Update from Florence: Day 14 of the Florentine Quarantine

Photo by Jaunathan Gagnon on Unsplash

Monday morning has melted into all days. This evening marks two weeks that all of Italy went into quarantine, nationwide. But our week is just one big 168-hour day now. We got up, made breakfast, had about 35 minor disputes related to, but not limited to, the following issues and items: tablets, homework, tablets, getting dressed in day clothes and teeth brushed, tablets, making a fort, math homework, refusing to do any extra work, a grudging effort to help put away clean clothes, no effort at all to help fold clothes. Farm wife is feeling a bit downtrodden. Screw these chores. I would like some fresh air. I would like to go to the top of hill and look around. A panoramic view would be tonic. I wouldn’t even mind getting carsick on the way. It always happens anyway.

Today I am feeling grateful for all the analog experiences I have had in my life, beyond the normal moments like getting married in a church or a family dinner or holding a baby. I am thinking about flying, about hiking in the Cascades, about trains, even the Midnight Train to Zagreb. The travel, the flights. Tasting new food, the Brazilian beaches, Oaxaca for El Dia de los Muertos. The swans of Strasbourg and those narrow streets hemmed in by canals. The alameda of Santiago de Compostela, with its peekaboo view of the cathedral. Los Penitentes on the Argentine-Chile border. The pebbly beach of Nice. As Rias Baixas. San Sebastian. A thousand other entries in my poetic memory, an archive I barely understood until Kundera explained it to me. I am so glad I found his writing when I was twenty-one so I could refer to it internally for the rest of my adult life. Hemingway was like that with Proust.

I find myself wondering now, will that analog world ever come back to us, the tactility we so took for granted? We are still in the early-days uptick of a very, very long cycle. I am beyond angry at the jokes that continue to pop up my my social media feeds. This is a pandemic, people. It’s not funny. None of this is funny. You know, the only thing that’s even remotely funny to me right now? Mockery of the refuseniks, the ignorant, the disbelieving, the noncompliant. And that only last a few seconds, because I remember that their irresponsible, glib actions will contribute so much to worldwide human suffering. What will it take to make people take this seriously? Stacks of bodies? A military convoy? Martial law that barely matters, because losses are so devastating? People want to talk to me about the Constitution; I would like to ask – at what cost do we preserve a Constitution in this unprecedented pandemic? Is it worth millions of dead? Are we seriously depending on private corporations to support us and lead us out of the pandemic? Is the current bill in Congress really talking first about the market and banks and airlines? People are not coming to grips with reality at speed. The virus is faster than we are, on every level. As we saw in China, and Italy, and Spain, and will soon see in France, then the UK, then the US (roughly in that order), voluntarily social distancing is woefully insufficient. Sorry it infringes on your freedom, guys, but a genuine quarantine is currently our only defense against the virus.

Because I do not find, at this moment, much succor in my newsfeeds, I do feel fortunate to have come across a couple of articles from experts. Experts, remember them? (Latin root: “expertus,” to gain knowledge through repeated trials.) Individuals with experience, background, and education, who are qualified to deliver analysis. This interview with the beautifully named Dr. Brilliant, who led the efforts to eradicate smallpox globally, and this compendium of mini-analyses, have each brought me much-appreciated perspective and calm company.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten in touch with me to let me know how my accounts posted here have helped them make good decisions and take appropriate steps. I’ve said it before, but we do not even understand now the implications of the door that has opened, and through which we are all now passing, as a planet, as individual countries, as cities, as neighborhoods, as people. This is not an economic crisis. This is a human crisis. I can imagine, but I still think (fear, dread) that the implications are far graver than my imagination. We are in this together, whether everyone realizes it or not. And if they don’t, they will soon.