In the Time of Corona

I am sitting at my work desk. It’s the end of the week. A bizarre week, to say the least. Outside, traffic has ceased, almost completely. I see only one young lady crossing the street. And a car every once in a while. Otherwise an unusual silence, almost ominous. The society is in lockdown-mode. The buzzword is social distancing.

What maybe surprises me the most is the fact that I have been able to maintain almost full workload. I have produced stories for magazines and papers that still keep the press running – if not literally in these digital times.

However, I have hardly photographed people this week, and when it happens, it’s from a distance. I always preach to photographers; go close, but in the time of corona, it’s not feasible any more. Not surprisingly, I am photographing much less than I would usually do.

I certainly can’t do much street photography. Well, I can, but not with much activity or people close up. Maybe I will give myself an assignment to photograph emptiness and how the lockdown has so dramatically changed city life. Next week.

As much as I have been able to keep myself busy this week, it seems to change as of now. I haven’t gotten new assignments, so naturally as the projects I am presently working on get done, my workload will quickly diminish. I do not despair, though. I will survive. Instead I will start developing new personal projects that I have long wanted to do, but never found time to commence with.

Here in Norway we are in the second week of the lockdown with severe regulations imposed by the authorities. Most people are doing okay, but I feel a kind of despair emerging from the collective soul. We are all getting somewhat restless from all this isolation we are supposed to enforce. The despair gets more evident as people start to see that this is going to last for months, not just a couple of weeks.

Last weekend it was as if the safety valve blew. After a more than usual rainy winter, the sun finally showed some grace here in my hometown. Suddenly every single one who has been practising social distancing needed to get outside and enjoy the sun. On the mountains surround the city, there was almost a line of people hiking up and down. So much now that the health authorities found it necessary to impose new regulations for the use of the outdoor vicinities.

I unconditionally confess, I was among the culprits. And how good wasn’t it for soul and spirit! I could lift my eyes, see and accept what is to come. I am ready, now after getting in touch with mother nature and seeing her beauty is still untouched by the plague. In fact she is doing better than in a long time, with diminished pollution, diminished pressure by modern society and diminished exploitation.

111 thoughts on “In the Time of Corona

  1. I avoid any public place that is conducive to gatherings, as per the ordinances. Doesn’t stop me from being able to take walks. I just choose less busy hours to avoid contact… Be one of those people, Otto!

  2. A very strange time indeed. It will be interesting to watch what will happen when we get out of this crisis. Will the world have changed significantly or will we go back to our old bad habits? It will take years to study the impact of this crisis… lots of stuff for you to write about! Hang in there; it will eventually be over! (Suzanne)

    1. It is going to be interesting to see where we go after the dust from corona has settle. I hope we can turn this experience with the crises into something better for the future of the world.

  3. I feel very sorry for the folks who are stuck indoors unable to leave their homes as I knew what that was like even 2019 as my hip pain got worse.
    I can assure everyone that once the shock wears off, you will be surprised to find new ways of keeping amused and entertained. If you have a computer, you’re assured of at least one outlet.

    The important thing to remember is to move and walk around occasionally and not sit down all day. Your lymphatic system will slow down and make it harder for your body to excrete toxins and you may feel more than a little ‘seedy’ or ‘sluggish’. Even if you’re used to doing a lot of work at your desk or table on the computer, remember to get up every 20 minutes.

  4. There is not much to do but accept and protect. And mumble some too. As most of my outdoor activities involve solitary time in the woods not much has changed. We are allowed to exercise, walking, jogging, hiking, etc., while keeping a distance and even with distance our numbers must be limited. The only other vital reason to be out is to get our food and we are fortunate that our markets have instituted senior hours for those of us older and with some health issues that challenge our immune system. Not many people are out at 6 a.m.
    It’s good that the bulk, if not all, of your work projects can be done remotely. The computer age has its faults but for folks in your profession the benefits, at least to date, outweigh the negatives.

  5. Dear Otto, beauty means so much during times like this. When the internal world is chaotic and anxious, artists bring a special gift – reminding people that beauty still exists. You do this so well! You work is even more important in times like this. Cheering you on….

  6. We live in a surreal time…we need to learn to cope with it as best we can, it will eventually be over, but sadly with many fatalities… I’m not getting out, but enjoying the sunlight streaming through my windows at present

  7. Dear Otto – I am sending you warm (virtual) hugs, with wishes for warm sunshine and happiness. May you emerge soon from your lockdown, and be able to go out into nature again. Our country has started a nationwide 21-day lockdown at midnight last night, so we are just at the beginning of the journey you have already been walking for a while. Keep safe, and thank you for sharing!

