Every human on our planet is struggling right now. For some, it’s simply getting through the day; for others, it’s coping with mortality in unimaginable circumstances.
If the challenges we are facing are taking their toll mentally, you are not alone. Many psychologists agree that the ability to comprehend the magnitude of what is going on in the world right now is beyond human capacity.
One way to ease the dark clouds inside is to look outside. The blue skies above are one of many positive changes that have occurred from our “human pause,” and marveling at the natural beauty surrounding us right now can be very therapeutic and inspiring.
So, we thought we’d share some good news from around the globe and reflections from Desert Health readers throughout the country on the wonder they have found in these unprecedented times.
Blue skies abound
Many believe this pause is a strong message from Mother Earth. When you consider the change in our global environment, it’s hard not to agree.
Last year, India was once again home to 14 of the top 20 cities with the most hazardous air quality in the world.1 Now, for the first time in over two decades some say, residents in the capital city New Delhi are looking up at blue skies. Air Quality Index (AQI) readings for the fifth city on the list are standardly 150 on a good day and often up to 500. In March they saw 38.2
China, a close second with 14 of the top 50 cities, is experiencing the same. NASA reports that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide from cars, power plants and industry significantly decreased when the quarantine was in place as shown on the satellite images on page 16. The reduction was first apparent near Wuhan and eventually spread across the country.3
Other major cities are enjoying the same, even here at home. Los Angeles Magazine reported that March EPA readings showed LA with its cleanest air ever recorded.4
How nice it would be if these indisputable facts led to cleaner energy, more conscious thinking and healthier populations.
Animals emerge from the darkness
Some of the most powerful images from around the world are animals descending on roads less traveled. Monkeys en mass in Thailand; uninhibited deer roaming the streets of Sri Lanka and Japan; peacocks displaying a cornucopia of color for residents of Madrid; rare orcas spotted in New Zealand bays; a pride of lions lounging on a road in South Africa; bears sauntering the streets of Arcadia, Calif.; goats gallivanting through the seaside town of Llandudno, Wales, and fish appearing in the clear blue canals of Venice.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunity this lockdown has given our animals,” said Pam Salvadore of La Quinta. “Those creatures who have been displaced by humans are now free to roam. They are reclaiming their habitats and enjoying our planet. I only hope that we can better accommodate them when this is all over. It’s their planet, too.”
As we long for creature comforts, animal shelters everywhere are placing the large majority of their dogs and cats in loving homes. And possibly the best news, China has officially banned the trade and consumption of wildlife.5 Reports state that the coronavirus outbreak may have started in a wild animal market in Wuhan where bats, snakes, civets and other animals were sold. Many in China join international conservation groups calling for the ban to be permanent.
Looking out for each other
We have all witnessed the heartwarming acts of kindness and generosity that have come out of quarantine. It is beautiful to think that staying apart has brought us closer together and enhanced our compassion and empathy for one another.
From countries sharing much needed supplies to cities uniting in song and sound; from groups creating virtual ways to gather, to neighbors simply showing up, the movement to embrace “we are all in this together” has been extraordinary.
To pay it forward, medical experts from China traveled to Italy with 30 tons of masks, respirators, and other supplies to help fight the fight they know all too well6. Here at home, donations received by local hospitals have been heartening.
“It’s truly humbling to see what people are doing to come together and support our health care workers at all valley hospitals,” says Eisenhower Health’s Lee Rice. To help ease stress, the hospital distributed thank you notes to employees to deliver to co-workers who might not receive the accolades deserved. Internal medicine resident Eliane Coffler, MD also initiated a hospital-wide morning meditation featuring wellness experts from around the world.
At Trilogy at the Polo Club, a group of residents set a goal to ensure all in the community had access to masks. With donations of material and time, 120 volunteers made and delivered 727 masks. Monetary donations from grateful neighbors were given to The Rescue Mission and FIND Food Bank on behalf of the community.
“I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to connect with neighbors,” said Roger Moore of Desert Hot Springs. “Even with social distancing, I feel like I’ve made some genuine relationships where previously we were acquaintances. It feels honest.”
Jennifer McKeough of Washington, D.C. has been volunteering with Chef Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen. “I love to cook and this opportunity is the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in a long time.” Those being served include health care workers, police, fire fighters, seniors, the homeless and more. “I’ve worked alongside people from the state department to out of work restaurant servers. We are all the same and it has truly been an honor.”
The return of old-fashioned fun
As our busy schedules screeched to halt, idle time spurred much creativity (making social media that much more entertaining). A common thread shared by young and old alike is the return to activities offering the comfort of yesteryear; things overshadowed by technology and our fast-paced lives like family meals, board games, old movies, trips down memory lane, playing outdoors…
“We are simplifying what ‘pleasure’ and ‘fun’ means,” said Lisa Corcoran mother of 10 from Malvern, Pa. who still has two boys at home ages 12 and 15. “Before, there was no time for imagination with school, sports, friends, etcetera. Now time is endless. As I write this, my boys are in the woods creating bike jumps from firewood and dirt. Good old-fashioned fun we haven’t seen in a while.”
“My wife and I are having fun watching old movies every evening,” says Joe Scherger, MD of Rancho Mirage. “Classics from the 1940s and 1950s with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Jimmy Stewart.”
Many readers shared stories of long phone conversations with old friends and distant relatives and sifting through old memories. “I have been reading old letters and journals and sorting photographs with both smiles and tears,” said Gloria Sannermark of Peoria, Ariz. who, like many, is confined to her apartment in a retirement residence considered high risk for the virus. “The change in routine has provided much needed down time to clean out old stuff and decide what I want to bring into the future.”
Appreciation for what really matters
Sannermark adds that she is most grateful that “instead of frustration or fear, my faith gives me a sense of peace and patience during this time of ambiguity.”
“I’ve learned through this pause that blessings come when we let go,” expressed Sonja Fung, ND of La Quinta. “I’m grateful for my family, my understanding patients, and my strong, supportive clinic team. We can get through these tough times better together.”
“I’m grateful for the time to artfully prepare dinners without having to rush off to the next activity,” says Marcie Madain of Palm Desert. “The family all jumps in to help prepare and clean, and the conversations, while different, are a bit deeper as we reflect on our day, what we appreciate and won’t take for granted ever again.”
“I am also grateful for the realization that I am enough,” adds Pam Salvadore. “Not having to subject myself to the judgement and societal expectations of the world at large has taught me that, as long as I am happy with myself, nobody else’s expectations matter.”
Many have found renewed appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. As Dr. Scherger calls them, “the finer things in life like fresh air, nature, family and friends.”
“We are so lucky to live in a place with so much wide-open space and perfect spring weather,” notes Desert Health columnist Jennifer Di Francesco. “As things have slowed down in all of our lives, witnessing the blooming of flowers and the butterflies has been a wonderful sight to take in. It has reminded me to naturally slow down and not be forced to slow down; to take in the beauty around me.”
As Editor Erika Byrd says, “I think we are all appreciating the little things more than ever.”
Editorial by Founder and Publisher Lauren Del Sarto. [email protected]