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  • Writer's pictureCyndie Katz

My Corona Series

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

It’s probably not cool to admit this during this pandemic, but I’m excited to get up early every morning and start working on my series of circle paintings that I rationally titled my Corona Series. However, when my sister wrote on Facebook that my circles looked virusy, I reconsidered the name. Then on second thought, I decided to embrace it. Afterall, viruses are microbes, and for years I was obsessed with the microbes that live in and on humans. I even had my own microbiome analyzed. Twice. So although a lot of my circles look more like flowers or gears or plates to people, I'm at home with the idea that some look like microbes, because those can be beautiful too.

I began my life-altering fascination with microbes when I was in bed with the flu for a couple of weeks in 2013 and happened to read an opinion piece in the NYTimes called Who Has The Guts for Gluten. It was a subject I knew nothing about, and it was fascinating. I loved the way it was written, so I downloaded the author's book An Epidemic of Absence.

I didn't do anything but sleep and read that book for the whole two weeks I was sick.

In 2017, I came down with the flu again. I was depressed about it but I clung to the hope that once again something interesting might come of it, and around day five one of the most woowoo experiences of my life occured. A synopsis of it is below.

Given these two experiences, I can’t help thinking that maybe the pandemic -- which is worse but similar to the flu -- will be fruitful in some totally unexpected way (even if I don't catch it), and I’m keeping myself open to the possibility.

March 22, 2017

The weirdest thing happened to me yesterday:

Have you ever read a book that forever changed the way you view the world? An Epidemic of Absence did that for me. I read it just over five years ago when I had influenza and was in bed for two weeks. I’ve never thought of my body or illness the same since. It’s about the microorganisms that live in and on us and all the good they do, how we destroy them at our peril.

After I read the book, I went on to take an on-line college course about gut microbes, to have my microbiome sequenced, and to post loads of articles about microbes here on Facebook. I’ve recommended the book, bought it as a gift, made sure our library has a copy, etc.

Now I have influenza again (even though I got a flu shot). When I realized I might be laid up for quite some time, I comforted myself with the thought that last time I had the flu I had the life-altering experience of reading An Epidemic of Absence, so maybe this time there’d be another silver lining.

Nothing happened until yesterday. While I was resting, Geoff was walking in downtown Morelia and saw some gringos looking at a map. They were older parents with a teenage daughter. Feeling some kinship (we are also older parents), Geoff asked if they needed directions. They were looking for the aqueduct. It starts in our neighborhood, so he walked them over. They were quite friendly and really liked Morelia so Geoff invited them to see our house. He first checked to see that I was up and presentable -- I was -- and in they came. We chatted briefly -- at a distance -- and I was sorry I couldn’t have them stay because they seemed very interesting. When Geoff left with them again I was jealous but also exhausted.

A few hours later Geoff rushed in saying, “Those people have a son who’s a journalist, he just had a piece published in the Times. His name is hard to remember, so I want to write it down before I forget…” The name he wrote was Moises Velasquez-Manoff, author of An Epidemic of Absence!

What are the chances? Universe, you are so cool.

That evening I pulled myself together enough to meet the couple and their daughter at the restaurant of their hotel. They were very proud that their son’s book had made such a big impression on me. They gave me his address, we took a group photo, and Moises and I exchanged emails. I still totally recommend his book.

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