In 25 years a younger person – our children or a grandson or a niece – will turn to us and ask “What was it like when the virus came? What did people do? How did you live?”

I’d want to tell them about the prom dress that my friend’s daughter ordered, and which arrived in the mail for a prom that won’t be happening. How I imagined a prom held in a great, open field, all the kids slow dancing six feet apart, moving through the tall grasses, together.

How I bought flowers at the market on that last day before they told us to go home – even though they were overpriced and unremarkable. It was a stand for beauty. And the tiny cupcakes I put in my cart, the good wine and chocolate.

I’d tell them about the unspoken etiquette of encountering someone on the sidewalk as we walk the neighborhood, the way one of you will veer away, not entirely un-politely, sometimes looking up with a small nod. I see you.

The way even though most of the people I see on my walks are neighbors I don’t know, there is more eye contact, more community – something that you can feel that tethers us together.

I’d tell them how my 24-year-old daughter, Ruby looked up from her work at the kitchen table yesterday and said that she knew she should be more shocked by this, but that she’d grown up in an age where people took guns into movie theaters and concerts, and children brought guns to school and killed other children. “I’m just not that surprised,” she said.

And how it took me a second to register what she was saying, to consider the world she had grown up in, the kind of numbness that must have set in. How watching people kill one another was just a click away. Something we lined up and paid to see. Movies about contagions and the end of the world. All the televised trauma, how normalized it was. The way it must live in our bodies.

And I wonder what our appetite for that will be on the other side of this?

On the other side of this.

The way my mailman knocked on my door today, and as I cracked it open he said, “I have three packages that need signatures, but I’ll sign for you.” The kiss I blew him.

How my next door neighbors suddenly disappeared without warning. I’d heard he was sick a few weeks ago – now their cars are gone. An email from them tells me they’re fine – just hiding.

The many stores I pass on the street with hand written notes taped to the door, “closed until further notice.”

This bowl of tangerines on my kitchen table that are going bad. A week ago I might have thrown them in the compost, but today every piece of fruit is sacred – nothing wasted – especially gifts from mother earth, a term I’m not prone to use because I did not consider the earth my mother.

The homeless man sheltering in place, curled up in a dirty blanket on the steps of the church.

The term, Sheltering in Place, which we had never heard before.

The blush that comes over my younger sister’s face when we ask her on Zoom if she is still seeing the surgeon she met on Tinder, and how we make room for the people we want to touch.

And now there is talk of Passover on Zoom, and birthday parties, happy hours and dinner parties. My cousin Tom, a rabbi, does his services on FaceTime, and my friend Michael reads Stuart Little and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to his grandchildren on Zoom every night.

The bath my friend Sunny and I took on FaceTime last week, she in her bathtub in Oakland and me in mine in Alameda. How she said she felt like we were four. The walk we took a day later – she in her part of town, me in mine, walking for miles on the phone.

The way my second cousin Gretchen in Boston, someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in years, reached out to find out if my youngest daughter was still living in the East, told me Zoe could stay with them if she was there. How large and far flung a family can feel, and how quickly you circle up tight you when you need each other.

Artists, writers and dancers springing up like flowers to share their work with us. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live cam of their tanks – the jellyfish and the shark tank – my favorites. Watching 42 choreographers dance to one piece of music, Robbie Robertson and musicians from 5 continents coming together to sing one song. (links below)

So much beauty it almost makes you happy, it almost makes you forget.

What did we do when the virus came? We made art. We made music. We made love. We lived.

Friends, be well. Take good care. Let’s stay in contact.


Photo credit: Susan Kaufer Carey

27 Wilder Days | Laurie Wagner

Now more than ever, writing is a beautiful way to chart our course through these times. If you’d like to begin your practice today, here are 27 beautiful and short videos to get you on your way.