December 3, 2020 Denver CO USA
I have been reading lately of so many animals moving around our environment more freely. In one small town in the mountains here in Colorado, a herd of elk – about 100 animals – entered the main street of town and calmly walked around as if they were deciding where to all gather for lunch. Because most of the townspeople were quarantined in their homes, the elk felt comfortable to move outside of their forest into the town. So many people quarantined around the world have given animals, scared and suspicious of us humans, new freedom in the quiet, solitude, and safety of empty roads and streets around the world. I began to rethink my opinion of all those people I thought were wrong to be traveling for holidays, putting others at risk simply because they want to be with family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Like these animals, these people want to return to their freedom to wander to different and comfortable places they have been afraid to visit for fear of contracting the virus.
I am not saying they are right to be traveling. It really is a reckless thing to do while deaths are increasing and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. But I can understand the impulse to leave the shelter of one’s little room for a bigger, wider expanse. Somewhere where there is family, friends, fresh air, and a little freedom from the seclusion of isolating oneself for an extended period of time. We are a communal species, just like so many of our other mammal brothers and sisters, who have an innate need to gather around a dinner table or a fire pit to share the meaning and moments of the day with others of our tribe. It is a deep psychological need for us to put away our selfish needs and wants for a short time to spend tender and precious moments of friendship and family bonding. Even under the threat of sickness and quite possibly death, people leave their homes, cautiously, to move toward another place where their safety is not guaranteed, but which holds something much more important – connection and community.
I have felt the deep urge and prompting to gather with those I know and love. I defer from any gathering simply to avoid not only getting sick, myself, but more importantly, not to sicken those very same people I love. Of course, that is thinking rationally and reason has no place when instinct, repressed for so long, takes control of one’s emotions.
I have found these letters a way to wander outside to places where those I know and love are quietly meditating and waiting for the world to change to a new normal. In the hills of Assisi and the forest of Bangalore.
There each of you, Shraddha and Dinesh, light a blazing fire to keep the darkness from swallowing you up and warming the air around you until we three can unite as a family to celebrate the turning of the world into a safe and welcoming home for us, again, to share our hugs, our stories, our dreams, and our love.