Where there’s a sunbeam, there’s a temporary solution to many of life’s problems. Even when I was a little kid and I got stressed out, I sought out a sunbeam to lie in. You can find them practically anywhere. Ok, so I might not try this at the office but for now it’s in the master bedroom. I move the seldom used faux-leather recliner into position, strap on my headphones, find “Dawn of Light” by Mike Wall (highly recommended) and lean back into the 3X5 delicately dusted beam of bright white light projecting onto the carpeted floor. I know I only have roughly an hour before the sunlight passes beyond the window’s frame, leaving me in the cold shadow of my bedroom wall.
With a slightly reduced intensity, the sunlight passes through my close eyelids. I immediately begin to form images in my head and I’m transported not to a time, but to a place. That place is Cherry Valley, Prince Edward Island; specifically, my paternal grandparent’s tiny, single-level burgundy coloured home on the Northeast corner of Georgetown Road and the Trans-Canada Highway. The house is still there today, albeit under new ownership, restfully staring Southwest toward the Northumberland Strait (which separates Prince Edward Island from Nova Scotia). In my vision, I am alone. No people, no cars zipping by on the Trans-Canada Highway, no wildlife. Not even a single bird. Just me, the sunlight and a warm breeze coming off the Straight. My grandfather had THE green thumb of green thumbs. The flora of the property was like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. Immaculate. Picturesque. However you want to describe it, my grandfather was a horticultural wiz. He was even featured in the local paper for his gigantic and postcard-worthy sunflowers. But in my vision, like in real-life, neither he nor my grandmother are there anymore. But somehow, the love they gave is and always will be.
In my mind, I’m standing on the weathered wooden porch at the front of the small burgundy house. I look up toward a bright sun hanging high in a cloudless deep blue sky. I feel its heat radiating through every pour on my face. It’s THAT vivid. I breathe deeply a trio of aromas; the fragrant blossoms on the apple trees in the front yard, the lightly woody scent of chestnuts about to drop out of their spiky pods hanging on the monstrous trees lining the property out back, and my favourite smell of all; the welcoming tang of my grandmother’s scratch made tea biscuits.
A 10 minute walk south, down Dykermann Road, will bring you to the waterfront. I can hear the waves even from my grandparent’s porch, rolling in from the Straight, hitting the red sandy shore. I’m… completely… at… peace.
I’ve really no idea why I’m never able to imagine anyone with me in this most tranquil of conscious dreams but there’s something to be said for having it all to myself. It’s MY go-to place when I’m stressed out. Lately, I’ve been going there far more than I’d care to admit. I happily lend this technique to you. But stay away from my go-to-place. Get your own!!
The world has changed in only a few months. It’ll likely change even more in a few weeks. I’d like to say for the better but that will remain to be seen for just a little while longer. COVID-19 in itself sounds so non-lethal. Honestly the very name reminds me of and old 80s gaming console: Commodore 64, VIC-20, TI-99 (Texas Instruments), ATARI 2600, COVID-19!!!. But the sad reality of it is that it IS lethal for many. Do I fear it? Not really. Not because I think I’m immune to its effects. It’s just that I really haven’t had a lot of time for all of this to sink in. I’m busy, like most of you, prioritizing and deciding what’s important right now. Cancelling trips, working with my wife to organize assignments and lessons for our children now that they’re being homeschooled, organizing our finances, NOT buying lots of toilet paper, etc. In addition, I guess I work for what you’d call an essential service. I report to work like any other day only what’s different is at the day’s end I get home, take off all my clothes in the garage (with the garage door shut) and put them in a garbage bag which immediately goes into the washer. Then I take a shower. There was a time only a month or two ago when a shower was for relaxation but is now for decontamination. Funny how the simplest of tasks become potentially life saving. And hand washing? I’ve washed off so many layers of skin that I can see a phone number of a girl I penned on my hand in 1988.
Social distancing, #stayathome, #flattenthecurve, essential/non-essential workers and toilet paper seem to be the Internet’s trending vernacular. It makes me wonder what they’ll be talking about after this is all over. How will society be when we’ve beaten this virus? I like to think we’ll be a little nicer to one another, a little more respectful. If there’s one good thing this virus has done, it’s that it’s stripped us of our egos. COVID-19 doesn’t care that you drive a Porsche while I drive a Ford. It doesn’t care that you make a six-figure salary while I make a five. And it could care less about the colour of your skin, your religious beliefs, the size of your house, the brand name on your purse, etc. Rich, poor, black, white, old, young, good or bad, it’s completely levelled the playing field. It’s pulled back the veil of illusion that most of us live behind. It’s shown us that once the smoke and mirrors are removed… we’re all the same. I wish we’d remember that when this is done.
It’s amazing how tuned into my own body I’ve become. It’s like 1000% the self-awareness at which I’m normally operating. I’ve become super-sensitive and more than a bit paranoid. Every time I sneeze, I think I have COVID-19. I cough, I have COVID-19. I feel something funny in my chest, I have COVID-19. I’m at an intersection and the red light seems longer than normal, I have COVID-19. A lot of us are scared right now and that’s ok. Fear is one of our most valuable emotions. Fear keeps us safe. It’s what activates our fight-or-flight response. So, my advice to you… sit back and enjoy the disruption! Enjoy the time with your family (immediate family). See it as an opportunity to try new things. Teach yourself to play an instrument. Learn another language. This is your chance to start that project you’ve been putting off. Clean out those closets and storage spaces you’ve been meaning to since you bought your house in 1988.
If you look beyond the fear and angst, you’ll see there’s good in this. It’s there if you look hard enough. This is life’s way of telling you to, when this is over, take that chance and go after whatever it is you want most. Be more passionate about the time you have. In all likelihood, we’ll slip back into old habits and be dicks to one another. Hey, we’re only human. But I think the one thing we’ll all hold onto is that we’ve seen life from a profoundly different perspective and I hope we’ll realize how precious it truly is. And all it took was a pandemic.