    1. At least the lockdown here doesn’t mean we can’t move outside. But almost everything except the most essential has closed down. And, yes, we need to keep a distance to others. Stay safe, you too, Reggie.

  8. In Belgium we are also under severe restrictions, e.g. can’t take my car to go photographing. Have to go by foot or bike. We can only get out with the car for: going to work, to see a doctor or to go shopping for food. But this isolation and social distance brings also people together. Whenever I go for a walk, people start talking, are greeting one another.. I find myself having a conversation with neighbours I’ve never seen before! And.. the social distance of 1,5 m is well respected.

    1. It’s interesting, isn’t it, to be more social, but a meter or two apart. I also see more social concerns and people taking care of each other here in Norway. Again, from a distance.

    1. Yes, so far all well with my loved one. She might actually have been infected, but is now back and staying healthy. Looks like PNW was the epicentre in the beginning, but it has turned to other places now. Stay safe, Raye.

  9. Thanks Otto for the update. This is such a scary time for all. We just began our 2 week lockdown here in Minnesota. We are able to walk which I’m grateful for as nature is so incredibly calming. I linked your post to a collection of similar posts I’m gathering on how we all around doing around the world. We all need community more than ever now. STay well Otto.

  10. Otto, you are absolutely correct. Maybe there is a silver lining with almost no cars or trucks or airplanes to pollute. We have been on lockdown (East Coast of the USA) for two weeks and the end in not in sight. The hardest is trying to keep a balance between being informed and the invasion of information on the emotions. I am finding solace in calls with family and friends, spending lots of time in my gardens (thankfully, it’s spring and the landscape is renewing), and long walks in nature. Fortunately, my neighbors are adhering to social distancing. It’s a quiet university town. Also, I am doing experimental creative projects with an artist friend. We challenge each other with a weekly project, and then discuss the results of our creations. How fortunate to live in this age of technological advances. Now we need scientific advances to make a vaccine and therapies. Please be safe and well in these extraordinary times.

    1. Having access to a garden makes a big difference in these times. And the challenge you have started between you and your artist friend, shows creativity won’t be stop by corona. Keep up the positive spirit – and stay safe.

  11. You express well the feelings we all share at this time and there is no magic wand that will make it all disappear overnight. I applaud the central message of your post: let us focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t; stay positive; use our initiative and imagination, and smile from time to time!

  12. It seems like Mother Nature must have showered sunshine and warm temperatures on several of the colder parts of the world in the past few days. A similar situation as yours occurred in Chicago, where so many people were out rejoicing in the lovely weather and not paying any attention to their numbers or their distances that the mayor has now closed all major waterfront parks and trails, along with some others not on the waterfront. It takes me back to the old school days when one kid wouldn’t own up to doing something wrong and the rest of the class got punished along with the guilty party.

    1. Yes, it’s the same kind of situation. Although, at least here in my hometown, it was, and still is, easy enough to stay the required one to two meters apart even when people where conjugating in the outdoor areas like I describe. Not everybody are conscious about it, though.

  13. Beautiful shot with sublime isolation. We have pretty well the same situation as you described here in Alberta, Canada. As of this week, our National Parks, Banff,Jasper, Elk Island are now closed. Drive through and don’t stop. It is now law to keep socially distant, with fines of $1,000 dollars for anyone who does not practice distancing of two meters or anyone who does not go directly home from the airport and isolate for 14 days. I can, and do, go out for walks and even met a Peace Officer patrolling the trail in the river valley. I am taking photos and have an altar for contemplative prayer which keeps me calm and grounded, also a table for art projects. I am getting a WiFi modem so I can use my tablet for face to face communication, a blessing in this modern age. Stay well.

    1. Modern technology is really a blessing these days. As unfortunate as these restrictions are, I think they are necessary. We won’t be able to stop the spread of the corona virus, but we can slow it down, so that the health system have a chance of coping.

  14. I think that “despair emerging from the collective soul” is ubiquitous, Otto. But we must fight that despair by whatever means we have.
    I hope you can find a balance between work and recuperation, and find new projects to engage your interest.
    Best wishes,
    Tanja

  15. All I thought about when I saw the notice that you had posted was what a brilliant shout-out to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the great author of many, but of course, “Love in the Time of Cholera”. Isolation, quarantine, distancing — are all such negative words. But I love the imagery of nature needing a break from all us humans. Refreshing, reassessing, rejuvenating. I’m trying to see it that way, every day. I’m not always successful, but it’s a bit more uplifting than focusing on the negatives. And now, I will be re-reading this masterpiece because of you. I have the time after-all. Thank you. Cheers my friend.

