The Covid-19 Blues–while in France

At first this viral apocalypse was for me—as it has been for everyone—surreal, especially since we’d been in France in late February and early March and everything had felt so normal there. French people were going about their daily lives, drinking espresso, laughing in the streets, shopping in open air markets. Who knew there was a virus silently trying to infiltrate everyone’s bloodstream? We flew back to Canada just as news was starting to come out that France might not be so safe from Covid-19 after all. (We’ve finished our two-week isolation, and thankfully, don’t think we caught it.)

Back home in Wakefield, the situation was vaguely thrilling, like something out of a Don DeLillo novel, unprecedented in the modern world. School was cancelled, along with just about everything else. A feeling of “We’re all in this together!” vibe took over. But then it got scary as I suddenly no longer had any employment (I’m a supply teacher); and yesterday my writing job collapsed because it depends on a business being, you know, in business. Finally, our renter (we own a small rental property on which we owe a mortgage) told us that since his restaurant laid him off, he won’t be able to pay his rent and doesn’t know how long until he will be able to pay his rent because he doesn’t know how long this situation will last.

None of us knows how long this situation will last. That’s the problem.

This is no longer thrilling.

So I’m trying to figure out other ways to make money. Maybe I should start teaching writing classes online? I’ve been teaching writing classes in person for decades so why not online? This is my new plan. I just have to figure out how to set it up.

There’s always some kind of silver lining, even in the most dire circumstances. For one thing, the planet is getting cleaner as we’ve dramatically slowed the spewing of pollution into the air, land and water. Some people in Beijing claim they’re seeing the blue sky for the first time in their lives (in their lives!) and clear blue water and wildlife are returning to the Venice canals. I think of this crisis as the Earth screaming at us for all the damage we’ve caused her, as if she’s saying, “Enough! Clean up your act, people, or you’re kicked out!”

On the home front, instead of school work, my teenage son is teaching himself the guitar, which is probably more valuable in the long run, and also, lucky for me, he’s baking lots of chocolate chip cookies. The maple sap is starting to flow (so it’s not as if we’re going to starve or anything, with all that maple syrup on its way!) and finally, the river is open again. Even if we’re all cooped up we’ll still be swimming in the river, right, eventually?

What blows me away is this simple fact: We’re all at HOME. Nobody is out “doing” anything. Nobody is at school or work or in the cafes or bars or restaurants or cinemas or playing sports or shopping for anything except groceries. It’s hard to wrap your head around. I say to my son, “So what’s your friend Sam doing these day?” He’s at home, he tells me. Oh, right. We’re all at home. I keep forgetting.

We’ll all get through this. When we look back, we’ll realize what a historic time this has been. Nobody alive today remembers living through the 1918 Spanish Influenza. Now we’ll all have a story, many stories, of how we survived this, for better or worse, together.

Hard to believe this was taken in Avignon, France during the first week of March, 2020, everyone here ridiculously oblivious to a lurking virus.
It looks a lot more romantic in Van Gogh’s painting than the real thing. Like so much in life! I guess that’s why he was a great painter. (Arles, France)