The phrase, “We’re navigating uncharted waters,” has probably been repeated more often in the past few weeks than since Columbus sailed away from La Gomera in 1492. And like him, we may have a vague notion about where we want to get, but no clue about what lies in the way.
I mean, how can we? Two weeks ago (at the time of my writing) I could gather with groups of up to 50; only a few days later, I had to keep everyone two metres away.
Two weeks ago schools were to remain open because they provided “a safe place for children during the pandemic.” Four days later, the schools were shuttered to students, but the staff would return to work.
Now? Who knows? And tomorrow? Well, let’s just say there may be an iceberg ahead, but we’re navigating.
How we are wrapping our heads around all of this has been fascinating to watch. As we’ve begun to distance ourselves from others, we’ve all found ourselves at home with those unfinished tasks. When has a March break ever seen my wife and me wash windows, paint garage floors, and wash and stain the deck?
The hours, when you limit “outside” time to a walk or two and a trip the grocery store, can seem long. And the temptation is to dive into the news and social media. I need to put limits on screen time; otherwise, I would find myself glued to my phone all day long (as I was on the first Monday of the break).
Still, there’s been something rather appealing about having nothing to do. I’ve read without guilt, I’ve exercised more (and judging by the number of joggers I’ve seen on the trail that goes behind my home, others have too), and I’ve even been picking up my guitar.
But it’s all been more than a little unsettling. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring and there’s a vastness of an ocean between now and next week. I fear for myself and my family. I fear for my community and the future.
I know that we will see the best and the worst of people over these next few months. There will be kindness and generosity, but there will also be selfishness and greed. We’ve already seen those extremes in the stories of people delivering food and the healthcare workers toiling for impossible hours in impossible circumstances. Or conversely, the people hoarding food and products and reselling it for profit.
There may be uncharted waters ahead, but it’s up to us whether the sailing will be smooth or not.
Paul Demers is a long-time Squamish resident and high school teacher.