I’ve been seeing some worried faces as I FaceTime family in Canada. As I sit here in Stockholm and enjoy relative freedom, they are stuck indoors. My sister in Montreal, where the brunt of the cases are; Mum in small-town Nova Scotia where there are barely any—but seem to have many international travelers returning from spring-breaks in hotspots in Europe; and my grown-up sons in Copenhagen who are in a real lockdown: Bridge to Sweden is closed, their work is closed and everyone seems vigilant about social distancing. In fact, all these family members are vigilant, concerned and a little scared of the virus. Being next door to Mr. Trump and all the media covering his antics surely doesn’t help the feeling of doom and chaos.
Over here, in our little corner of Stockholm—the epicenter of the pandemic in Sweden—everything seems pretty normal. The construction of a school next door for 1,000 students is still slogging along. The workers doing what they have always done. Pram-pushers and joggers still push and jog. I don’t see any real social distancing in the park on the other side of our street, and when the sun is out the park is full of kids, old folks and young parents.
That’s really all I can tell you. I haven’t been downtown in months.
I, like many freelancers, have been self-isolating forever. Working from home is second nature, and going a day without meeting anyone at all is normal. If I didn’t have a family, I’m sure I could spend days inside just doing what I am doing: drawing, streaming, eating, exercising, ordering stuff to be delivered online (mostly books), and basically stewing in my own juices.
When I do go out and venture to my studio, for more iMac intensive work, I always arrive with a runny nose. Cycling in the cold does that. Pollen allergies do that. I cough. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the large amount of fresh air I get from cycling? Maybe that air isn’t really so fresh? Maybe I haven’t spoken a word all morning after the family has left for work and school? Whatever it is; now I am highly aware that I sound contaminated. Luckily, our studios have doors. I shut myself in.
So that’s all normal. Here’s the unusual stuff:
Our supermarket has a plexiglass barrier in front of the cashier and between packing stations. The floor is marked with proper distancing. Some people do veer away from one another. Others seem oblivious. Teens especially. They roam in tight packs. I noticed, after meeting a very vigilant friend in the store, that maybe this is why Stockholm feels so open and free. The ones who are being careful stay at home. You don’t see them on the news. They appear, as this friend did, like nervous (conscientious) meerkats, to do their business and then scurry home again. I imagine they are like my family around the world.
I just want you to know—as I tell my family—we are being careful. It doesn’t look like it on tv, but—like the meerkats—we’re hard to spot.