Pandemic Patronus


Out of nowhere, my wife asked me how comfortable I’d feel with cutting her hair. I thought, “Well jeez, I’ve field dressed deer. So yeah, I suppose.”
COVID-19 has generated upheaval in everyone’s lives. By comparison to dealing with the virus, trips to the salon just aren’t high on our priority list. We shouldn’t be going anywhere to show off our hairstyles anyway.
In no uncertain terms do I soft-sell the pandemic. It demands to be respected and treated with utmost physical care and responsibility toward others. We’re bombarded with rapid-fire information and uncomfortable statistics compounded by attempts to filter what’s legit and what isn’t. Special activities that I usually look forward to feel like they’re in short supply.
But only if I let it. Hope is a necessity for getting through this tumultuous time. Finding hope is a matter of paying attention.
The mental fallout from COVID-19 reminds me of the Dementors in Harry Potter. They devour hope and suck good feelings right out of a person. Even if you haven’t read Harry Potter, you can understand the feeling. But there is a defense for Dementors, and in the same way, there is defense for the attack of the virus on our spirits.
In Harry Potter, Dementors can be banished by a Patronus, a bit of magic taking the shape of a favorite animal unique to each character. Fortunately for us today, a pandemic Patronus can expand into a multitude of forms. And they’re different for everyone.
So, I make light of our hair issues because maintaining humor and playfulness is required. I actually have begun re-reading Harry Potter. It’s something I genuinely look forward to with each coming chapter.
On a recent drive, a weather Patronus appeared to me. The sunrise blasted from behind. In front, deep grey rainclouds held their place in the sky. The storm began and the entire landscape was tinted orange under thick raindrops, every tree, rock and guardrail. I rounded a bend and a rainbow appeared directly in line with the end of the road.
I observe wildlife. Unlike the foreboding raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s tale, a raven couple cavorted on tree branches in our backyard. One raven let loose a caw into cold, damp, morning air and I saw the puff of its breath.
On the ground, an albino squirrel loped across the yard. Albino squirrels are rare as it is. But we’ve had two in our neighborhood for a few years. They’ve dodged traffic, befuddled dogs and found a way to survive.
In large cities, some people have taken to singing to each other from their balconies, maintaining social distance. In the small town where I live in northern Minnesota, we howl like wolves to each other across our city streets at night.
I heard a droplet of melting snow plunk into a puddle somewhere, oblivious to the crisis among us humans. Nature transitions to spring; its magic always arrives.
At Mount Sinai Hospital on Long Island in New York, whenever a patient has survived COVID-19 and is released, the hospital plays “Here Comes the Sun” through their public address system.
From a literary perspective, some of these hopeful images can be considered cliché as all get out. But they’ve got backing. The sun will rise again because it’s no less true symbolically than it is in reality.
Make intentional effort to stand up against the pandemic. Recognize your Patronuses when they show up. Engage them when called upon. There’s reason to appreciate life right in front of us right now.


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