One of the challenges of writing for Sacred Space Astronomy is we write for an international audience. Yes, when looking at our little readership globe, the majority of hits do come from the United States. However, Br. Guy emphasizes that we are writing to a global audience and to keep this fact in mind when posting. This creates some challenges, especially when I write of my life in Wisconsin, but, sadly, Covid-19 has made writing with a global mindset a bit easier.
We, as a global community, are going through this pandemic together. Covid-19 has created much frustration and pain for many regardless of race, gender, country of origin, and/or state of life. Obviously, I would prefer that an historic moment of global unification would come through something positive. Still, this is our reality, this is our present, and this is our immediate future. This reality begs the question: What are we going to do about it?
In my home state of Wisconsin, our Governor has ordered a mandatory mask order. I support the order and sadly see it as a necessary means to try and stop the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases in my home state. In the United States, a pandemic that should be the most apolitical topic of society has sadly become nothing but politics. The political rifts on the subject of Covid-19 has made civil discussion of this pandemic impossible at times. This communication breakdown causes two huge problems. First, how does one communicate essential health information in a cultural whirlwind of distrust? Second, how do we explore healthy outlets needed as a member of the human race to help take the edge off of the stress and pressure we all feel?
For the best information on the science of Covid-19, we need to look to groups like the World Health Organization. Regardless of which country you live in, the basic recommendations for all people are the same: Social distance, soap wash/sanitize your hands, and wear masks when social distancing becomes compromised. This, however, creates a tension with the fact we are wired to be a social species. Therefore, one of the core attributes of the human race now contributes to the contracting and passing on of this virus. This begs the question: What should we do to maintain both our physical health and our emotional health while being socially distant?
At the heart of this balance will always be rest, exercise, spirituality, and acts of recreation or "re-creation." Personally, I tend to be an introvert so, by nature, I gravitate toward doing things to re-create on on my own. As you have seen in the past weeks, astrophotography has become central to my "staying sane" plan during this pandemic. However, I've also found that photography in general has been a great way for me to get out of the house, but still maintain social distancing, simply looking for interesting subjects to photograph in the world around me.
This process of looking for inspiration for photography has also fed my desire to practice contemplation of creation. At this time of year, sunflowers are on full display in Wisconsin. Their stunning beauty and ability to transform a landscape visually are unparalleled. These past few days, I have been exploring different fields of sunflowers to get out and enjoy the outdoors. I find it fascinating that sunflowers have such a universal appeal. Wherever I go, there are at least four or five cars parked alongside the road of these fields. Some people are there to take professional portraits while others, like me, just find them beautiful. Here are some of the images I've captured of local sunflower fields.
For residents of western Wisconsin, sunflowers have taken on a unique, local symbol. If you were driving with someone from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and saw a field of sunflowers, it wouldn't surprise of me if you would immediately hear, "Are those sunflowers from Seeds of Hope?" One of the more successful charitable movements locally has been the selling of sunflower seeds to support researchers, hospitals, and families who deal with and are touched by cancer. It started when a family lost their loving mother who also loved sunflowers. Now, the tragedy of her death has become a thriving family business and charity to the point that sunflowers have become a symbol for support of cancer victims and their families.
For those of you who read Sacred Space Astronomy, a sunflower might evoke the powerful image of the sunflower galaxy. Obviously, the stately flower inspired scientists when naming the galaxy. It is a powerful reminder that in this world of wonders, there are some that stand out among others in a way that can become a powerful symbol both locally and universally. Add this to Pope Francis' call in Laudato Si' to practice the contemplation of creation and we find a powerful backdrop of something profoundly positive amid the stress we all live with during this national pandemic.
Spiritual Exercise: What are the healthy outlets you have discovered to emotionally and spiritually get away from the stress of Covid-19? Leave your socially distant stress relievers below in the comments. Together, let us ask God to walk with us in these difficult times and give us the daily manna we need to be fed in this desert of wandering due to the Coronavirus.