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GUEST OPINION: Coping in a COVID-19 world

The City of Charlottetown founding fathers decided in 1869 to make 30 acres into Victoria Park.
The City of Charlottetown founding fathers decided in 1869 to make 30 acres into Victoria Park.

Bernard J. Callaghan
Guest opinion


Much has already been written about living during a pandemic which, thanks to Dr. Heather Morrison, her team, and ourselves, is now under more control. But ironically the virus has indirectly changed lifestyles. For example, people now realize more deeply we are our sister’s and brother’s keeper. But for me, and maybe others, coping with the pandemic has also enriched my perception of the ordinary. I will give a personal example.

My wife, Shirley and I occasionally like to go to the Victoria Park Kiwanis Dairy Bar for an ice cream or a hamburger. Of course, in lining up we have to maintain six feet distance on the well marked deck.

One afternoon I put in our order and then moved off the right end of the deck where other customers stood on the clay; to prevent contagion, the Kiwanis had to remove the picnic table.

Waiting I looked over the wide grass facing Fort Edward and the Hillsbourgh River. On the field I saw something that at first looked very ordinary: four or five people, some on blankets, were spread apart at least 50 yards.

Normally the above would not have caught my attention. But this time I recollected the original surveying of the estate and the decision by the City Fathers in 1869 to make the 30 acres a park. I imagined the families of that time gathering just like the ones I saw on the grass today.

In addition, the above image recollected in me the lyrics of Saturday in the Park by the soft rock band, Chicago. Joyful lyrics like the following burst out of the song:

“Saturday in the park/I think it was the Fourth of July…People dancing, people laughing/ a man selling ice cream…People talking , really smiling/ a man playing a guitar/ And singing for us all….” Though the song is set in Chicago on Independence Day, the lyrical playfulness transcended a particular place even as I witnessed the families on the Victoria Park grassy knoll.

I believe what I experienced that afternoon was an epiphany. Epiphany means “a showing forth” or manifestation of a hidden joyful reality in what appears to be ordinary. Thus, in the Christian tradition the baby Jesus was manifested to the three kings; no words were spoken. Intuitively they knew the baby was the Christ child.

The scene released great joy in my heart, likely because of the stressful times we are going through with self-isolation. I was touching base with humanity.

I do not believe I am the only one coping with the pandemic by reconnecting with the ordinary. We are surrounded by little epiphanies. For example, a friend told us for the first time she really noticed the flowers on her walk because she was not rushing off to work. Moreover, the lilacs seem to be plumper and lasting longer.

In sum, epiphanies fortify our spirits in a pandemic. We now see the world more through a poet’s eyes.

Bernard J. Callaghan is a retired teacher and writer living in Charlottetown.

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