Life in the Time of Corona
Patricia Edmisten is retired from the University of West Florida where she directed the office of International Education and Programs. Her two years in Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer influenced the direction of her life. She is a social justice activist and the author of eight books. www.patriciaedmistenbooks.com
Our church service having been cancelled because of Corona, my husband and I decided to commune with the Almighty at the beach. We knew that Pensacola beaches would be closed, but we thought that the nearby Fort Pickens entrance to the National Seashore might still be open. Usually, even on weekends, we can find a long stretch of gleaming white sand all to ourselves. Alas, the Seashore was also closed. Our world was getting smaller. We had been counting on “our” beach to restore claustrophobic spirits, a place where we could clear our minds, think about things eternal, and forget about Corona and her wicked ways.
Undaunted, we were determined to find an accessible patch of beach, but we didn’t want to break any rules. Instead, we stretched them. We drove back east to Pensacola Beach and stopped at one of the public boardwalks leading down to the sand. We set up our chairs at the very bottom of it so, technically, we were not “on” the beach. Because the tide was low, we were pretty far from the water, but we sighed with satisfaction. The lifeguards who patrolled the empty beach in a roving vehicle even waved to us.
Now, three months into physical isolation, we wonder what the future will hold for our family, especially for the young members whose dreams seem to be on lockdown. As elders, we selfishly wonder if the restricted way we’ve been living in recent months will continue the same until our lives end. No more summer trips to the mountains of North Carolina? No more family reunions at the farmhouse? No more Sunday worship listening to the joyful music of the St. Joseph Gospel Choir or to the more traditional hymns of the Senior Advanced Choir? No more free and easy lunches with my women friends? No more opera? No more open mics? Given the November elections, we also worry about the nation’s political future. How will people vote? In person, risking their health and maybe their lives, or by mail-in ballot?
Our hearts ache for those who languish in crowded refugee camps and war-torn nations—those who don’t have access to enough food, testing, health care, and clean water. We wonder if the individualism that has shaped this country will soften when, as a people, we realize the extent to which our destinies are ultimately shared with peoples whose racial, economic, and cultural characteristics may be different from our own. For now, however, we stare at the relentless waves breaking upon the shore, as if they held the answers. After all, they will continue to break long after this Corona has been vanquished.