Stay Well

A typical hiking trail for me, such as this one at Rancho Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.

We Californians are entering the third week of the stay-at-home mandate to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and like many other people, I am collecting blessings and thanksgivings during this time of social distancing and extreme isolation. I’ve been calling them Quarantine Blessings on Facebook, but my nephew’s fiancee reminded me that “quarantine” refers only to those who are sick or exposed to illness; if we’re not sick, we’re not quarantined. We’re just incredibly lucky.

So I’m going to rename them “Stay Well” blessings, partly because I do it to help me and others to stay emotionally and spiritually well–to look for the many positive things going on in the midst of grave circumstances around the world. In fact, the circumstances in my own life are quite positive: I am well, I have shelter, I live in a beautiful place with a temperate climate that allows me to go outside to run, hike, and just amble with my dog most of the day.

Typically, I would go to area hiking trails or parks to walk or run, but those have been shut down by San Diego law enforcement for the sake of our health. And typically, I used to go early in the morning, before work. This meant I rarely saw anyone except for two or three early-morning runners or hikers like myself. If we said hello at all, it was a panting wave as we kept our eyes focused on the trail in front of us.

A typical street in my neighborhood, now deserted except for the occasional walker.

But all those typically’s are gone at the moment, and so now, I am out walking in my neighborhood with my dog at different times of the day. I run into neighborhood people in greater numbers now, although we are across the street from one another or veering into the street away from one another to keep our physical distance. I often shout, “Good morning!” And they always shout back a “Good morning!”, and we sometimes stop to chat about the weather or the importance of getting exercise during the “stay at home” time. Then they append this: “Stay well.”

These are strangers, by the way–people who live a mile or so away. I’ve never seen most of them before. And yet, more and more often, multiple strangers are yelling back to me, “Stay well.” It is the new generic greeting in the Coronavirus era: “Stay well.” It has replaced the Californian “Have a good one!” or “Later!” or “Hasta!

Stay well. It is a privileged expression, from one healthy person to another healthy person (or so we assume).

Stay well. It is an encouragement to keep with the community effort of staying at home, keeping our distance, washing our hands, helping those who are more at risk.

Stay well. It expresses a deep concern about the threat our world is dealing with, its severity and the mounting tolls of death.

Stay well. It’s my 27th Blessing of Isolation.

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