Thoughts in a Pandemic: Elephant or Dandelion?

April 11, 2020

I don’t know what day of quarantine this is. I’ve purposefully not tracked it. I’m discovering there are competing voices in my head. The first says, “Just keep living. Everything’s gonna be fine.” The other says, “What the hell are you thinking? The world is ending and you have no idea.”

I wake at odd hours with nonsensical thoughts like, “Do you want to live your life as an elephant or a dandelion?”  And these questions keep me awake. There’s an urgent desire to come up with an answer to questions I don’t even understand.

The feeling follows me into the morning when I wake to a mixed bag of happy and overwhelming sad. There’s no separation between the emotion, just one rolling wave of extreme. Like standing at the edge of the ocean, my feet in wet sand, each wave causing me to sink a little deeper until I’m no longer able to maintain my balance and the intensity knocks me to my knees.

This pandemic is a calm ocean at rising tide. Ripples kissing the shore softly. Castles melting slowly into the sea. Beachgoers inching their chairs to avoid the waves, quietly denying the inevitable.

I want to scream, “Move your fucking chairs! Go to the dunes! It’s the only way to avoid the waves.” You’re teasing yourselves with the inching of chairs. The waves are kissing your feet and gently lapping your toys. You think they aren’t hurting you until randomly a bucket is swept away and you’re left to run into the ocean to fetch it. Now you risk the undertow. The lucky ones avoid it. The weaker ones are sucked under. Rescuers swim out to help. Some of them are successful, others not.

All the while, I’m screaming, “Just move your fucking chairs!”

We can all sit on the dunes and watch the waves, separately together, from our chairs. And soon the tide will change. The danger will subside. It will once again be safe to sit by the ocean. But for now, “Move your fucking chairs.”

The desperate, anxious, helpless feeling is familiar.

The knowing that danger lurks. The desire to ignore it. The inability to forget. The constant internal struggle to relax, let go, enjoy, savor, trust. There is no relaxing when the rising tide threatens to wash away your children.

I know how to do this. Be aware of the danger. Stay vigilant. Keep calm. Stay silent. Shield others. Like an elephant, standing watch over her herd.

I think perhaps I live my life as an elephant, a sacred role for which I ‘m grateful. But the current state of affairs is overwhelming. My herd has grown. It’s no longer possible to round them up into a circle I can contain.

I can’t move all of their chairs.

Instead, for just a moment, I’d like to be a dandelion, roots reaching deep into the earth, grounding, nourishing, sustaining, and steady. My bright yellow face soaking up the sun in the middle of a mountain meadow, far from the reach of the ocean waves.

Nearby, I watch my children lounge on blankets under the shade of age old trees. The sound of laughter fills the atmosphere with life that I soak in through deep green leaves and release back to them with gratitude.

In the distance, my grandchildren run, climb, and squeal with joy. They grasp the wispy seed fluffs of the dandelion plant and with deep full breaths, make wish after wish. Filling the universe with childlike innocence and hope for a brighter day.IMG_E5726

This pandemic is exhausting. The elephant in me is tired.

Today, I choose dandelions.



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