March 2020 and the onset of quarantine life took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe how completely an insidious little bug could upend life in the United States of America! It seemed like we were living inside a Stephen King novel—The Stand kept coming to mind. In this book, a flu kills off a significant chunk of the population, and the survivors self-separate into good and evil factions. Of course, in real life we weren’t migrating cross-country to pledge allegiance to some new world order—we were huddling in our homes in Spring of 2020, wondering if the mail was safe to touch. As businesses closed down one after another, we held our breath and plunged into Publix, hoping to score some toilet paper or hand sanitizer. The empty grocery store shelves were jarring. Floridians understand short supply during Hurricane Season, but scarcity during a temperate time of ripe blackberries and budding azaleas seemed plain wrong. Indicative of disaster.
As the pandemic continued, this harbinger proved true, but not all the time and not in every place. Many people lost their lives, but not everyone–there were stories of patients beating COVID, of families staying safe. For those lucky enough to work from home, many loved this change, if not the circumstances causing it. Educators learned new technologies quickly, ascending a learning curve with their students. Of course, disaster darted in and out of the story, a counterpoint to hope—job loss, food shortages, inequities magnified by the virus.
From this stew of hope and sadness, I began to discern a way through the weeks, which stretched to months then to a year: patience. This word captures the mindset necessary to survive our time in history, that is, a willingness to abide through this long-term event with courteousness and an understanding that better times are on the way. With the virtue of patience in mind, I created a GIF for a Florida contest which blended a public domain flamingo image from 1754 with a hand-drawn mask and upbeat graphics. The toggling image represents patience and safety, and a gentle, still quality we need right now. Flamingos, though feathered hot pink, are placid creatures who can stand on one leg for hours. To me, they epitomize stillness. We are making our way through this, all of us, by standing tall like flamingos, and abiding with the situation as it is, knowing that better circumstances are on the way. Just take a look when you venture out: the grocery shelves aren’t as bare, the blackberries have buds, and the azaleas are blooming ahead of schedule.