, if we do not go to work. We will have more deaths from the depression than would ever happen with this virus. I am 74 years old and I remember reading stories about people in N.Y. that jumped out of windows, etc. to commit suicide. We do not want this to happen ever again.

    Also, this morning I was listening to a report on the TV and a lady who is the head of the diary association in the U.S. said that they were having to just pour out milk because they do not have any where to sell it. Maybe some of these organizations who help out during this time of crisis could pick up the milk and give it to those who do not have milk. As soon as I post this, I will be calling some of them. There is just so many things that we here in the wonderful country that we live in could do to help this process move along a lot faster.

    I have been on the phone myself calling my congressman and telling him to get the country opened back up. Also, we need to call not only our congressmen and congresswomen but also the senator’s of each state. I read an article about Hobby Lobby had their doors open in one state that had closed all the doors of business’s. The attorney general in that state was going after them. I contacted Hobby Lobby to tell that attorney general (who does not have much common sense) that their store is furnishing medical solutions so that people do not loose their mind or commit suicide. When people get depressed, if you can get them to do a hobby, they will be less depressed. Also, they could also do a hobby and give it to someone who is having problems, etc. There is just so many things that we as individuals can think of and do at this time.

    P.S. I grew up on a farm and still live on one. You have to think up all kinds of things to do when the crops fail but we do survive.

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