The Whistling Pandemic

I know the wind is one of the least enjoyed weather rumblings from our vocal planet, but I love the feeling of wind on my face. The wind is the breath of the universe. It’s especially pleasing when it surprises you with a quick change of direction, ever so slightly. You aren’t ready for it, your head wasn’t tilted the right way, and you get a nose full of air that makes you gasp. If fills you up, it tricks you, and for a brief moment, it feels like it has your life in its hands. Something invisible that you can feel. Specifically, I love the sound of wind through pine trees. It’s a constant hum that vibrates at the exact frequency of my genetic happiness. You can hear the world tell you its secrets as long as you are willing to listen.

But in these last months, the whispering nothings of our Mother Earth have taken a turn on my joyful respite with the encroachment of Covid-19. Like everyone else, I sit in a cocoon of unknowing and doomscrolling into the wee hours of the morning, wondering and worrying about the future of our country, of our families, and of our way of life.

When I do manage to make it out of my anxiety burrito, I always try for a satisfying walk. Living in a Los Angeles neighborhood surrounded by colorful flowers and hillsides overgrown with beautiful greenery, I love taking a leisurely walk in the hills to calm my nerves. Like many other places in the country right now, we have a solid 50/50 on who wears a mask and who doesn’t. I am a Type 1 diabetic, and I have been taking this quarantine very seriously. Too seriously, if you were to ask many of the people around me, I think.

I see the virus everywhere. Every article I see tells me that diabetics are dying in droves at all ages. The news is awash with entire families being scraped down to a few young sons and daughters. After the first month of building an end-of-the-world bunker, filling it with 32oz cans of dolmas and beans of every variety, I was starting to come down. The initial fear-based decisions were beginning to give way to rational thoughts on how to continue living at home. I needed out. I needed a walk.

I had my mask, a bottle of sanitizer for every pocket in my jeans, and a bag of gloves (in case for some reason I needed to help someone change a tire or help an elderly lady bring groceries in). The stress of getting my feet to leave the property made me feel tired from the get-go. My shoes were heavy, my face felt exposed, but eventually, I started to enjoy myself. My headphones were booming something as indistinct as a b-rate science fiction television show and I was on my way. I didn’t run into any people on the street for the first half of the walk.

Feeling happy that I had made it to the top of the hill, I looked at my surroundings to make sure no one was around and popped my mask off to enjoy the fresh air. The light breeze had been tugging at the corners of my face covering. That wind! So nice, so calming…until I turned the corner. A young man jogging up the hill came whipping around the bend, sans mask, and huffed and puffed himself right by me. Suddenly, I felt suffocated. All I could see was particles. Little dots of hot breath touching down on my shirt, in my beard hairs, and attacking me in a cloud of wet lung globs.

I kept walking while trying to talk myself down from the panic attack that was quickening my heartbeat and pooling sweat on the inside of my hat. It was too late. After that, I began to see people coming out of their homes and beginning their evening walks. They came at me like unmasked zombies in leggings. I zig-zagged across the street and made wide turns at every corner to avoid the hordes of infected laughing families with children screaming in my general direction. The wind changed. It now carried COVID-19. Somehow my life had turned into “The Happening”. How in the world did the worst movie I had ever seen, about the wind carrying a deadly neurotoxin plants develop themselves to kill off the human race, become a real-life feeling?

The wind was no longer my friend. That exhilarating feeling of having my breath momentarily stolen from me was now a nightmare and a very real threat. Now my life did appear to be in its hands. Even when someone was down the street fifty feet or more, I checked the wind direction by looking at the leaves, deciding when I should cross the street or go the other way to avoid the virus that rides the waves of the earth’s breath. Something I loved so much had taken a quick turn against me. Its whistling was the tune of the reaper, and it was being sung for me.
Fear and anxiety are a bitch.

It took me another few months before I was able to enjoy a neighborhood walk again. But, even as the COVID-19 numbers rise, I find myself more able to live in this new pandemic world that we are currently forced in to. Luckily, its people that we need to avoid and not nature. It doesn’t help living in one of the largest cities in the country, but I can now sit at my window and watch the palm trees sway to the currents of the air. I can make a trip to a less worn patch of the world and stand in the center of hundred-foot high pines and listen to the beautiful flow around my head. Its whistle is once again just the hypnotic lull of the universe. Its tune had changed to whisper warnings of our current situation, but once again has resumed its happy song.