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Horses and Butterflies and Viruses

“For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,

and vanished
into the world.”
– Mary Oliver, One or Two Things

I woke up restless. It builds rather than dissipates as I go through my morning ritual of hydration and caffeine and reading. I recognize it immediately. The writing will be more difficult today, I thought, and surely it has been. I struggle at times with structure: chafing at rigidity and schedules and routine. But I chase these things anyway, thinking a proper to-do list brings order to life. My morning routine saves me more than it imposes on me, and today will be no different.

Yesterday I walked four miles at lunchtime to shake off the feeling. In the last mile of the walk I saw the horses by the fence and eagerly anticipated saying hello to them when I reached the bottom of the hill. As I was thinking this another walker came into my vision, marched purposefully to the fence with his camera phone rising above his head and spooked the horses away. Resentment at this intrusion boiled in me until I realized it would have been reversed had I been in his shoes and he mine. The horses didn’t care which of us intruded first, only that they wanted no intruders. They stood at the edge of the fence because they’d found their end point of freedom. Yet rebelliously snuck their heads through the slats for a nibble of grass on the other side. I finished my walk with mixed feelings.

Like most of the world I need to fly away from the cage; to weightlessly catch the wind and let it carry me away. To vanish into the world and return again someday, maybe. Such is life in the cage, it seizes the restlessness inside you and amplifies it. Serving the greater good staying in place offers mixed feelings as well. The virus doesn’t care who it intrudes upon, only that it has room to grow, and careless or prudent hosts alike offer that given the opportunity. The virus is restless too. Who’s patience will run out first?

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