This essay began forming as I took long walks in April 2000, after being diagnosed with Covid the month before. I focused on the silver linings of the pandemic and how this terrible wave of disease might lead to a more humane future. Here’s an excerpt:
This month of Sundays seems to be coming to an end. Restaurants, bars, stores, and parks are reopening, with restrictions, and the roads are getting busy again. I’m happy since that means officials feel the virus is somewhat contained and it’s good for our economy. But I already feel nostalgia for this unexpected respite.
There’s a relatively new word in the English language, “anemoia,” that means longing for a time through which one never lived — but this is different. What I’m feeling is nostalgia for a time that’s not yet over, a time through which we’re still living, and I know of no word for that. Maybe we could call it “prestalgia.” This is similar to a sensation I have on a fantastic trip: I start missing Nepal a night or two before flying out of Kathmandu.
Perhaps the closest I can come to describing this is the Welsh word hiraeth, an ineffable yearning. “We’re always longing for something, but we’re not sure if it’s an ideal past or a better future,” the great Welsh author Jan Morris told me during an interview for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Perhaps it’s this “perennial vision of a golden age,” Morris writes in The Matter of Wales, “an age at once lost and still to come.”
As tragic and life-altering as this pandemic has been, it could contain the seeds of a brighter future, an era when we make more time for one another and our communities, take better care of our home planet, and remember what a gift it is to be able to simply breathe freely.
A time when we embrace a little bit of Sunday every single day.