    1. Of course, I had Marques in mind when writing, however, not being the first to see the correlation. As hard as it is, we need to try to stay as positive as possible. Like you, I am not always successful either, but I try to have the best attitude. Stay safe, my friend.

  16. I think we can all relate to your words Otto , the uncertainty and sense of helplessness. I am at the hospital with the sick and it’s scary for them and us. To create projects and stay busy plus getting outdoors is a great plan, my husband has built an entire deck out back, his first endeavor of anything like that. I must take a photo. Be safe , be well Otto. We will come out on the other end.

  17. You surely must have been thinking of Gabriel Garcia Marquez when you chose your title. While our time is a time of Corona rather than of cholera, we can hope that a hundred years of solitude won’t be our fate!

    As I’ve listened to those around me, I hear occasional hints of magical thinking, but it seems to me that a realistic approach is necessary: doing what we can, avoiding what we must, and refusing to give in to the fear-mongers among us. Now, more than ever, words and images can do more than soothe; they can inspire hope and sustain efforts, and continuing at what we do best is important.

    My personal conviction is that this virus has been among us longer than we realize, and it’s clear that becoming infected isn’t a death sentence. I certainly realize the seriousness of the situation, especially in densely populated urban areas, but these words of Seneca seem appropriate: ““There are more things, Lucilius, likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

    1. No doubt getting scared is not gonna help. And it seems like for most people getting sick, it’s not worse than any other flue. But some people are more at risk and if too many get sick at the same time, the health care system, won’t be able to cope. The restriction are meant to slow down the progress so the numbers don’t increase exponentially. Like you write, we need to approach it realistically.

      1. Of course, it would help if our political leadership in the US were a bit more realistic, as well, and if the people profiting from fomenting panic and selling unproven cures would just self-isolate themselves out of the picture!

  18. Of course my photography business is down by now. But I try to go for a walk in nature every day, just to enjoy it and forget about the Virus for a moment, I take pictures of my walks with my cell phone and post it on Face Book, just for the sake of people enjoy what I see out there in nature. Stay safe Otto and keep being inspired.

    1. That is the best attitude these days. We all hurt in one way or another, but if we can find positive moments in the tragedy, we are better able to cope. Thank you, Cornelia. And stay safe, you too.

  19. I must agree, mother nature has been doing good and recuperating better these past few days. I just hope that everything will be better, soon.

  20. yesterday it was warm in my little french city, i went out for a walk (one hour is our amount of freedom), there were many old people walking) and i didn’t dare asking for shooting them. there was also a homeless guy who asked for some money and i had only my credit card. i must say it is now almost quite impossible to pay with cash. very difficult time for homeless people. stay safe and healthy, Otto.

    1. Yes, it’s definitely hard times for the homeless, the drug addicts and others that don’t have any social security. I don’t know how we can help with the social distancing imposed. Like for you in France, cash is almost not usable these days. Stay safe, you too Francis.

  21. This restriction or lock down can have drastic impacts on people life. Here in my home town, they still allow going to the local parks but still with “social distancing”. I have not been to one yet to see how many people are there. I see however neighbors are seen outside in the evening more than before. Hope you and your family are doing well.

  22. Having just flown back north from the hot spot of south Florida, I am now in self quarantine for two weeks. your post reminds me to take my camera with me when I go for walks, my daily mental health fix! No people shots, but hopefully I can catch a bird or two…

  23. Good to hear how things are going in Norway. America is a collection of different strategies from state to state and city to city. The mayor of Boise was the first to proactively shut down all but takeout & curbside delivery and recommend self-isolation. Last week, after the first case of “community spread” the governor of Idaho finally proclaimed the entire state must lock down. It has been interesting (and frightening) to watch this plague cast its shadow across the globe. We in the west are so lucky to have space to spread out, unlike urbanites with little more than a balcony’s worth of sky to look at. For me isolation is not difficult. For once in my life I have an excuse to nurture my hermit nature. But in watching and listening to the people around me, I feel that” kind of despair from the collective soul” that you so aptly describe.

    The real concern is what comes next? What happens to all those unemployed people, to the businesses that can’t sustain prolonged closures, the people who will get booted onto the street because they can’t pay their bills. The disease may be “conquered” as our delusterous president boasts, but the after affects will take years to overcome.

    Best of luck to you and yours.

