Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The terrible waiting

"Figure on the beach" by Oliver Dixon is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

My amazing and utterly competent husband is many things - a physician, race car driver, musician, skilled chef, amateur radio operator, among others - but one thing he is not is a poet. The heightened language, the metaphors, the alliteration, these he leaves for me.

Yesterday, he said that he feels as if he's on the beach in the moment before the tsunami wave roars in to scour the sand. The water is gathering in the far distance. He can almost see it. He knows it's coming. There is no way to run far enough or fast enough to outpace its power.

He's a doctor at a Boston teaching hospital. For two weeks, they have been sounding the alarm and doing their best to prepare. He and his colleagues are on the front line of a war that far too many of us still refuse to believe is already here.

Some are literally frolicking on the beach, pretending that by acting normally, life will be normal. Or somehow convinced they are protected by virtue of their magical thinking.


When I was in college, I studied how epidemics and pandemics changed society. Plague, typhus, cholera, influenza, polio - these kinds of diseases have always been with us. Epidemiologists and public health folks have known for decades and decades that it was only a matter of time before another pandemic would sweep across the globe. It's why public health is concerned with clean air and water, in vaccines, and in ameliorating poverty. All things that we seem to have decided are less important that accumulating wealth and resources and concentrating them in as few hands as possible.

We have been so dangerously complacent. Even now, there are those who can't believe they will be affected. Who believe that their wealth or privilege or technology will save them. 

And even if it somehow saves them from contracting Covid-19, it will not save them from the aftermath.  


After this wave recedes, it will leave behind a landscape we won't recognize. I wonder if we have the empathy and the wisdom and the humility to navigate it.

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  1. It will be a new world, but we are not alone. It will be one we can travel in with friends.

    1. Thank you. That is a lovely image to hold onto.