Today marks the seventh day since my husband left the house. I left the house a couple of times to take out the trash and pick up the mail. We aren’t short on fresh air, though. Unless it is raining, we sleep with a large window open in our bedroom. Our living room has three floor- to- ceiling windows, so natural light is in abundance. One window is open now, and although I can hear the distant hum of traffic on I-5, it is eerily quiet for my neighborhood. On a typical day, I can’t leave the living room windows open and work because every twenty minutes, or so a plane flies almost parallel to our window or so it seems to be that close. We live in the flight path of a metropolitan airport.
Before Covid-19, we would have to pause movies or turn up the television so we could hear the voices of the actors or the news anchors on the programs we were watching. Now, we can watch what we want with the volume at a reasonable level, because there are very few times during the day that we hear the rumble or roar of an airplane.
Many days, I sat on the couch and watched the airplanes, British Air, Jet Blue, Southwest, Alaska, and others, and I would wonder where all the people were going. Were they returning home from a once in a lifetime trip to New York to see the play, Hamilton? Were they returning from a week on the beach in Hawaii? Were they traveling for business? Were they returning from seeing a sick family member? Were they here to vacation to bask in the sunshine of the city where I live?
There are endless scenarios for what brought people to fly by my window and land at the airport less than five miles from my house. Now, the air is still. As my husband and I work side by side during the day, a plane going by is something we notice because it only happens every few hours when before it was a constant stream.
The deep silence that has us noticing a motorcycle on the distant freeway is a reminder of the pandemic. We used to complain about the roar, the loud noise a plane makes as the pilot slows the engines down. We used to look out the window at the long machines carrying bodies from country to country, continent to continent, city to city, and state to state.
As I type this, I can hear birds in the distance, not right outside my window but much farther away. I hear them chirp and sing and call to one another. This pause in our daily activities that we once took for granted is changing my perspective. What once was common now is a luxury. What once was a necessity now appears to be excess.
If we slow down and stay at home for long enough, we might start caring about things we long let slip away from our lives. I might play a board game with my husband. I might plant some herbs in my kitchen. I might spend the whole day reading magazines from cover to cover, or curl up on the couch and finally finish all those shelved books.
The birds are still singing somewhere in the neighborhood. I’m sure they always were. I just couldn’t hear them as life and busyness and distractions, the hustle and bustle was the way we evaluated and lived our lives.