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April 20, 2020

What the Coronavirus Teaches Us about the Fragile, Impermanent, Heartbreaking Beauty of Life.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


In the indigenous and Buddhist soul, everything and all life is sacred.

Every last aspect of life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—even the deadly and death, for this is how the Creator made it, this is how the cosmos works.

Working remotely on the Oregon Coast, I see and feel the Coronavirus creeping into every corner of the country. We were supposed to visit my parents in Austin for spring break but were afraid we might carry the virus to our 80-somethings, so we have isolated here.

I am 56 and my wife 60, so we are not spring chickens ourselves. My sister is a sub-acute nurse. I worry a little, not a lot, about all of us. I would be naïve to think that it couldn’t happen to me or any of my friends, family, and colleagues, but I am not panicky.

I will not be one of those people who says, “I never thought it would happen to me and mine.” I will not be surprised if one of us dies. I hope it does not happen, but am preparing. I want to hug and kiss my parents again.

As people bury loved ones and healthcare workers battle in the trenches, my heart sits heavy in my chest. Yet today in the spring sun, I watch a bird build a nest in our deck and the purple vincas’ heads pop up across the yard and nod to spring. Tonight, under full moonlight, frogs croak for mates across the marsh—a universal quest—and only the brightest stars and planets shine in this luminous dark.

Fifty miles off the coast here is the Cascadia Subduction Zone—statistically overdue for a megathrust earthquake, the most powerful kind there is. Forty large earthquakes have occurred here in the last ten thousand years (half of them megathrusts), two hundred and fifty years apart on average. The result will likely be the largest earthquake ever recorded and devastation throughout the Pacific Northwest from the shaking and the tsunami—many thousands killed, buildings and infrastructure decimated, and a projected one million homeless.

This house may be my death and/or a pile of rubble tumbled down this hill and/or flotsam and jetsam across our little valley and marsh. I don’t want to go, but what an epic ending. And if we live through it, it is going to be rough, but we will have to be tough, even dance in the rain. Because this is how life is. Earthquakes come with earth.

Viruses and earthquakes are fascinating. The last megathrust happened at about 9 p.m. on January 26, 1700 (we know this due to the timing of the tsunami recorded in Japan as a result) and created a Ghost Forest here, trees buried and preserved in the quake’s wake and whose stumps reappeared recently after enough sand washed out to sea. The original trees date to 2,000 years ago.

Viruses are master replicators, as all life must be. They do not intend to kill—because they want their host to keep spreading them around—but they can and do overpower. A horror. I feel the pain and dread of the stress and the sorrow descending on the country and yet appreciated a run on the beach a recent morning as the full moon dove into the ocean and the sun peeked over the hills.

We are all in this together now, and we all must be together after.

Oregon donated 140 ventilators to New York. That’s the spirit that will be needed. Nurses and doctors are making massive sacrifices—even the ultimate one. We will all need to make sacrifices for our brothers and sisters who are and who are about to mightily struggle. Things will go better if we all work together. We must calm our fears and their selfishness and extend our hearts to one another.

Life will likely be much different, but we will need to accept—maybe even learn—to love it for what it is. We may need to learn to love the basics again, which is enough and a lot, but we will also have to allow ourselves to imagine the fresh possibilities and opportunities.

I am not ready to die or see anybody I love go—but they might.

I would love to have grandchildren, but if I don’t, I had two magnificent kids—the joys of my life along with my wonderful wife.

Life is brutal and beautiful.

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