COVID-19 Nonfiction Reading Reflection

Pictures in Time.

The rocks of the mountain beneath your feet broke apart before you were born. Glaciers carved the valley before your eyes before your grandparents were alive. Trees towering overhead on this west coast sprouted before the ships from far away landed on the east coast. All of this was here long before you arrived and will persist long after you are gone.

History precedes you and the future remains unknown while you live in the present, where a pandemic persists. This tiny county that holds giant mountains reported two new deaths from Covid-19 this past week, leading to a total of 13 deaths over the course of this cursed pandemic. This number seems paltry compared to the 1,812 deaths in the county you live in, but for each death, many mourn.

Someone offered this idea to me a few years ago: You know those days when you feel sad, though there are no obvious, logical reasons as to why you feel sad? Maybe someone, somewhere, has died and there is no one left to grieve that death. Your sadness is a mourning of that death.

Maybe that, in part, is what we’re all experiencing now.

(I also did not realize that newspaper boxes are mirrors. Exhausted health care workers don’t expect to see exhausted health care workers on the front page of the local paper.)

Though we are exhausted—in varying degrees—and may wonder why we “spend” “our” time doing this work, perhaps this is how time is choosing to use us. Oliver Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Weeks is a gentle yet firm reminder that our time is finite, that only planning for the future logically means that we should only plan for death. That is what awaits all of us in our futures, right?

I highly recommend this book. (Bonus reason, beyond the content of the book: Mr. Burkeman sent a personal reply when I sent him a thank you note!) This choice did not diminish me; it enlarged me.

Sometimes reading about the past brings clarity to the present. The model Wilkerson puts forth in Caste about the relative status of Americans resonates with me (i.e., the actual issue is a caste system, where “race” is often the indicator). Her model better explains the interpersonal and inter-group dynamics of the US compared to solely race-based models. I also highly recommend this book.