Update from Italy: Month 2 of Quarantine

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Starting yesterday, face masks are obligatory in Tuscany when in public spaces. The municipal government dropped off sacks of them with instructions for each family. No official announcement yet on the next extension, but we all expect it. Jason and I talked over lunch, musing how long can this go on? Broad tests in Tuscany of asymptomatic groups suggest just 5% of the population is carrying the second (and most important) of the two C19 antibodies, meaning millions of people are still susceptible. We wonder if extra care will be taken for the most vulnerable. Groceries are getting more expensive and the lines are getting longer. Supply chains must be getting strained, here in the fifth week of a broad, very restrictive lockdown. We wonder how long Italy can remain frozen in time, even as we adjust to our new normal.

From our apartment cloister, the city sighs, invisible to us. Minimal movement takes place in its quiet streets, the almost-empty buses. The parks are deserted and cordoned off, the restaurants and bars and cafés are all shuttered. Out of sight, out of mind.

Our world has become these one hundred and forty square meters, with its six interior windows and three skylights. It has become my convent, I the tertiary. I treasure my brief daily outings in the cloister garden, crammed with azaleas in bloom, lemon and orange trees heavy with fruit, the green dome of the synagogue looming over the stone wall at the back of the plot. The air fills with the church bells announcing midday.

Fear is invisible, but leaves tracks in the jittery heart, the clenched jaw. She shifts in the seat to find a calmer pose. Anxiety vibrates and is felt, but is not seen. She no longer circulates in the city, becoming invisible to those who used to greet her each day along her circuit.

The pathogens roam freely, cloaked in microscopic invisibility, but like fear and anxiety, they trail their deeply felt and visible traces across families and towns, countries and populations. And yet that novel virus finds its kin in the wild yeast I am growing every day on the grey marble counter. The starter teems with spores taking hold, blowing bubbles; I cannot see them. I can only read the signs of their existence. One shrinks and takes and life, the other expands and gives life.

Love is invisible, but love is felt, every day, in care and reassurance.

Leadership feels invisible. It’s a catch-up game. No one has confronted an issue like this in the lifetime, except for maybe a few Wise Ones, and the Queen, may God save her. Solutions, both political and medical, fail to materialize in time. Patience is invisible, but felt. We will come to cross this bridge; the date on which we begin to do so is unseen. 

Visibility is in the eye of the beholder. Some see what many cannot see. A handful see what escapes most. All things, seen and unseen. Practice seeing, that the portion of things invisible may shrink, and your knowledge, your seeing them, will bring them into the light for many. If you are able to see it, tell it.