Pandemic memory: is there anyone else on earth?

Lake Superior iceberg

In 2031 imagine your grandchild running into your kitchen grabbing a chocolate chip cookie and asking, “Grandma, what do you remember about the pandemic in 2020?”

What do you say? How do you describe this year with so many challenges and unexpected rays of sunshine? How do you reply about a year that has taken at least 1,566,088 lives worldwide thus far with this novel coronavirus?

Is there a single memory that rises above the others in your lexicon of recollections?

I have such an evocative impression that summarizes this pandemic year for me. I am not sure what it means–perhaps it doesn’t signify anything. But it haunts the bones and kidneys and larynx of this body, permeating every cell in a way I don’t understand.

Here is the pandemic story.

Imagine a March afternoon in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan is under lockdown orders. We must work from home, mask, socially distance. Don’t go out unless you have to, officials warn. Many are scared–what is this virus? Will it kill us, our loved ones, our friends? How lethal is it? The Unknown deals its deck of cards but we don’t yet know the rules to the game. We’re clueless.

Most of us stay home. The individual-rights faction has not yet gained their clamouring voices. (Or if they have, I’ve forgotten.)

You hover in your houses, buildings, apartments, condos, tiny homes. Only essential workers–the saints of our pandemic world–venture out. It’s March 2020 and cold shivers throughout the northern hemisphere. Spring hasn’t sprung, and maybe it will never appear again.

After long hours in the four-walled house, I pulled on twenty-year-old University of Michigan insulated pants, a gift from our son back in the day. Donned a matching U of M gray sweatshirt. Layered it with a cozy navy blue fleece jacket. Tied winter boots. Found knit hat and random gloves that didn’t match.

Opened the door and walked outside.

Etchings in frost

Winter ice sparkles everywhere.

The winter hush of snow blanketing the forest.

Crunch, crunch, crunch as the boots walked atop the plowed driveway toward the mailbox.

Fresh cold air shocking the lungs. Breathe in, breath out.

For a moment the pandemic is forgotten. All that exists: sparkling ice, snow, hush.

I turn on to the back-country road and walk up toward Townline Road, our main artery toward Skanee Road and town.

No tracks on the road anywhere.

No sign of human life.

No distant hum of traffic.

Is there anyone else on earth?

Oak leaves covered with snow

It’s an empty people-less world out here in the woods in March, 2020, as a pandemic begins its relentless climb toward hospitalizations and lingering symptoms and deaths.

I look around at this empty world and this sense of absolute aloneness arises. A thought appears: how do I know anyone else exists? What if I’m all alone in the world? What if I’m the only person on earth?

It’s like awakening in a lucid dream. Everything is crystal clear, hushed, ringing with potential. Everything is still. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright…

You’d think you might feel afraid and sad and panicked, but I did not. I somehow felt awed in this awake-dream, totally awed.

The world stood still.

Absolute hush.

Absolute aloneness.

Except. Except. Except.

The Holy is here, so real, so strong, so palpable, so shining, so shivering, so true.

No one. Anywhere.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the Presence in the absolute hush of aloneness?

That is what I remember at the core of 2020’s pandemic. That’s what my body recalls. That is what still sings through the ear, the eye, the red beating heart. If a grandchild ever makes his or her way unto this earth–that’s what I will try to convey.

(Or maybe not. It’s impossible to share stories like this in real-time isn’t it? I will say oh we Zoomed with your mama and daddy, I called your great-grandma every day, we stayed inside, and we walked outside, and we were sad because people died and happy because we tried to do our part and not spread the virus more than it was already spreading…)

Do you have a certain memory that stands out from this year? Something that defines the pandemic for you? When you think back is there a defining event that summarizes 2020?

Day 53 of a seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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46 Responses to Pandemic memory: is there anyone else on earth?

