The Haleakalā crater in daylight is a swirling abstraction of grays and tans, ochers, and chocolates. In late afternoon, fog typically creeps up the mountainside and peeks over the rim, casting fantastic shadows, ready to pour into the crater and flood it entirely at the end of the day. Haleakalā is “the house of the sun,” the volcano that gave birth to most of Maui. Its summit is a sacred place to the native Hawaiians, and it has become sacred as well to the throngs of visitors who drive ten thousand feet up in the dark of predawn to watch the sun rise from the top of the world.
But this daily ritual of gathering at sunrise, a highlight of many vacations, no longer takes place. The national park is closed. Public gatherings here on Maui, as in the rest of the country, have ended because of COVID-19.
Sheltering in place
The pandemic is upending our usual ways of living. Hardship touches everyone—sheltering in place, missing hugs from loved ones, adults missing work or paychecks, kids missing birthday parties and graduations.
The epidemic is upending as well our usual ways of thinking about life. Suddenly all kinds of policies that were not taken seriously before the virus—universal basic income or forgiving student loans—now look sensible.
Let’s change the rules!
We have a huge opportunity here to change the rules. The epidemic reveals a truth that was hiding in plain sight: all those measures that strengthen society and provide a cushion of support during a time of illness are exactly the same measures that will strengthen society after this emergency is past. The pandemic is like a forest fire, sweeping through and changing the landscape, making room for new kinds of life to emerge out of its fiery devastation.
We can fashion a society that is more resilient. We’re going to need that as climate change advances. This pandemic can help prepare us for changes ahead by guiding us toward a society that works better for all people, not just a few. I hope we learn well, and wisely.
We are all connected
In the meantime, the biggest truth of all that the virus makes plain: we are all connected. A pandemic shows just how wobbly all our imagined borders are—between families, classes, neighborhoods, countries.
So let’s start by seeing each other through with compassion and kindness. Here is a website with links to many different strategies for strengthening neighborhoods and building community. As the website says, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Lots of resources already exist.
Let nature be part of social distancing
And, as much as possible, let’s take walks and sit on park benches—or, if that isn’t possible in your community, spend time looking at nature pictures. And here for your pleasure is a site showing closeups of plankton and their larvae—stunningly beautiful!
This is a time to soak up the peacefulness of trees and the radiance of newly blooming spring flowers and the wonder of birds flying thousands of miles toward their nesting grounds. Social distancing not required with birds or fish or trees! Enjoying the gifts of the other creatures relieves stress and lowers blood pressure as well as strengthens our immune systems. Nature is, as always, the great healer.
May you be well. Aloha!