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That Thing with Feathers: Hope and Literature in a Time of Pandemic

Has your perception of time changed due to stay-at-home orders and pandemic-filled thoughts? In today’s That Thing with Feathers, THP author Rebecca Lawton tracks time based not on work meetings or social engagements, but on when she can expect to hear from her daughter, feverish in Seattle, and other COVID concerns.


Coming or Going

by Rebecca Lawton

Snow blows in horizontal streams. After a winter of little precip, it chooses today to fall, or flow sideways. Today we’re moving. In minutes Paul and I will drive out of the Great Basin in two Toyotas packed to their vinyl liners. Stuffed-to-the-top is a mode of traveling I’d hoped was behind me, belonging to the day when a river season would end, a dorm room would empty out, or an idea would strike that moving to Idaho or Utah or Pennsylvania would be the next great adventure.

Today we’re three weeks past the first US COVID death, near Seattle. We’re one day past the worst first-quarter decline in the 124-year history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. For eight weeks, Paul and I have been packing boxes. For eight weeks, I’ve been finishing final reports at work, making the last business calls, handing off contacts, keys, files.

My older brother has emailed during our fourteen-hour work/pack days in the emerging pandemic. “Hang in there. There will be an end to it.”

My daughter Rose, in Seattle, has a cough and extended fever. She can’t get tested because she’s not priority, so she’s been diagnosed over the phone and ordered to rest. We can’t go see her, can’t do anything but ask, usually by text because of crap internet and cell reception: “How are you doing today?” The fever is up, or down, or the same. She can walk to the hospital two blocks away but won’t go for fear of contracting a worse case of anything.

It’s one week before the president is tested for COVID a second time, “out of curiosity.” Four weeks before America hits fifty thousand deaths from the virus concomitant with government plans to relax restrictions. Five weeks before he says Let them shoot bleach. Twelve-plus months to a vaccine. God-knows-how-many days until we can see our elderly parents again, if ever.