A Bizarre Day – March 19, 2020

Today is the first day of spring. It’s overcast and chilly, so we head out for a walk warmly dressed in winter clothes. March in Toronto is ugly: snow has disappeared, refuse once hidden under snow is visible, and vegetation is brown and messy.

Today is particularly depressing because the city, in fact, the whole world, is in distress. The novel coronavirus is spreading like wildfire so we have been ordered to practice “social distancing.”

What does that mean? All schools, universities, restaurants, places of worship, bars, fitness facilities, sports clubs, and many businesses and stores are closed. Shut up tight as a drum with a typewritten notice posted on the door explaining “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak…” Only coffee shops are open. All chairs are up-ended and only takeout wares can be purchased. We walk briskly, hoping to improve our moods with healthy exercise. It works a little.

As we pass a whole block of closed establishments, a surreal image comes to mind. Perhaps an invisible, odourless gas has seeped under each door and killed the building’s occupants. It certainly looks as though everybody has died because lights are turned off and all is still. Somehow this grey quiet reminds me of Ingmar Bergman movies of the 1950s and 60s. The streetscape is monotone today.

The beings we pass fall into two categories: wee children play and dogs sniff as though nothing is out of the ordinary; everybody else strides along with purpose making sure to maintain the required distance from others. Couples stroll in private conversation keeping to themselves as they obviously cohabit. I hope they are happy together. It would be hell-on-earth to have to self-isolate with a partner one no longer loved.

We healthy retirees have it made. Our regular lives are just a delicious rotation of hobbies, sports, entertainment, volunteering, shopping, dinners out, church services, and being with friends. Everything in that list is presently eliminated except the first – hobbies. My husband paints a lot and I write every day.

What dreadful challenges are being thrust upon schoolkids, students, those striving to feed their family. I can only contribute to food banks and tell loved ones, “This too shall pass.”

It is my strong faith that life will revert to a new, improved version that first stimulated me to write this piece. Life will not always be this stark. Beauty and laughter will return.

– Pat Butler

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