i didn’t know

Treasure waits patiently at the base of the tree for the seven-year old to discover

cracked open, stained. all hardened amber

spoils long gone, lunch, for a peckish gecko

or maybe it’s instead a gecko’s egg

It has Elephant wondering

what kind of mammals are birds?

We’re quick to respond

birds aren’t mammals, mammals don’t lay eggs

Wait

we pause for a second

The platypus lays eggs. It’s the only mammal that lays eggs.

Elephant seems satisfied. But Rhino is not.

No.

We look in his direction.

Remember the echidna.

And I’m struck, by the wisdom, here, in this innocent reply.

These unprecedented, tumultuous times, news comes with a daily smack, all anxiousness and collective angst. Too many unknowns. All bets off.

But the echidna is unfazed.

Don’t mind me

he says

Just hanging out, foraging over here, feeding my young without nipples, enjoying my unusually large brain, extraordinary privates (look it up), living slow…taking my time, in a largely solitary existence.

I was social distancing before it was cool

So.

We pause to appreciate patient treasures.

The gift of space, to be with only ourselves, to remember who we are. The extra moments captured, held close, by those who love us, and those we love.

There are hopes.

Above all, for health.

But also, gratitude, and grace, for family, community, friends, near and far,

Those who love us.

And those we love.

That this, like all things, is impermanent – and a gentle reminder to always, but especially now

remember the echidna

precaution

I really love to gamble.

At first, the mask is uncomfortable as it rings my ears and defines the lower half of my face, all tiny checkerboard, black dancing with white. My nose whistles gently as hot breath filters through.

I get used to it though, and forget that I have the mask on. Until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and am taken aback. I am the king of the elves in Amulet.

are my ears really that pointy

Every day, my hands are so dry.

I’m tired of washing them, sanitizing them, rubbing them.

But don’t worry, I’ll keep it up.

We’re all just playing the percentages, trying to beat the house. Hoping a flatter curve makes this less worse, hoping to learn from the global stories that encompass us all., these days.

They say the house always wins.

But there’s exceptions to every rule. And like a great heist, we’re hoping to take the house down.

Inside the air conditioned, neatly aligned and spacious store. I prepare to sign and pay for the SIM cards. The near-empty bottle of hand sanitizer sits just adjacent to the spray bottle

kills 99.9% of germs on all surfaces

It reassures

sure, but what about the 0.1%

I counter.

But then, step back, and realize

that I can play those odds.

it’s the little things, today

pip

pip

fizzzzzzz

pip

pip

The clear glass lid doesn’t quite fit the pot we’re using, but it doesn’t matter.

I grasp the handle and hold it in place as I shake the pot.

be sure the kernels are coated in oil

I remind myself. I sneak a peek, and confirm that they are.

A sizzle, more pips, and suddenly, all is full of love.

They dance, and sing, celebrating a change of state.

we live for this

I turn the heat up and the bouncing intensifies. Because the lid is not quite right, I slide it too far forward.

ouch

Minute drops of oil demand my attention, spitting way, escaping their glassy confines and landing on my wrist, as if to say

Come on guys, we’re making a break for it!

pip

pip pip pip

pippippippippippippipipip

It’s a free-for-all, caroms off lid and each other.

The original mosh pit

And moments later, after the dust (and the salt) has settled,

Nirvana.

7

Feeling a bit of the non sequitur tonight

make the most of this

I remind myself.

Apropos of nothing

a buddy just shared that Boris Johnson has COVID.

Despite disagreeing with much of the man, and what he stands for,

I don’t, and won’t, wish it on anyone. I’m hopeful he will, thru his experience, learn and grow.

Build empathy

And understand that there is a collective, and we are all connected

In policy, attitude matters.

And so, I harbour hope, that through all of this, our dialogue, our discourse, the arc of our collective ethos bends toward compassion.

We did manage to track down a bottle of Hibiki Whiskey

so that helps

and it’s the evening before spring break

so that helps, too.

I don’t always do well with breaks.

I get inside my head, torn between

you’re not doing enough

and

you’re doing too much

We all need a break, in these times

And I’m planning to make the most of mine.

poorly lit

nights as a boy often went like this

I remember sprinting home from school, throwing my backpack down and bundling up in my toque and jacket. A flurry of boots and mitts, I sprinted back across the street to the parking lot.

Where, on the daily, magic happened.

Usually me and a buddy or two, a hockey stick and tennis ball, and a rusted, falling-apart goal held together mostly by love. We’d play through dusk into dark. Being the north, this was, of course, well before dinner.