  1. dawnkinster says:

    That’s an interesting question, what will we remember most, what will stand out in our memories from all this. I’ll be 75 in 2031…wow…that in itself takes some thinking about. Anyway, right now the biggest memory is the sight of my brother-in-law in the back of the ambulance in our driveway, on his way to the hospital. That’s the last time I saw him, and I saw him there as I was running down mydriveway to my neighbor across the street who was hysterical becays her demented husband had wandered away again. It was a crazy night.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I got tears in my eyes reading that memory of your brother-in-lawing being taken away in the ambulance. And the poor demented man who had wandered away… Yes, that would be a memory that might stay for years to come.

  2. sherrysescape says:

    You raise interesting questions. I think I will remember the Thanksgiving Zoom that was so much more than a simple little meeting but rather a place where we congregated, were glad to see each other, talked to each other and listened to the answers and felt warmed in ways I had never thought was possible over an electronic device.

    • Kathy says:

      Sherry, I am glad these questions cause you to think. And your Zoom Thanksgiving sounds really spiritual and heartfelt and wonderful. Who knew we could connect so deeply over the Internet? So glad that your family gathered this way and supported each other over the holiday.

  3. Stacy says:

    I remember going out for the first time, 6 weeks after the confinement order. It was eerie how devoid of human life my region was. (I blogged about that day.) That is my most poignant memory. Maybe I’ll tell Granddaughter to read my blog post. 😉 XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for sharing your own memory of that spring void, Stacy. And what a good thought to think–that some day your precious granddaughter might read your blog post and feel what it was like for her grandma. Love that!

  4. enterprise55 says:

    Good thoughts Kathy. I myself don’t have a particular feeling of the pandemic. I’m retired and live in the country where I reside with my wife and the family dog Sammy. I am used to being alone and staying home so it really hasn’t impacted me as much as most people. I have had 3 friends die from the virus one was under 65. I do have a great deal of empathy for the people who still have to make a living and are forced to push out into the scary world out there. It’s a war within and if we don’t get serious about it it will win. I don’t have any answers but I do believe people will begin to take it more seriously and win. Sorry about rambling but you keep writing and I’ll get reading. Ray

    • Kathy says:

      Ray, I so appreciate that you took the time to write your thoughts here. I am so sorry that you’ve lost three friends from the virus. That’s too many friends to lose. I do hope more people will take this seriously so that more don’t have to lose their lives. Smiling thinking about you, your wife and Sammy. May you continue to be safe and well. And thanks for reading! I hope to be writing daily through the end of the month, and who knows what will happen after that?

  5. Susan D. Durham says:

    Love how you expressed your defining memory of this pandemic year. Yes, the absolute feeling of the presence of Holy while all about everything and everyone has gone silent. It was the first day of the March shutdown for me … and I could almost swear not one vehicle drove by while I was working alone in our office here. Not one soul passed by on the sidewalk. Not one phone call jangled the silence. It was eerie and fascinating all at once. And it did feel HOLY. Such stillness, alone-ness, but so very full of the Divine. Thank you for bringing this to the table today. I’d forgotten.

    • Kathy says:

      Susan–you’re saying something if not one car drove by during the whole time you were working in the office–because you’re in town. (I won’t say the “big city” lol.) So you understand how eerie and fascinating it was. Such an odd moment out of time that we’ll both probably remember forever.

  6. Carol says:

    I can’t think of a memory that calls to me – other than my complete frustration with the deniers, and many other things. As I started to express this frustration, I decided it would become a blog post on my blog. You have certainly raised a thought-provoking question, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I already wandered over to your blog and read your post, but I was in a town shopping an hour north, and it’s impossible to comment on my teeny tiny phone. Will try & re-read sooner than later and share my thoughts. But am VERY glad to have prompted a blog post from you!

  7. leelah saachi says:

    What I remember the time my daughter and I decided we WOULD hug each other. We bent our faces away – no skin contact – and hugged and hugged and hugged for what seemed forever. An d my body felt alive again. ( I live alone.)

    • Kathy says:

      Oh my, Leelah! This gave me shivers. So utterly beautiful. Wow. This reminds me of when I sometimes talk to my daughter way out in Oregon and say, “I’m gonna kiss you on the forehead now.” And I kiss her in my mind and ask if she “got it”. She always says yes.

