Chronicles of sadness and strangeness in the time of COVID-19
Monday, May 4: The moon is pretty tonight, bright and steady behind the quickly moving clouds. My friend William lives in Daegu, South Korea, where they have been implementing public health containment measures for much longer than we have. He is a teacher. With the pandemic, and travel restrictions, and just the normal uncertainties of life, I don’t know when I will ever see William again. I also don’t know if he looks up at the moon. But tonight it makes me feel better to know that, if he does, it is the same moon.
Tuesday, May 5: There were once goldfish in this pond in the law school courtyard. Big ones. Small ones. Gold, white, orange. All kinds. They did not disappear because of the current crisis. I think a few years ago it just became too difficult to keep relocating them during the winter months. In most years, there would be law students sitting out in the courtyard right now, relaxing under the trees in between studying for final exams. Or the law school might be setting up for one of their big alumni reunion events, where they put a tent up with all kinds of festive decorations over the pond and a dance floor right next to it. It always seems like a pretty fun occasion. The courtyard is completely empty right now—quiet except for the burbling fountain. It was just as empty ten years ago when I snuck into this courtyard on an early Sunday summer morning so that I could secretly add two more goldfish to the pond. My younger son had won them when he went to the Dogwood Festival carnival with a friend. When we are not in crisis, the Dogwood Festival takes place in April while our dogwoods are in bloom and the carnival runs for the full duration of the festival in one of our city parks. It’s a classic traveling carnival with games, fried food, and rides that seem to have a little too much duct tape and for which you know they lost the assembly instructions decades ago. The Ferris wheel is only about 50 feet high, but it’s about the most terrifying ride I have ever been on, because you’re just. . . not . . . sure. My son was very excited about the two goldfish he won. Then, after a couple months, he wasn’t so excited to take care of them anymore and asked if he could move them out of his room. I didn’t want to take on the difficult task of caring for goldfish, and I thought, “You know what, I bet they would be happiest amongst friends in the goldfish pond at the law school!” So, being a rule follower, I asked the building manager if there was any reason that I could not add a couple more goldfish to the pond. He laughed and said he wasn’t aware of anything stopping me. Still, I felt it best that I do it by sneaking in when no one else was around. I drove the goldfish over in their bowl (harder than you might think), snuck through the outer doors, ran over to the pond splashing half the water from the bowl onto my shirt, and dumped them in. They paused for a second in their new environment, but then swam off under some of the vegetation! You’re welcome! And no one caught me! When I went back to work that Monday, I visited the pond to see how they were doing, but it’s surprising how hard it is to tell one goldfish from another.
Tuesday, May 5, that same day: There is some pretty fun art in the law school and since the building is completely empty and quiet, I decided to walk around to take some pictures. My favorite is this painting called Pink Cow and Calf at Night by the local artist John Borden Evans. The cows are looking right at you. I like it because it is in the main hallway, right on my route from where I park my car to the library, so I pass it every morning on the way into work. Law school can be stressful and intense. There are many wonderful events and people in the school. The students are talented, creative and kind. Law school can be a challenging experience though. For the students, it is a lot of work and there can be a lot of pressure to perform, and to take all the right steps for their careers. When I walk into the main hallway on normal mornings, students are usually hurrying into the classrooms so as not to be late. I’m usually thinking about what I need to do that day, which can sometimes get busy pretty quickly. When I walk by this painting, it’s a nice reminder that, “Yeah. . . but also. . . pink cows.”