“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Mount Carmel, Tennessee” by Seth Carr


I work in isolation.

In my job as the groundskeeper of a church in East Tennessee most of my day is spent with myself and the various tools and objects with which I interact.  When the COVID-19 crisis first began boiling to the surface, then as the shelter-in-place orders began rolling out, I wasn’t concerned.  My life and my personality are such that I naturally self-isolate.  Finding ways to entertain myself and occupy my time have always been easy.  No big deal, I thought.  Then I saw the effect the forced isolation was having on my wife.

If I am the archetypal introvert, my wife is the exact opposite.  She is a third-grade teacher and is used to spending her days surrounded by hundreds of children, coworkers, parents, and friends.  When she is not working, there was nothing she enjoyed more than a get-together with her closest friends and family.  All of that has been taken away from her.  She is now teaching all classes online.  All of her friends are under the same banner of exile, many of them healthcare workers.  She is bored.  She is restless.  She is lonely.

I will admit that I have a hard time understanding this.  But seeing this woman I love being taken away from her life, essentially, has made me take a look at my own way of being.  I have to ask myself:  Why do I not feel the way she feels?  Am I just aloof?  Do I always hide from other people and refuse to make connections?  I am suffering nothing.  Except for the pain that comes with seeing her suffering.

Seeing this now, I try to do more.  My responsibility is to talk when I would normally keep quiet.  I reach out when I would normally keep to myself.  We laugh more.  We do more things together.

My job has kept going amid the pandemic.  I hope when all of this is over, when the crisis has come to a close, when the shelves of the grocery stores are full, when people can gather in groups larger than ten, that the deep connection we have made will remain.

–April 3, 2020

seth carr

Seth Carr is a writer, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary artist.  His work has been featured in proletaria and in film festivals in the US and Europe.  He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and daughter, where he works a day job and somehow finds times for his absurd creative pursuits.  You can find more of his work by following his blog at http://kronomulus.wordpress.com.