Buckhout Writer

A Wandering Mind In A Not Normal Time

My Pandemic Journals

Under a cool clear evening in early March 2020, I pulled into a local bar to meet up with a friend as one did without a thought at the time. Deep-diving a shared interest in history while downing fine ales were twin pillars of the venture, goals never not realized. It was a near-to-monthly ritual going on a decade, a robust streak that was about to end. For it was already here in the form of dire headlines, a tense trepidation not yet panicked, a public not yet wise to transmission vectors still a worry for others. And it just so happened that the friend was an epidemiologist with 30+ years in the field, an official at a certain local agency specializing in infectious diseases and their control. “This is the big one,” he had said, and more than once. But it was in parting that he had put it plain: “This is going to get bad. Just keep your head and move through. Good luck.”

“Good luck” . . . not the normal farewell one expects following a night of ale-fueled, if trace-anxious, camaraderie. But then, normal was no longer a thing.

From March 18 – July 4, 2020, I kept two running journals documenting the initial wave of the C19 pandemic. What started as tense topical rants and past-present weave-togethers spun out through the vacuum of those early days, evolved into deep-dive cross-examinations of myself, my home country, and humanity. Throwing my lived experience and those I was in contact with into a thought-blender overflowing with daily headlines, scientific articles, and as much historical background as I could lay my hands on, I began to hone in on definitive themes to go with each day. There was much redundancy, the days and themes often recursive and repetitive. But, those were often redundant, often recursive, repetitive days. That said, there was plenty of unique mulling too. For this was all new and it was blowing the doors off all that I did know. As if for the first time, I could see just how interconnected all things were. I saw with clear eyes what the pandemic was laying bare in our national lives, how an epic crisis and the tidal weather of America’s lurching response to it was dialing into sharp relief just how f-d up our “normal” had really been. It was clear there was much work to do. It was also crystal clear that what I was documenting was a pivot-point instant, a moment that was historical just as soon as it hit the page. Entries that start off wandering about the whirling immediacy of the moment widen in aperture and coalesce into a set of daily rallying cries for how we push through. Only two questions remained: Would we? Could we?
Through: A Wandering Time In A Not Normal Time

This project would push to 70+ entries before all was said and done. Here are a few . . .

Journal 1 : March 18 - May 14, 2020
Journal 2 : May 15 - July 4, 2020