The life of the mind seems to be getting smaller as the pandemic throbs on. The leash on life, too!

The lakefront and Cayuga-Seneca bike trail often mark the extreme perimeter of my life these days, often in terms of body and mind. I am not alone either. The city’s lake view, and further on down along the state park, is way more populated than it was before the pandemic. Runners, bikers, and walkers aim to expand the footprint of their own worlds and fight the COVID-19 weight gain that has attached itself to so many of us.

Yes, it is always mobbed in the summer but even now, in November cold and drear, it is a people place. The daily regulars smile, motion, wave, or grunt to one another ,too, which adds a small token of social extravagance to otherwise isolated lives. Some wear masks, some don’t, and some sometimes do or don’t. Having read how unlikely it is that the virus would be transmitted outside from a distance, I still wear mine while biking — as an act of solidarity and, because it has painfully become so, a political declaration.

But like I said, it is not a very big world. For me, it was even more limited for several months by plantar fasciitis. Biking became my cherished escape from the severe limitation imposed by pain. Through September and October I could limp only so far, and only for the sake of the dog. She is a creature so terminally happy that wherever she is taken, and whatever she is given, she receives it all with unadulterated exuberance. In fact, Rabia will have traversed the pandemic blissfully unaware of the human angst and aggravation most of us have been marinading in.

Unlike my friends who have big yards with lots of trees, I don’t even have leaves to rake. Having downsized to a mostly maintenance-free home there are no time-consuming projects that need doing. No creative problem-solving to be done. Heck, I can’t really even move the furniture around because there just aren’t that many options. I am left, instead, to wander the short distance and strange shadows of a writer’s mind. Oh, dear Lord.

I am being only a little facetious. Though I have found a few ways to volunteer here and there, and work keeps me connected to others who are riding this same slow train of the pandemic, it does feel as if the world we can experience and embrace shrank. And yet, that is precisely the great challenge of this time. Literally, how small can we make our lives as we remain tucked inside a reasonably safe bubble?

It helps keep it in perspective if I recognize this as a problem of privilege. In other words, literally billions of people always live in a smaller geographic world than our temporarily reduced pandemic perimeter. The ability and freedom to travel and expand the contours of our lives is a measure of privilege that relatively few people know. Yet many of the greatest spiritual and philosophical sages in human history lived within very small geographical bounds. We should take great comfort in knowing it did nothing to hinder the vast expanse of their minds.

Cameron Miller is a novelist and poet whose recent collection of poems and essays, “Cairn, Marking the Trace,” has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize. He can be contacted via his website:

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