Pandemic’s pause offers chance to reflect
Nothing has changed during the pandemic except my perspective.
At The Post-Star office, my desk faces in toward the center of the newsroom, where people pass on their way to the coffee machine. The TV, tuned to the news, is visible up to the right, near the ceiling, and all the other editors and reporters are within murmuring or shouting distance.
Here at home, I sit next to a second-floor window that faces South Street, with a view of the flower garden inside our semi-circular driveway. When our dog, Pepper, barks, I look out the window to see who is walking by, and notice the birds on the fence and the bumblebees drifting in and out of the tulips like zeppelins.
A breeze stirs the branches, cars pass. I could stare for minutes on end at the sun on the leaves of the lilac bush.
I worked at the paper in Malone — the Telegram — about 30 years ago for a gruff publisher, a good man named Russ Webster, with whom I got into too many arguments, because of my arrogance.
Sometimes, I angered him. Sometimes, he shrugged his big round shoulders: “In 100 years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter,” he’d say.
I couldn’t argue with that.
If nothing else, the pandemic is increasing my opportunities for thoughtfulness, because I’m alone a lot more. When you’re sitting by yourself, listening to the rustlings of the day, you feel something different, something deeper and undefined.
So much of my “normal” days pass through expected categories of interaction and tasks. But the days are abnormal now, and more of my time is spent sitting quietly by the window. It allows for a reset — the sort of change in outlook that usually happens after a vacation but never lasts — a new appreciation of what matters and what doesn’t.
I imagine I hear this same appreciation in the voices of people I call for stories. Usually, most of us have a lot of the brusqueness of “getting things done here” in our voices when we’re contacted unexpectedly during the workday. Now, people seem nicer, more engaged in the conversation I’m having with them, less concerned about what they’re going to do next.
Perhaps the pandemic has brought out a general thoughtfulness and concern in us, the way stark reminders of our mortality can do.
Or maybe it’s just me — I’m more engaged, enjoying conversations for their own sake and thinking less about how they’ll fit into the story I’m working on.
This crisis is very hard for a lot of people and tragic for some. It’s not about silver linings if you’ve lost your job and money is running short or if someone you love is sick or has died.
But it has brought this new element by surprise into the lives of some of us — a pause, as the governor has called it — a chance to step to the side for a moment and take a look and consider what we see.
Will Doolittle is the projects editor of the Post-Star newspaper of Glens Falls.