A couple of months back, when Americans arbitrarily declared victory over Covid-19 and went off to the the beach, prudent people knew what would happen next. In my home state things have opened up with caution, but not cautiously enough for me. I have no intention of going forth into the world, except to take long walks and forage for food, until a vaccine tilts the odds in my favor.
It’s not that I’m any less weary of the routine than anyone else. I miss friends and family. Zoom’s not too bad, but you can’t hug a computer. Still, my wife and I are better off than most. We’re healthy for a pair of geezers, well fed, have no significant financial stress, and, best of all, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. There are some periods when we feel at loose ends, but generally, we keep busy. Sandy continues making art while I prepare meals, write and work on improving my guitar skills.
Our trip to Italy, planned for April, got cancelled. Since I’d been a slacker about brushing up on my Italian, my plan was to use the empty time of sheltering in place to really hit the Italian language CDs. Then, whenever the trip got rescheduled, I’d get off the plane speaking like a native. Ah. The best laid plans. Not a word of Italian has passed my lips yea these long months. Truth be told, my disappointment at the cancellation had been mixed with a good dose of relief. Relief to be spared the hassles of air travel that seem to get worse with each trip, and, yes, the need to try again, after two previous not entirely successful attempts, to master the language of love.
All set to catch up on classic literature, I found myself attracted to the lighter stuff. I’d recovered from a running injury and was contemplating using some of the extra time to push myself back into good running shape. But walking with my sweetie was so much more enjoyable, and, with my competition days behind me, why should I run myself into yet another injury? I’d toyed with getting to work on the next volume of the Lester series, but decided, with things the way they are, it would be better to put that off until after the elections, if ever. How interested am I, anyhow, in writing yet another book that will surely languish in obscurity? If I’m remembered at all, it won’t be as a novelist.
Remembered? Let’s be serious. like the vast majority of people who have arrived on and departed this world, once I’m gone, any trace or my brief visit will surely and swiftly evaporate into the mists of time. Maybe that should make me depressed, but it doesn’t. It’s freeing. Ultimately, there’s nothing to prove, no legacy to nurture.
In this time when the comfort of a good meal is more important than ever, cooking, always a passion, has become an obsession. Not just a refuge and a place to pass the excess time on my hands, my kitchen is my art studio while Sandy creates visual art in hers. It’s a challenge to create nutritious and delicious meals without wasting a morsel of what I’ve hunted and gathered during my infrequent, death defying forays into the wilds of the supermarket.
One of my guiding beliefs has been that, in thanks for the gift of life, we must strive to do our best in all things. The pandemic, though, led me to a mountaintop where a minuscule merchant of death offers up an alternative credo. The virus, most basic of life forms, reminds us that the only set purpose of life is to survive and procreate. Activities that don’t directly support these tasks, worthwhile and amusing they may be, are optional. Grudgingly, I proffer this unlikeliest of gurus a portion of gratitude. It bids me to accept, maybe a little sooner than I had planned to, what we all must accept as time takes its toll. Ultimately, our horizons must narrow, our powers fade. Some dreams must remain unfulfilled. Our irrelevance stands out in bold relief. The brevity of life and the finality of death cease to be mere abstractions.
From a mindless microbe comes this lesson: To relax is no sin. To abandon the pursuit of illusory perfection is no shame. Life itself is its own purpose. Perhaps for some of us the greatest achievement is finally to come to terms with our limitations, to let go of what is beyond our control. In true humility, we must learn to live simply, taking pleasure from the simple act of living.