Pandemic journal: The Tide Comes In

Drafted during Ericka Lutz’s Writing in Place virtual workshop, March 22 (Day 9 of voluntary social distancing)


The hope is that this is a sort of reset button for us all, that we might learn from this, that old traditions and structures that don’t serve our communities get dismantled, that the new rituals and rhythms and tools and skills and connections we build during this moment will be strong and robust and flexible enough to grow something new to take the place of the old forms, that true leaders emerge and more people see the failures of the old power structures, that more comes from the grassroots and less from the entrenched old guard, that we can fully reject what’s rotten and self-serving and more powerfully lift up what benefits more people and distributes resources to where they are most needed.

The fear is that this won’t happen, that those already most vulnerable are the first and the most to die, that those already with power and money and connections are the best insulated and the easiest to regroup, that might and weapons seize power and don’t relinquish it, that chaos and violence and instability take over, that people live in fear and panic, that some people will be (stay) forgotten, that some people will be (again) blamed, that people will be so eager to return to a semblance of normal that they abandon all the new growth the instant it looks like it’s safe to do so, that false leaders with empty promises will emerge, and speak to fear, that people hoard, that they’ll steal, that structures will collapse and not be replaced by anything, that yet this could not manage to oust a demagogue, that even in the best outcomes, millions have to die.

But it could be a reset. It could be a pause, even, if it’s not a reset, and there weren’t pauses before or ways to get them. This could pause (reverse?) the climate crisis. This could decrease (eliminate?) support for family separations and inhumane confinement of any human or animal. This could spur people to be more mindful with their resources and less dependent on capitalism and consumption. This could increase support for (and implement?) universal health care, worker protections, universal basic income, child care, access. This could halt war (???).

It seems overly optimistic to hope for this much but also, war has changed whole societies and cultures and socialscapes, and this may not be war in quite the same way but it shares many features with it. Homemade masks are like victory gardens. Sheltering in place is a bit like citywide blackouts. If only we had leaders we trusted to address us weekly and give us a sense of shared purpose! 


The tide comes in and the tide goes out, the tide being fear, despair, anxiety, grief, isolation, panic, tension, pessimism, hopelessness. The tide also being relief, a sense of control, comfort, feelings of safety, palpable community, peace, calm, ease, rest, any semblance of normal.