Hey, HEY! Back off…



As evident in the picture above, wheat does not practice social distancing. Nor do the clouds, often floating along in seeming formation, just to the side from each other, maybe whispering as they meander by. Sometimes they gather quite close in blatant violation of CDC guidelines, like this morning when storm clouds kept climbing on each other’s backs, up higher, mounting and building some black and grey tower until they cracked, and then rained, and then exploded bolts of lightning, further proving the problem of coming too close to each other, such as clouds are apt to do this time of year.

Geese ignore all instructions and fly wing on wing, honking to each other to “Close the gap! Closer! CLOSER!” as they take turns in traditional tandem fashion. Even after they land in the pond they paddle next to each other, like they’re cold, like they’re lovers. Deer too, and swallows, and starlings, so close this last group that they bend east and west in one massive stroke, like a paint brush with black acrylic swept down and back up the canvas. Bats are the same, those bats, those sociable and close-knit colony of mammals that are the supposed ironic root of this inhuman human distancing we now find ourselves learning, like a new language, reminded again and again to stand in the next circle, to wait our turn behind the line of tape on the floor, to step away from the counter, to nod not shake, wave not embrace, and as we depart to say not “good-bye” anymore, but instead, “Stay safe.” It is the new farewell. Decades from now slang dictionaries will note the root of this signature to be from the times of covid. We will never again be able to separate ourselves from these times.

It turns out horses, as well, are social animals who find separation a cause of anxiety. Ants, yes, as proven on the old tree stump in the woods behind the shed; crows, of course, which I well may murder myself for their constant gabbing early in the morning. And who hasn’t seen by now the famous photo of penguins in Antarctica, gathered by the thousands. Topping the list at the social affairs, however, are apes, gorillas, and humans, followed way too closely by dolphins. But this is disturbing: these top three social animals, all primates, are among the only ones—the ONLY one’s—who kill each other. That’s really not very social at all. I’m betting the social nature of primates is simply a bad idea and leads to, among other things, war. Genocide. Annihilation.

Humans? Honestly, I’m not sure why everyone has a problem with social distancing. To be certain, we’re not very good at being close. We push and shove on city streets because someone is too fast or too slow, and we tailgate which leads to road rage which leads to someone being “in your face.” The tediousness of rush hour, the impatience of long lines, the lack of elbow room.

And yet, sometimes we can’t get close enough. Sometimes when we find ourselves away from one another, we wish we had never parted to begin with, and we call, cry, shout to be heard across the distances of not-touching, not making eye contact. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Out of sight out of mind? Interesting debate topic until now; now, when the verdict is in, and hearts around the world grow weak from tapping deep into their wells of fondness hoping for the call to come to crowd and gather and not ever let go again.  


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