    1. First, it’s clearly about fighting the pandemic. But then, it’s going to be the big question, how do we proceed from here? The aftereffect will be just as huge as the disease itself. And with a prolonged impact on societies and individuals. It’s going to be scary, but I am still hopefully that something good will come out of it. The human spirit is never more positive than in dire times.

      1. You are right, Otto. People do come together in times of need. I do worry though that after the initial fear is surpassed, we will tribalize again and the pain of recovery, though difficult at all levels, will separate the wealthy from the servants even more deeply, adding to the possibility of a pandemic of social unrest.

          1. (I’ve got one big hope and I’m ashamed to admit it. I hope America’s infamous crybaby contracts the virus…and fails to thrive. That might give compassion a chance over here)

  24. Otto, a new kind of creativity appears to be emerging from this crisis. It is fascinating to see how the human spirit is so resilient and adapts to the new circumstances. I am glad to hear you will have time to get going with shelved projects, that you did not have time for in the past. We are staying positive and taking one day at a time. Keep well Otto 🙂

  25. Tur i oturen att du i alla fall är “hemma” i norden. Även om länderna oss emellan är stängda och rörelsefriheten begränsad på ett historiskt sätt…så har vi vår natur, där vi kan ladda batterierna och få hjälp med att hjälpa vår själ att må lite bättre. Där är vi långt ifrån medmänniskor och förhoppningsvis även från all sorts smitta.
    Må det vända snart och hoppas att vi kommer ur detta som “nya” och förhoppningsvis friska, klartänkta och ödmjuka individer.

    1. Jeg har tror på at noe bra skal komme ut av den krisen hele verden nå opplever. Men så klart er vi tross alt de heldige her i Norden, på mange måter, men i hvert fall ved at vi har naturen rett utenfor stuedøren. Mer eller mindre.

  26. Up until Thursday I was able to keep myself distracted with my workload. As you put it though, nothing new will be coming in until our photographers are allowed to work again so my work load has diminished. I am half heartedly tackling some things I let go previously. We live in a condo on the 30th floor and our elevator has become our terror. Every time we need to get groceries (that is the only time we leave our place) we feel like we are taking our lives in our hands. We are fortunate though, because our side of the building backs on to a nature preserve. We can sit out on the balcony and watch the water flow and the deer play. That may be the thing that saves our sanity. Stay safe, My Friend.

  27. We are on Lockdown as well, actually it’s Day 15 already. No traffic, it’s hard to go to the supermarket. no transportation available. We practice social distancing. It’s hard to all of us but it will pass.

  28. Frankly, I am still adjusting to having to share my workspace with my family that are now working or schooling from home. I feel more busy and not less but am having more difficulties concentrating. Thanks for sharing your experiences and I do like that photo.
    Cheers, Amy

  29. Like you, I’ve been as busy, or even busier with my work over the past two weeks, and I work with a lot of out of town clients, so except for more Zoom meetings and classes and not getting to see my grandson in person, life still feels pretty normal, and I’m grateful. But I agree that it will change as the weeks turn into months, but I’ll adjust as needed and take it a day at a time. I’m grateful we still have electricity, internet, food, etc. Take care, Otto!

  30. I’m very lucky to have access daily to the outdoors since I was living in my van when all of this began. It is a definite balm to the soul to be in nature at this time.
    While it’s getting difficult to find legal access to open land, I’m hopeful there will continue to be wild places I can park while practicing social distancing and working.

  31. Nice to see you Otto It’s been about three or four years since I’ve posted and read other people’s posts. I too i’m looking closer at nature’s beauty. The man looking out at the mountains and sky- this photograph symbolizes Hope .

  32. Yes, nature is doing better and better these days, but we need to be in physical contact with the outdoors. So far I’m still able to visit a number of parks here that are open. Everyone is being very careful and keeping a good distance – they weren’t at first but now they are. We only have 128 cases in our county – nothing like it is closer to Seattle. Still, it’s scary and even I get restless. Keep up your spirits, Otto!

    1. Thank you, Lynn. It is scary times, but we can only keep as much a positive attitude as possible – and keep a good distance. It’s good to read that your county is doing well. I know Seattle was among the first in the States to have numbers rise quickly, but it looks like they may have stabilized some by now.

  33. Love the photo! It’s the same here in the rural center of the USA even down to park closings due to overcrowding, threats of legal action for defying orders, etc. Your observations give voice to what so many are feeling and experiencing. Here’s to hope for the other side of this nightmare.

  34. Lovely to read your thoughts on this from Norway. I totally agree with the ‘despair emerging from the collective soul.’ feeling. We daren’t think about the aftermath of this!
    Anyway, great post. Loved it.

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