In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, some of humanity’s worst fears have come to light. This is not dystopian fiction, a blockbuster summer film, or the latest video game. The hottest entertainment is the new reality. Regardless of where we are in the world, all of us wage a campaign to preserve an implicit social contract: we work together rather than just about the individual. We have one task: staying apart to slow down a virus that can decimate humanity. We can do this when we – as Samuel L. Jackson puts it – “stay the f at home.”
For most people, this means staying at home unless their jobs are essential to helping meet the basic needs of society in 2020: food, medical care, and the internet.
Are you a farmer, grocery worker, or trucker? You are working to keep our food supply running. You provide the food, stock the shelves in supermarkets, and transport supplies. You are crucial in the fight against this virus. Your efforts allow others to stay at home.
Are you a health care worker in a hospital or a first responder? You are probably at work; in some cases, you may not see your family physically out of a desire to avoid possibly infecting your family with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. You are the front lines of defense against a virus with on vaccine and no 100% verified cure. You may be working without adequate personal protective equipment in the form of sufficient masks, gloves, face shields, and gowns. A cough or out of control sneeze can bombard your system to the point of infections. You may be working even when you are sick due to the shortage of qualified health care workers.
Do you provide child care? You are probably working too, if you are helping first responders and health providers by making sure their children are safe and in a healthy care environment. You are caring for those who are working in the food chain system and those who are in other essential services by keeping their children in a safe and healthy environment.
Do you keep the wi-fi networks in order or work for an IT department of a business that has employees working from home? You are helping to preserve the social contract by making sure sufficient bandwidth and network connections remain strong. Millions who rely on Club Quarantine dance parties, virtual birthday parties, weddings, play dates, and views of celebrities at home find these professionals essential. You help to maintain home networks strained by workers attending Zoom, Teams, WebEx, and other webinars. We need to be seen.
Are you an educator? You continue to provide structure in a virtual or alternative learning format for millions of children and adults with very little preparation time. These and other essential workers strengthen our social contract through these attempts to bring a sense of normality to a large scale crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents get to see what it means to teach their children. Educators have the challenge to meet pedagogical standards within a non-traditional environment. One great activity comes in the form of lunch doodles that kids and adults can enjoy.
Are you a caregiver? You are essential at keeping those who are at higher risk,regardless of age, at home. For the ill and dying, caregiving is now virtual. The worst human experience is to die alone because family and friends are no longer able to be by the bedside of loved ones as they lose the fight to stay alive.
Are you a funeral home director, worker or a clergy person? You are essential for maintaining the process of deaths even as funerals are limited, restricted, or just not held. Obituary notices, visual tributes, virtual memorials are poor substitutes for the human touch at this time;however, your jobs ensure that the loved ones can continue the fight, by staying at home.
The primary directive throughout this entire quagmire remains the recommendation of social distancing. As someone who has remained at home 95% of the time during the last three weeks, the term really should be re-labelled as “physical” distancing. I, like other humans, am a social creature. While writing is a solitary pursuit, life in general never held such a distinction, until a few months ago. Staying at home reveals cracks in society’s fabric: what have we neglected? What have we taken for granted? What have we forgotten?
In the midst of this crisis, I look at the neglect at home. When I looked at my average week before the pandemic versus now, I realized that most of my time was spent outside the house. Like many of my neighbors and colleagues, home tasks came after doing what paid the bills, or activities scheduled for outside the home. With everything considered non-essential, I have time to focus on home making – laundry, fixing up the home, and gardening. Instead of getting someone else to do it, life is now a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. I look at what I have on “to do” lists that have not gotten done due to a lack of time. How often have you promised to learn a new language, to fix something, to take up a new skill, if you just had the time? Now the time is here.
During a crisis, social safety nets are strained and neglect comes from those who fall between the cracks. I think of the decrease in reported child abuse, as many of those cases may be started by a child’s teacher. I think of the increase in domestic violence because individuals are stuck inside with their abusers. By staying in touch with neighbors and family, those numbers may not be headed in the right direction, but we are safety net for our neighbor.
