I went for a long run on the beach this morning. The only sign that other people had been there were footprints in the sand, but at that early hour it was just me and the seagulls, and a woman wading in the surf with her small child. There was little traffic on the Coast Highway, and the after-rain sky was clean and clear, edged with clouds. If I didn’t know why everything was so peaceful and lovely, I’d have been ecstatic. But of course I do know. California has been mostly shut down. Businesses are closed, streets are empty, cities that are usually crowded and bustling are eerily quiet. There is a sadness to it, you can feel it everywhere, and I’m not sure what to do about that, or if anything can be done about it.

As a writer, I’m used to being alone. But this is different. Usually, when life is normal, I know I can drive for 10 minutes and be around people shopping, walking sight-seeing. There is something solid and comforting about knowing that a bustling city is close by. I have a dependable routine of starting my day at the gym. I not only rely on my trainer, but I’m used to the community of people who populate my mornings. Now I’m going on solitary hikes or beach runs by myself. It seems to me we all have to find a way to sink into this and find things in this isolated state that feed us, nurture us, that will stay with us when it ends, which it will at some point.

So I’m paying close attention to how strangers seem to be smiling at each other and offering greetings whereas before, we all just passed by anonymously. I’m taking note of the sound of birds singing on streets where the din of traffic usually overwhelmed all else. And the way we ask each other, “How are you doing?” like we really want to know and aren’t just tossing out words. I wonder if we can stay this way, after the orders for our isolation are lifted and Coronavirus isn’t the only news story. I wonder if we can return to our busy lives but still take time for some of the softness, some of the more peaceful moments that we drifted into because of this crisis.

There are going to be the inevitable horrible consequences — businesses that might not survive, people who can’t recover what they’ve lost financially, whose lives are permanently changed. That might be even more reason to extract something from this that makes us feel better about ourselves. That allows us to say, I learned to slow down a little bit, I became more willing to offer a friendly word to passersby, I figured out how to take time for myself in silence and reflection. It’s humbling when there is a situation engulfing you that you have no control over, and we are all in that place now. We are all frightened, and we are all looking for hope. Maybe finding things to be hopeful about should be a daily exercise that we remember to do. Maya Angelou said, “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.”



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