  8. Pingback: Pandemic Memories | Wanderings of an Elusive Mind

  9. Debbie says:

    Right as the lockdowns were starting, I lost my beloved Sheltie to kidney disease, so for me, this has been an especially lonely, painful time. Compounding the anguish is not being able to visit family and friends, not being about to go to church, not being able to have our band concerts, and so many more “not-being-able-tos.” Nonetheless, I’ve found myself clinging tightly to the Holy and knowing — for certain — that this will eventually pass. And we’ll arrive at a new normal. Great thought-provoking post today, Kathy!

  10. Robin says:

    Thank you for this. You brought up a memory that I probably won’t tell my grandchildren because, as you mention, it’s hard to convey these things, but your memory reminded me of a similar experience early on. After we were locked down here in Maryland, I was going out for morning walks. I would tell my husband (who had to work from home, as did all state workers) that I was going out to the woods for my morning meeting. My yoga teacher had given me a piece of a hymn to sing (“… all I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you”) and I’d walk around singing it to the sun, the clouds, the trees. Sometimes, out near the dock where I have cellphone coverage, I would take out my phone and pull up Instagram to listen to Glennon Doyle (author of “Untamed”) who was holding her own live morning meetings discussing all manner of things that would go straight to my heart or bring up the tears I wasn’t crying. She would remind us that we can do hard things, and I needed to hear that then (and now, it seems — but she’s discontinued her morning meetings).

    One morning I sang to the trees, stopped to listen, and it felt as if the trees were singing back. Softly. “…all I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you…” In my heart, the Holy singing with the trees. Softly. “…all I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you…”

    And for a while, I too wondered if there was anyone else left on earth. It was a day or so after this that I went out for a bicycle ride and there was a woman standing on her porch, enjoying the lovely weather. We shouted and waved at each other and there was so much joy in that greeting so I found myself imagining that she, too, had wondered if there was anyone else left on earth.

    The whole hymn, by the way, is quite beautiful. I finally looked it up today, after months and months of singing just that one piece of it. I don’t know why I didn’t look before this. I suppose I felt content with just a piece of it. The part I sing is the refrain. The first few lines are:

    Deep the joy of being together in one heart
    and for me that’s just where it is. [Refrain]

    As we make our way through all the joys and pain, can we sense our younger
    truer selves? [Refrain]


    • Robin says:

      I’m thinking I should have just written a blog post. LOL! Sorry to write such a long comment. I’m feeling chatty today.

    • Kathy says:

      Your comment moved me so deeply yesterday, Robin, that I wanted time to digest it before responding. That song! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing that. My teacher sang it to us a year and a half ago–just that one line–“… all I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you”.

      I loved it and sang it for several months after that retreat but never realized until now that it was an actual song! Not just a snippet she made up. So had to google it and listen with awe and amazement. And am going to re-listen again and again.

      Thanks for sharing your own alone-on-the-earth story. It seems like several of us felt that so strongly. And you had the woman waving with love–that is beautiful and brings it all together so fully.

      Thank you, as always, dear Robin!

  11. Hmmm…travelling home from Hawaii, to a changed world. Airports and airplanes seemed dangerous when they were busy; I spoke to my grown daughter as if she were a small child, warning her, don’t touch…don’t forget…be careful. The same areas, as I got closer to home, were eerily silent. We waited sis hours in Detroit airport, and barely saw a dozen other people. Even the drive from Lansing north was changed. Restaurants and even rest stops seemed hardly worth the danger they presented. Home, hard to recognize the faces behind the masks. Definitely a changed world!

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, that is an eerie memory–one I’m sure you will remember for the rest of your life. And of course you would have to warn your grown daughter cuz we mothers are mothers always. My mom even tried to give me clothes advice last fall! Thank you for sharing this, so memorable.

  12. I captured the memory that defines the pandemic for me in this post, the first and last paragraphs…

  13. debyemm says:

    I own a book titled “Mass Dreams of the Future” by Chet B Snow. The subtitle is “Do we face an apocalypse or a global spiritual awakening ? The choice is ours.” I keep thinking I want to go back and re-read this now. It isn’t a new book (first published in 1989) and it deals partially with hypnotic future life progressions.