When I think about what I have taken for granted, health comes to mind. When the enemy is invisible, I reflect on what I thought when COVID-19 first appeared on the horizon: my country would have enough to fight and conquer this disease. Health is easy to take for granted. This pandemic reminds us that we are fragile beings in the face of a virus that strikes as easy as the roll of the dice that strikes young and old. While I have always been an avid hand washer, this pandemic has raised the practice to an art form. The ability to breathe and to live free of COVID-19 pain is something that I will no longer take for granted.
I’ve forgotten how loneliness can strike. While I can Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and use words to convey more than what has been normal, I miss human touch. I was at a memorial service for a friend in early March. I was able to sit near, and then hug those who came to grieve, to laugh as we celebrated a life taken too soon. I clearly remember how grateful I was to be able to express my love, my sorrow, and my grief with other human beings without a word. Whether it was passing a box of tissues or exclaiming with delight over the peach cobbler, it was a time of human connection. I miss the ability to touch in that way terribly. A Zoom memorial service does not provide the same satisfactory closure for the living.
Staying at home also provides the opportunity to embrace individual and communal strengths. I have found strength in treating of the benefits of staying home like an extended Mercury retrograde for the heart and the body. I’ve had more phone calls and group check-in texts with friends and family since this pandemic flared up than ever before. My 77-year-old asthmatic neighbor reminded me that this was a great time to spring clean down to the bathroom tiles. Several girlfriends have shared links to online live Zumba classes. Puzzles are back in fashion. We all have time, so why not start one on a table and put a piece in from time to time? I’ve been working through my pile of must-read books.
If faith wasn’t already a part of my daily existence, this pandemic would shoot it to the top of the list. Regular ritual at home and prayer helps me to remember that the very act of staying at home unless I have to leave is my service to strengthen the larger social contract. Like every other human living through this pandemic, I am a soldier in a war that I hope humanity wins. I have found strength in regular contact with the gods.
Because I cannot physically gather with those from my home tradition, I do ritual solo. The best theme for this time is that we are alone, but never alone. My Christian family members are gathering by phone or video conference for prayer, for services, and just to stay close. I believe that just as many in our Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities are persons of faith. We may be a minority religious people among more recognized minority faiths; however, we do have strong faith practices.
I was asked by a representative of an incarcerated population what advice could be given to help those who are in confined spaces during this pandemic. While he was asking for one specific Wiccan population, this could work any group or any person with the goal of going deeper into a spiritual practice:
1) Daily connection with the gods (lords, ladies, ancients)
2) Maintain regular (if not daily) entries into individual books of shadows
3) Maintain (or start or resume) regular divination practice (e.g. tarot, numerology, astrology, geomancy, etc.)
4) Maintain (or start or resume) connection with the earth and with other members
5) Maintain (or start or resume) regular ritual practice for esbats (new and full moons) and sabbats.
6) When possible, have fires with outside ritual for practice.
Staying at home can help with remembering the good parts of life. If we are not leaving the house, then we have time to play cards, to teach each other how to cook, and to talk over shared meals. We spend time really getting to know each other. Daily family walks, solo walks, walks with the dog, are the new rush hour. When we want to scream at each other, we don a mask, and head out to carefully run or walk or exercise solo.
When this is all over, I will still want a refund for the first part of the year 2020. The world is in a major reset. Jupiter and Pluto conjoin in Capricorn three times this year. This is a revelatory time. I get that. We need to have an adjustment. Our world will never be the same as we have not had an experience which has affected our entire planet in this manner before. This pandemic is a tragedy that appears to have no end at times. As I am waiting for my refund, I plan to stay the f**k at home.
Seriously, just stay home.
Editor’s note: The Wild Hunt continues to cover the impact of COVID-19 on the Pagan community. For the latest updates, see our special coverage page. The Centers for Disease Control maintain a current list of guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 here.