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Still Life

This is against our nature: We are meant to be together. Blending voices in worship and clinking glasses in taverns. Line dancing at weddings and standing in line at wakes. High-fiving at ballgames, applauding shamelessly at school concerts, moving as one in packed subways lurching forward.

But a contagious virus, able to transmit death through touch and breath, has forced us to suppress our social tendencies. So we shelter in place — maybe with family or a friend — not knowing when we will breathe freely again. Not knowing when an unmasking will reveal smiles.

It can seem as if time itself has been altered. March vanished into April, which is disappearing into May, with not even the day of the week always clear. The rituals by which we normally mark these days — the proms and graduations, the tournaments and parades — have been cancelled or postponed, inviting anxieties to fill the void left by the absence of distraction.

Will my family be all right? Will I be all right? When will this end? Will it end? And if it does, will life ever be as it was?

But time does not pause. Its petals unfold as always, only now we have the time — yes, the time — to notice what flourishes around us.

The bunny slippers of a child. The belly of an expectant mother. The blurred red of a cardinal in flight. The yellow burst of forsythia against the gray vestiges of winter. A small boy at lakeside, saying he has never felt so alive.

In this unnatural state of isolation, these are the things that bind. — Dan Barry