Dear Hope Nation,
It’s now been about six weeks since Hope closed, since we set sail from Before the pandemic. From conversations, emails, text messages and Zoom meetings with many of you, I have the sense most of us have found our sea legs on this journey across the sea of During. While we’re chomping at the bit to find After, I’d like to suggest we not throw away the opportunity to explore During. This expedition through a pandemic is something no one under the age of 110 has memory of, and we should capture everything we can to help memorialize it.
Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been reading the collected journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. They’re available for dipping into at https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/ and I can paddle around aimlessly in them for 30 minutes, reading the casual musings of men traveling two-and-a-half years from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back again, traversing a country never explored by Europeans. Think of it—30 months walking and riding and canoeing and flatboating to reach the ocean and come back again.
The Lewis and Clark journals are fascinating, not just for what Meriwether Lewis and William Clark write down for official history, but, for me at least, the records kept by the crew. For instance, Patrick Gass, a sergeant from Pennsylvania, wrote this 214 years ago today:
Thursday 1st May, 1806. Some rain fell during the night, and the morning continues cloudy. We set out early and travelled up the branch, which is a fine stream about twenty yards wide, with some cottonwood, birch and willows on its banks. One of four hunters, who went forward very early this morning, returned at noon with a beaver he had killed; other game is scarce. We then halted to dine, where the road forks, one going up the branch an east course, and the other north towards the large river.
There’s nothing earth-shattering there, no historic discovery. Instead, it’s just a brief record of a day like any other day, and, like today or any other day, one that will never come again. Recording today isn’t likely to change the future, probably isn’t going to provide any future person advice on how to thrive in a pandemic. It will give you—and your children and grandchildren—a snapshot of life at this time on this planet as experienced by a person named . . . You.
Covid-19 is touching you, whether you or anyone you know has been diagnosed. The insertion of a potentially fatal disease into a nation of peace and prosperity has changed every single one of us. Record those changes, please. Send them to me if you’d like and I’ll incorporate them into future letters. Promise. Set this moment down. This moment. This. Please write what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what you’re missing, what you look forward to. Set it down and send it off.
You touch the pandemic and the pandemic touches you. All you touch, you change. All you change, changes you. May those changes help your recovery, may those changes be recorded and, may those changes help you remember
You matter. I matter. We matter.