    I read yesterday that one of the best Fiction books of 2020 is “Agency” by William Gibson. The blurb says “Gibson’s sequel to The Peripheral takes place in both the near future and a distant one, where all of what modern society fears – climate change, pandemics, wars over resources – has slowly wiped out 80% of humanity.” I’m intrigued.

    I’ve been thinking for some time now that the planet is undergoing a purge by Mother Gaia. It is not a happy thought . . .

    • debyemm says:

      And I know, none of that answers your questions. My word for 2020 seems still appropriate while 20 more days remain – uncertainty.

      And more certainly, amazed works as well – how almost everything can stop so quickly – at least for a little while.

      • Kathy says:

        No worries–ever!–about answering my questions or not. They are just props for encouraging people to share from their heart, if that feels right for them.

    • Kathy says:

      Sometimes I wonder about that purge, too, Deb. Not a happy thought–never a happy thought. But I do wonder. Our species has been decimating the planet for so many years. Thanks for sharing those book titles and your thoughts.

  14. Same, Kathy. There was so much nothing at the start, the world stood still. Creepy. Somehow I think extending that period would have saved so many lives. My heart breaks.

    • Kathy says:

      Every day it can feel heart-breaking reading the numbers. Just yesterday, the US broke another record with between 3100-3200 deaths. In one day! Heartbreaking indeed.

  15. Kathy says:

    Robin, do you have a special version of this song on YouTube or elsewhere?

  16. Reggie says:

    I so resonated with your story, Kathy. Although we live in a city and not in the middle of a forest like you, we had a similar experience, that first morning (I think it was the 1st of May) when we were allowed to step outside our front door, ONLY between the hours of 6am and 9am, to go for a walk and exercise in the fresh air. This was at a time of year, when it was still fairly dark until 7h30 and it was getting rather chilly and wet, heading towards winter. So having our ‘outside time’ limited to those hours – when we were more likely to catch a cold or a chill, or more likely to get mugged because there were hardly any people about before sunrise, except for those who weren’t just out for an innocent stroll – was pretty idiotic.

    I too remember how we felt when we tied on our masks, wrapped ourselves up in scarf and jacket, and headed out for our very first walk after weeks of staying at home. I felt apprehensive, exhilarated, nervous, joyful, all mixed together. There had been so many reports of police and the military being very aggressive towards people ‘breaking the rules’ or not keeping enough distance or chatting and ‘socialising’ (even while wearing masks). But most of all, I remember how excited we felt, when we saw neighbours walking their dogs in the distance – people shouted greetings and waved to each other, everyone was friendly and soooo happy to be allowed outside at last. It was magical. We marveled at our surroundings, and absorbed it all – the neighbouring streets and houses and trees we hadn’t seen in many weeks… There’s a border collie nearby that I always visited – she was ecstatic to see me, and long tummy rubs ensued! 😀

    I also remember us walking down to the nearby Bakery for our very first cappuccinos since Lockdown started at the end of March – oh my word! We were sooo glad that they had survived the Lockdown and hadn’t gone under, like so many other businesses, and like many people, we left big tips for the staff, as a way of trying to make up for the lost weeks and to say thank you for hanging in there. That first takeaway cappuccino was the best we had ever tasted…! Lol!

    • leelah saachi says:

      Reggie, it is so wonderful to read your memory of how we all felt we all were in the same “box” – almost all smiled at strangers who were no strangers anymore – we KNEW the same freedom we felt – the smiles were genuine – and it was not weird to smile at strangers – there was this feeling of having all this in common – a true bonding

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, this is so utterly beautiful. I am feeling the marvel of it. The joy in the midst of lockdown and sorrow. The freedom and the respect. Thank you so much for sharing this. Would love to share a cappuccino with you one of these days… ❤

  17. This is a beautiful, haunting description of your experience Kathy. The first lockdown was like a pause to me, I enjoyed its silence and its sense of possibility.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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