On Easter morning I went for the longest run I had done since Portland began sheltering-in-place. When the Covid-19 warnings started in the U.S., my biggest fear was not that I would get sick. Instead it was that the rules would be so strict that people would not be allowed outside except for necessities like groceries. After 10 years as a runner, I worried about my mental health (and, if I’m being honest, my waistline).
So far we are still allowed outside for exercise, which means I am outside every day for a walk or a run. That hour or two is my only time outside of the walls of my home, and often the only time I’m away from screens or work to do for my university. A 3-mile walk in my neighborhood is the reward for reading dissertations all day, and then grading papers in the evening.
On Easter, more time and more space was needed than normal. I didn’t get to celebrate in all the ways I wanted to, like church with my boyfriend, or visiting family, or just having a reason to dress up.
My 13.1 mile plan took me outside of my neighborhood and out into the city, using barren streets when I needed to give someone else 6 feet of safe space. I went over familiar hills and past homes with stories I never knew. I carried a backpack with snacks and a water bottle since the city’s fountains are turned off. And I was grateful for the Fred Meyer bathroom on the way home because…well, because.
When I was about a two miles from my turnaround spot, I diverted from my path by a few blocks. It was Easter Morning. I wanted to go to church, even if it was just to the front doors. This church, my church, is like most in the country, with doors locked tight for the past month and probably staying locked for another month or more. Instead the pastors share weekly videos and post a lot on social media to offer connections. I’ve seen other churches offering streaming services and scheduling video chat studies. The building is closed; services are cancelled. The church, however, is still open.
Most of the big things in our lives are closed right now. Just today I was whining that I wanted to go to the mall, to walk among a bunch of strangers and smile at them without a face mask. After watching far too many hours of streaming shows on my laptop, I want to sit in a dark theater with a hundred other people and laugh or cry or gasp at the larger than life action on the screen. I want to hold the door open for another person, just reach out and grasp the handle and stand a foot or two back to let another human being pass by. Those things can’t happen right now. The mall is closed, along with the movie theater and most stores. And the stores that are open have their doors set to automatic or fixed open so there is no handles to grasp.
The big things are closed right now, and with them some of the wants are closed too. That leaves us with the little things. The random purchase from a website. The happy show online (if you have not seen Some Good News on YouTube, watch it next). The letter in the mail to a friend. Do what you need to do to stay safe and be kind.
The big, the macro, the corporate is closed. The little, the micro, the personal is open.
“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down” (Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). – #52sparks is my year-long writing series for 2020, based on an art prompt challenge. The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or to ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch. This series is to explore what hundreds of inches and words can do.