by Irene Plunkett
I am very nervous about sending this, the usual nagging voices in my head are working overtime. “Why would anyone want to read your thoughts?” “Who do you think you are?’’ Well today, for a change, I am going to ignore the chattering.
For many weeks now I have been seeing this pandemic in ‘shapes’. This started when I first watched the pain in Bergamo unfolding. Square doors opening to release long lines of rectangular wooden boxes on their journey for cremation or burial. On an island off New York City, a large rectangular grave is being filled with more rectangular wooden boxes, the unnamed and unclaimed of this raging pandemic now visible in the length and breath of buried bodies. Here in Ireland, like the rest of the world, we are talking in shapes. The circle of life, the family circle, our circle of friends, the healing circle. We talk of the loss of that most important shape … the loss of the encircling arms around those whom we love and cannot be with, both those at home and abroad. For grieving families the circle is broken and weeping into our soil. No encircling arms and no triangular sandwiches with tea for comfort. At night we sit and watch the news on television at 6 pm or 9 pm or both. Doctor Tony Houlihan, the Chief Medical Officer,`toll’ the numbers of our dead…the shape of loved ones changed into a curve… so many lives… now a curve to be flattened.
According to Google the most used shapes are squares, circles and triangles. Square houses, gardens, lawns, delivery boxes, rectangular decking, flower beds, garden sheds, triangular roofs, road signs, warning signs… shapes everywhere. From space, farms look like a patchwork quilt of stitched together squares, rectangles and triangles. Over the last few years these images have begun to change. Circles have appeared. In America, 150,000 farmers have begun to change the shape of their fields from traditional square/ rectangle to circles, for two reasons. One reason is for ease of watering, as the machine that waters the crops works in a circular motion. As a result, the entire field receives equal amounts of water, lessening water wastage. Secondly, unlike squares and rectangles, when circles are placed beside each other space is created. Farmers leave these to grow wild, thereby creating a habitat for birds, bees and plants. Changing a shape to benefit all .
Every night as Doctor Houlihan tolls the numbers he tells us how we are changing the shape of our pandemic curve. I think of all the changes that have already been made to the shape of our way of life in Ireland. We have housed the homeless, fed the hungry, tended the sick irrespective of class, colour or creed. We can and must do more. We owe it to those who have lost their lives and we owe it to the men and women on the front line. We owe it to the many from that generation who worked so hard to raise and educate families, to give us everything they never had. We owe it to the earth, our shared home, encircling, protecting and connecting us. This pandemic is showing us that we are guests on the earth. Nature is regenerating itself, in our absence. The curve is flattening to a line now. How we step off the line will be critical. We will need to learn to walk differently. We must be brave.