By Chad Ingram
It's Saturday afternoon and I'm walking along our rural road with my daughter.
I'm pulling the wagon she started the voyage in, but now it's empty and she is running along beside me, pointing out birds, collecting rocks, and generally observing the changes the emerging spring is bringing to the county’s wilderness.
She stops to throw twigs into the moving water of the ditch, and I let her do that for as long as she wants, because we have nowhere to be. She starts using her rocks to etch in the dirt and I let her do that for as long as she wants, because we have nothing to do, really, besides make dinner later. It takes us nearly an hour to make a round trip of maybe a kilometre or so.
A walk quite so leisurely wouldn’t have been the case before the pandemic, when our life was busy, to the point of hectic at times. Now, there are seemingly endless hours to spend exploring our tiny segment of the world.
COVID-19 will leave in its wake a number of legacies, good and bad, and perhaps one of them, for some of us, will be the ability to slow down more, to be more fully in the moment. The pandemic will leave behind myriad changes, ones that are impossible to see clearly yet, while still in the throes of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak itself. Certainly in Ontario, it seems evident that one of those changes will be a total overhaul of the system for long-term care homes. It also seems evident that one of the virus's legacies will be the way we work; that is, more working from home, which our advanced technology allows for many vocations. What about the plexiglass shields that have been installed at checkout counters? Will they become permanent fixtures?
It seems likely that social distancing will become ensconced in our culture to some degree, part of our new normal, whatever that turns out to be. Fewer seats on airplanes, less crowded restaurants and other such things are being suggested, and while some of those changes might sound nice, they will also make things more expensive for consumers. Will there be less dining out in general? Will there be less international travel?
Human history has been shaped by crisis, often in the form of war or disease. In the 14th century the black plague killed nearly a third of Europe's population. The Second World War – which in many ways arguably set the stage for what has been our normal for many decades now – killed tens of millions, redrew international boundaries and changed the global power structure.
And while the COVID-19 crisis may not rival these events in terms of scope, it will leave a multi-generational mark. Things will never go back to the way they were, not completely.
It becomes tiresome to think about, and I snap back into the moment, watching Evangeline draw in the dirt. She won't remember what life was like before all of this. Whatever our new normal is will just be normal to her.