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Connections: Distance Learning

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 23:46

Whether you qualify it as “social” or “physical,” dis­tancing is not how any of us anticipated spending the spring of 2020. This week, the actual and psychological distances we have to travel to get through this thing just seemed to keep growing.     

No sooner had I satisfied myself that I could navigate six feet away from anyone I might encounter on my solitary walks in the great outdoors, than emails arrived proclaiming that a scientist from M.I.T. was warning that vapor containing the coronavirus from coughs or sneezes could travel 23 to 27 feet — on the wind, say — and linger in the air for hours.   

 My husband, Chris, and I have been in isolation for more than three weeks now. We got a bit of a jumpstart on the whole thing, having been warned and scolded to take the matter seriously by my daughter, who is a volunteer E.M.T. and bought us our Clorox wipes and toilet paper way back in February. We expected to be in some sort of quarantine for perhaps two weeks. The end is not yet in sight.     

We are on the lookout for good news. The good news emanating from Italy this week was that a 101-year-old man identified as “Mr. P.” was able to leave the hospital on Thursday after recovering from the virus. Unless this is simply misinformation courtesy of the New York Post, Mr. P. was alive during the Spanish flu pandemic and has lived to tell the tale — twice.     

Then, too, unlike those who dealt with similar circumstances in the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, we’ve got a plethora of devices to keep us in touch with our friends and family and the world at large. I admit I have not quite gotten the hang of Facetime or Zoom. Or Kanopy, which everyone tells me is the bee’s knees when it comes to free movies. But I think I have mastered the live-streaming of operas from the Met, I know how to down oad books onto my Kindle, and I am game to take advantage of our quiet days by expanding my technical prowess further. If not now, when?     

My new routine is an outdoor ramble around the neighborhood to drink in the daffodils, then a return home before dark to fire up my computer.     

And here in our cottage I’ve enjoyed quite a few marvelous performances, from the Metropolitan Opera’s “Tannheuser” (made when James Levine was the revered maestro), to a program about the great Billie Holiday, to the Netflix show “Unorthodox,” which takes place among the Hasidic community in Brooklyn and Berlin.     

When I was younger, I thought I was too sophisticated to ponder any corny philosophies about what constitutes “the good life.” I will not be so foolish as to suggest that social distancing is a blessing, but it has its consolations. Discovering that Chris and I are still mentally strong and flexible enough to handle this present emergency is one of them.


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