The lilacs are blooming. I can smell them through the open windows, their scent wafting into my home on a warm, gentle breeze. It’s a beautiful day and somehow that just makes everything more surreal, more strange. The outside world is coming in and, in these days of lockdown and disinfectants, that’s a dangerous thing.
I know that I’m being silly, know that coronavirus isn’t carried on the wind like a leaf or a bird. I know that I’ve taken appropriate safety measures, and I still worry that I’ll wake up with a sore throat, fatigue, and decreased senses of taste and smell. And I wonder about what will happen to me if and when this happens. These are the times we live in.
Like millions of Americans, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home and not much time with other people. Smelling the lilacs today, I realized that my life now fits into two categories: safe and unsafe. Inside is safe; outside is not.
I live alone in the middle of the woods. At first this was a big win for me. Living alone and isolated meant that I would be safe as long as I avoided other people, public places, and people in public places. I thought that, with enough groceries and canned goods, I could wait this out in relative comfort.
My plan worked until a few days ago, when the cloth face masks I’d ordered hadn’t arrived on schedule and I was starting to run out of food. My mom, who’s been participating in the new national pastime of mask-making, offered to give me a mask or two until my order arrived. I was hesitant to leave the safety of home, but it was the only feasible solution to an increasingly urgent problem.
It was a short and pleasant visit, made a bit awkward by the new norms of social distancing and avoiding contact with others. These measures are necessary, though. Since all this began, the people close to me have gently but firmly reminded me to be careful because I have an autoimmune disease that would almost certainly create problems should I also become infected with coronavirus. “Be safe,” they say in a way that I know means, “please don’t die.”
In a way, this is familiar territory for me. When I was undergoing chemotherapy I was taught that other people are dangerous. Now, years later, I’m chemo-free but still have to be mindful of the dangers others pose. I’ve found myself making mental notes of every possible exposure and counting days for symptoms to appear. Every cough, every sniffle is cause for alarm. It’s exhausting.
I’m sure we’re all exhausted. The new normal isn’t exactly easy and a different future feels abstract and far away. It’s best to take this one day at a time, to live in the moment and make meaning in every day. Try planning only a day or two in advance, and continue to be as safe as possible when going into public and interacting with other people. Wear masks and wash your hands often. Isolation is working to flatten the curve; we just have to keep on keeping on.
This is why the lilacs are important. The lilacs remind me that the world hasn’t ended, that there is still life and beauty in the midst of a pandemic. What we are experiencing is temporary and this too shall pass. In time we will be able to gather with friends and family, to hug each other and share smiles that aren’t hidden by colorful cloths or N95 masks. The lilacs remind me of that life in the future and help me remember now, in the present, that the danger is not the entire world but only a virus.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.