The summer solstice is nearly here (on which more anon). The coronavirus outbreak reached crisis level in the United States just before the vernal equinox, so we’ve been living with this now for over a quarter of the year. The World Health Organization has been warning that the greatest danger now is complacency. I’ve been seeing troubling signs of it. Many people equate the partial opening up as a license to ditch the masks and start having parties again. I go jogging around 5 a.m. these days because, well, the solstice. It’s light enough and I’ve already been awake a couple of hours by then. Parks and playgrounds around here are officially closed still, but the other day just after first light I jogged by a group of guys playing basketball before sunrise. The days are longer and it feels like nothing can harm us in summer.
Like most other people I worry about the economy. You’d think books would be big business during a lockdown and in fact many kinds are doing quite well. The academic kind less so. Still, I haven’t given up my hope that the pandemic will prove transformative. We should emerge from this better than we were going into it. Granted, the Republican Party has put the bar really, really low, but people are, I hope, starting to realize we’re better than our government. We know that black lives matter. We know that science is real. We know that people matter more than money. Nevertheless it’s difficult to keep wearing masks when we’ve shed the winter clothes and donned short sleeves. Disease, like Republicanism, doesn’t respect human desires. We need to keep the masks on.
A strange kind of giddiness comes upon us during these long days. There’s so much light! Those who can sleep past 4 a.m. are finding the sky already glowing when they awake. At this latitude it stays light until almost 9 p.m., or so I’m told. Thinking back to our primal ancestors, we were only really active during daylight hours. Sluggish and sleepy in the winter, we’re now stimulated with so many photons we don’t know what to do with them all. I sincerely hope that Covid-19 has had enough of the human race and is ready to leave us alone. In the light of the day, however, the evidence isn’t there to bear that out. We can still celebrate the longest day of the year with masks on, knowing that six months from now things will be very different.