Lost in the Woods

The thing about this pandemic is that it keeps on going. Every time there is a little breather, something else happens, like insane, ill-informed, white people storming our nation's Capital. As the COVID numbers soar and restrictions tighten again, I take another deep breath and tell myself that this is possible. We can do this. We have adapted thus far and we will keep going.

This time in my life feels like being lost in the woods for an indeterminate length of time. Eventually, lost in the woods, I would figure some things out. I'd figure out how to eat leaves and berries. I'd watch the birds and the beavers build their homes and figure out a way to construct some kind of shelter for myself. I'd get used to the perils of the forest and I'd adapt. My hair would grow long, offering me protection from the cold. My GI system would toughen up and I'd be able to drink water from the creeks and streams. I'd make friends with the animals. I'd learn how to dress wounds with moss from the trees and make a blouse from the pulp of a nurse log. Eventually I might even forget what my life before looked like. Cell phones and grocery stores would become a distant memory and I'd learn to be comfortable singing to myself and spending long hours watching chipmunks gather nuts. I'd transform into a different species, evolved from where I am now. If I had to return to my old life, I'd seem wild, feral.

What will we become when this is over? And what does "over" really mean? I don't think there's a going back to where we were. And personally, I don't want to go back there. This extreme challenge in our humanity has forced so many sensations, thoughts and feelings to the surface. Did I ever really like drinking red wine at a crowded bar? Not really. Do I miss being away from my home for 8-10 hours a day for work? No. In adapting through this period in history, we have each evolved into a new incarnation of ourselves. Like being lost in the woods, we've figured out how to eat dinner outside in the cold, go for weeks without being in the physical presence of anyone other than our household people or pets and the grocery store clerk. We've evolved into learning how to manage deep grief and intense fear.

So what does it mean to go back to "how things were?" When we try to go back to the way things used to be will we appear savage and untamed? It might not be quite that extreme, but I think we'll notice. I think we might be socially awkward, tentative, unsure and on edge when the world starts to transition back. When I think about being lost in the woods it feels scary, but also kind of thrilling, even romantic, to be able to learn all of those new skills, to commune with nature in a wholly new way. I feel that now as well, in the life changes I've made in the pandemic. It's more work, coordination, and organization to have dinner with a friend outside, but it's kind of exciting too. And it feels like a major accomplishment when I can pull it off.

Yes, life is really hard right now. We're lost in the woods. We're learning new skills to survive in this different habitat. We're figuring things out, adjusting to the elements, the diversity of wildlife, and the dangerous predators in our midst. But little by slowly we are figuring it out. We've survived in the woods this long and I have faith that we can keep going.