In the crossroad of time, we are passing strange phases. Life seems to be like hourglasses filled with anxiety as fear. The ongoing pandemic and the havoc it has brought in the world have caught us unprepared. All that fear riddles the mind in weird ways. After I heard about a bear sighting in the neighbour's yard, imagined bears everywhere around our house. The summer has bushes and hedges growing profusely around the yard, plants that spread their tentacles way beyond the fences and over the ground. The heaps of vines and branches entangled unevenly remind me of crouching bears, and all were after me. But we can't blame the minds during the ongoing threats of COVID-19 if we have turned into hypochondriacs, less or more. A sneeze, a cough that holds the breath longer than usual: and worry notes kick in, 'Oh, God spare me from the virus.'
A few days ago came the news of another bear in my friend's yard in Old Belchertown, ten minutes' drive from our house. And then I heard the radio news about big bears out of hibernation and looking for food around the town as well. So I kept myself much to the safety of the deck and hoped that a bear would not dare climb up the wooden stairs and get me. Adding fuel to the fire, my cousin in Vancouver, over a Facebook chat, said that the bears in VC were known to open doors and enter houses in search of food. A lady who left the back door open came back to find a bear drinking chilled beer from her fridge. Alas! The summer and its much-anticipated joy went hiding with the threat of bears everywhere, even waiting to jump into the swimming pool when I was in the water.
In our Amherst home, the family members seldom go out of the neighbourhood. But the home deliveries from Amazon and other shopping delivery come with added tension. The sight of the cardboard boxes on the porch send SOS to the haunted mind; were the boxes exposed to the virus on the way? The mailbox stares threateningly, the letters inside it. Despite carrying some good news, I pick the mail, hoping that a virus is not sitting on them. That small virus! It managed to cut the daily drops of happiness. So much we took for granted suddenly come with more significant dues to pay, those ordinary times didn't get notes of appreciation every day. It seems weird that saying a 'Hi" to my neighbours has to be from at least six feet away. We cannot share a few hugs or two with our friends. Sigh!
The strange spring and summer of 2020 sail on; I wonder if the flowers, bees, and butterflies miss their human admirers, not too many people are out in the parks. If you are a child of nature and cherish the colours in the flowers that come like waves in the warm weather, keeping the face mask on while you hike isn't happy news. But humans are creatures of habit, and suddenly, people who never sewed a button are working with their needles. Facebook has posts of non-cooking friends becoming expert cooks, the daily journal writing for some is turning into full-length manuscripts, and some have taken the days of stay-home into house painting days. For the knitting people, yarns are not waiting for the routine wintertime to make sweaters in New England, but knitting is good while one is stuck home for the pandemic.
Pandemics have visited the Earth before, and lives were lost, but I wonder if nature is taking its toll because of how humans damage the environment, pollute the air, land, and the sea. We have to admit that being the intelligent species and often we think less of the wellbeing of the universe. We are forever chasing temporary pleasures in worldly life and hurting nature. On some short walks around the neighbourhood, I see the signs, "Black Lives Matter," and think of the police brutality on the black people in the USA. Beneath our skin, we all have the common thread of red in blood, how is one lesser than the other? When we allow the blood to unite us into the universal brotherhood of love and compassion, the universe shall smile too. And with the thoughts of schools re-opening across the USA, many questions are keeping us sleepless. How do the parents live with the fear of constant fear that their son or daughter may be the next victim of racism in America? And that is the re-opening of schools safe for the students and the staff?
The life-threatening COVID-19, the sad plights of refugees fleeing for life, racial disparity: the list of unsettling things on the Earth is endless. It is time to learn lessons from our past mistakes and take wiser steps. The universe does not accept injustice, and the present crisis in the world is its way of slowing down the humans to remind them that the Earth is not a gift, that we pay with our losses. With all the worries on our minds, nightmares wake us up in the middle of the night. Our thoughts do not trick us with unnecessary fear. These are strange times, and we are genuinely concerned about the future plight of the human race: is the pandemic a beginning to the humans getting extinct?
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, the USA