So, we played under a little old , lonely streetlight attached to the school, orange-tinted, and not all that bright. But warm enough. It watched over us, all scuffle and hubbub, lighting our way, just enough.

For magic.

he shoots

he scorrrrrrreeeessss!

And, now, here, tonight, it’s like that.

The setting is different, warmer, quieter.

But equally dark.

Nobody around now, these days and nights.

Instead of hockey, it’s a soft, nerf-ish football arcing delicately through the air. The light is coming from an equally-lonely streetlight, seemingly wondering

where are all the people

For now, two of us are here.

And it is enough.

Our throws bending spiral bats, echolocating, impossible to see until the last minute. Flapping their way, and once in a while, even landing in our hands.

Like magic.

getting closure

I tend to hold on.

Sometimes, too tightly.

And in a moment where control, any control, is a darting fly, daggering here and there, unpredictable.

so much is beyond us

But, what is not beyond us, today, is a morning trip to the park.

We meander towards the entrance. All is in order, under control.

And then I spot the two employees, out of place, chatting, a four-legged sandwich board sandwiched between, making a four-legged sandwich.

Park closed

We apologize for any inconvenience

I am chuffed.

THIS IS INCONVENIENT

I want to say to them, as perhaps I raise a fist, in a sweeping gesture befitting a noble gentleman.

I SHALL BE WRITING A STRONGLY-WORDED LETTER TO YOUR SUPERIORS

But I don’t.

Instead I smile and wave. From a distance, of course.

This was to be the respite, the one place, the source and space for sanity.

But these are unusual, challenging times.

Sanity is at a premium.

We turn around and head back, and I attempt to make the best of it. Luckily, the boys are unfazed, like this pandemic thing is just another way to pay homage to Plastic Man

It’s okay Papa. We can be flexible.

As I get older, I fear that I am becoming less so. My joints creak, I’m not nimble, my energy fades faster. I can’t bend like I used to. And I used to not bend much.

I tend to hold on.

But the lads have my back, today.

We wander down the road and Rhino suggests stopping at a patch of grass just off the now-shuttered golf course. We kick the ball back and forth a couple times when the course truck slowly pulls up.

Hey guys, sorry, course is closed.

IT’S OKAY, WE DON’T WANT TO GOLF

I want to yell, with a flourish.

AND I AM NOW GOING TO PEN A STERNLY-WORDED MISSIVE TO YOUR OVERSEER

But, instead. I take a breath and consider the circumstances. This random and good natured fella doesn’t mean to ruin our fun

And there’s something bigger at play

So.

We pick up the ball. Wish him good health, with a nod. Look up at the sky. And practice

letting go

abundance

At first, I’m not sure what to say

I wander through the produce section, and it all feels foreign

but familiar at the same time.

Perhaps it’s the four-odd years’ absence from these stores that has made my heart grow. I’m awestruck, at what is here, in front of me.

Almost ripe, immaculate avocados, impossibly perfect hothouse tomatoes, three (!) kinds of kale, the biggest, orangest, juiciest looking oranges I’ve seen in a couple years.

It’s out of context because I’ve been out of context.

This abundance that I’d previously taken for granted, it stares me in the face and hits me between the eyes.

we have so much

Malaysian Ronny Chieng, like all great comedians, captures the absurdity. His amazing (NSFW, btw) take comes to mind as I navigate the choices of onions (there are 5, because of course there are 5).

We are breaking the laws of reality with the abundance

He opines, hitting so close to the mark.

I pause briefly to gape in wonder, finishing my turn through this impossible collection of plants become food

And round the corner to the rice aisle

Only to see the handwritten sign

Out of consideration for shortages and other customers, please limit rice purchases to one bag

And I gape, once again, this time

at the empty shelves

steady, now

drip

At first

the faucet has a spartan – yet not beyond notice – leak.

At first.

drip

The reports begin

here

and there

News outlets making a couple extra bucks with a couple extra baits.

drip

Wuhan has shut things down. People in China can’t leave their homes.

drip

First case in Korea. First case in Iran. In Italy. In Japan.

drip drip drip drip

At some point, thanks to the wonders of biology, statistics, and human nature

Something changes.

The drip steadies

flushes

And then, a torrent

I keep my distance from the group of workers not keeping theirs, clustered nearby.

They’re engaged in a feverish conversation

I overhear

Test kit

And

Only people who have had the test.

And I find myself wondering about the impact of the first global pandemic in, well, a while.

The trickles down, the threads connected, the intricate links between industries. Between lives.

The impact on one of us.

The impact on all.

Sometimes a drip becomes a wave

We see it. We stand firm.

We wait. Because we have no choice, really

But to stand, and simply,

hold our breath