At this one-year anniversary of the pandemic, I am remembering the moment I was first struck by the spell of Covid. I was about to start dancing in the studio of my Tango class when my teacher insisted that we must first go to the bathroom and scrub our hands. Who knew that this hand scrubbing was just the beginning of a radical change of life that would last months and months? And now, looking back, I see it’s been one year!
And, it wasn’t just my life that changed. It was yours. It was everyone’s. The whole world was soon affected by a situation of mythic proportions.
By the end of March, we were quarantining at home. The suddenness of the world as we knew it had stopped––as if a spell had been cast. My Tango was frozen in mid-step, as in the fairy tale of Briar Rose. When the princess’ finger is pierced by a spinning wheel, the spell, cast on her at birth, is activated by the needle. This puts her into a hundred-year sleep. Everyone in the land falls asleep in the act of whatever they were doing at the moment.
Do you remember what you were doing? I wonder what posture or activity you were in the middle of when the spell of the pandemic froze you in place? Because of the nature of quarantine, most of us have been more isolated, perhaps, than ever before. Just as in the fairy tale, every person in the kingdom has been affected. The virus has not distinguished individuals by social class, economic status, or ethnic background.
In a version of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, when the prince kisses the princess, the whole kingdom wakes up. The horses and dogs get up and even the flies in the kitchen begin to move! The cook for all these years has held out her hand because she has been about to grab the scullery boy. When the spell is broken, she boxes his ear and he lets out a scream. A maid has been about to pluck a hen––and now she finally begins to do so. The king and queen and the whole court look at each other in astonishment.
And, amazingly, like the sleepers waking up when the kiss breaks the spell, I am feeling renewed by the kiss of the vaccine needle. I am back in motion in ways I had not been during the pandemic. Although I have not yet resumed my tango, I did immediately go back to the swimming pool at the recreation center. Now, like all of us, in this “waking up from the spell,” I must integrate what has changed for the better.
Many classes (all except swimming!) work just as well on Zoom. Virtual classes have brought new vistas into my learning. I hope all of them won’t return to in-person experiences. It has been exciting to be in class with other students from all over the world. I have interacted with people from every country in Great Britain and Europe. I have met classmates from Dubai, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. Several teachers would never have considered teaching virtually prior to the pandemic.
As we are kissed by the vaccine, I hope we will not be like the cook and continue to box the scullery boys’ ears. After our long period of isolation, I hope we can let go of petty angers, jealousies, and “me-first-isms.” Rugged individualism has been a cultural value. Where it has hung on, it is time for it to go. The isolation of Covid demonstrates that we need community. Haven’t we all learned that it is not the survival of the fittest individuals that matters?
Recently, I have been thinking about how all the cells of my body work together in harmony. My body is one big community made of many smaller communities. Communities operate in nature. I look out my long glass windows every day at the big beautiful tree right in front of my patio. At the bottom of the steep drop-off are numerous trees that surround my property. They support each other. When one is in need, the others send nourishment:
“A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a ‘wood wide web’ of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods.”
? Tim Flannery, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World
Storytelling is my way of creating community that nourishes our connection to inner wisdom. Covid has made it even clearer to me how myth offers imaginative ways of thinking about our past, our present, and our future. I hope that my storytelling about Briar Rose and the pandemic will help awaken you to imagine your future after Covid.
This is cross-posted from Jane Knox’s blog The Ageless Goddess