Our collective nervous system is shot, fried, spent. It doesn’t matter where you get your news, or what type of news you focus on—political, climate, health, financial—the news is dire. The end may very well be near. Or so we are being told.

What we need is a shutdown from the sense of urgency and doom. We need to be quarantined from the fear and our escalating panic. The 24-hour cycle of news and information is addicting, and as a society, we are adrenaline junkies. We are on a high of anxiety, fueled by the sense of emergency all around us.

In the face of all that seems to have gone mad, I go about my life, sorting and ordering my corner of the universe. I teach lessons, I practice. I water the garden and prune the rose bushes. I read the newspaper but turn off the television. I swim my laps and go to yoga classes and bike to the library. I feed my cats and clean the litter box and hang the laundry out to dry. But under all this normalcy, the cortisol and adrenaline surges. I am ready, poised for flight or fight or something I can’t even name.

“I think I’m ready for Chopin,” one student confidently announced this week. Sure thing, buddy, I thought to myself and turned the next page of his level two lesson book to the piece called “Happy Hippopotamus.”

We need to hunker down all right. We need to hunker down around our lofty dreams and our lowly practices. We need to keep room for both Chopin and happy hippos in our little worlds. And perhaps musical compositions involving prehistoric creatures and lots of make believe.

For the last month, Todd has been working on a multi-movement composition about dinosaurs. “It’s a suite,” I explained to him. “Is this like a really big hotel room?” he asked me. For a seven-year-old boy there is nothing more exciting than dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are much more real than coronavirus. He checked out a book about dinosaurs from the library and wrote down the names of five favorites and then chose three ideas for the different movements. Fine so far.

His first composition involved a story line that went something like this:

A T-Rex is walking through the forest and stumbles across a baby brontosaurus who has gotten away from his mother. So the T-Rex eats the baby. Then the mother brontosaurus comes looking for the baby and the still hungry T-Rex eats the mother as well.


This movement was made up of a lot of banging on the lower half of the piano (the T-Rex) and some banging on the upper part of the piano (the baby) and some banging on the middle of the piano (the mother).

The next week Todd decided to write a composition about a dinosaur fight.  More banging.

Tonight I suggested we try a contrasting mood like dinosaurs sleeping or playing.  “OK,” he said, “I have an idea.”

“Great.”  I was encouraging and hopeful.

“How about a dinosaur that sneaks up on a sleeping dinosaur and eats it?”

At this point I am beginning to see a consistent theme in the Dinosaur Suite. Envisioning yet another composition that is mainly banging, I asked him if he thought if this idea would be different from the other movements.

“Oh yeah,” he assured me.

I need assurance, all right. I need to know that in the face of overwhelming hype, drama and chaos that the little candles I light against the darkness matter. It’s hard to know if correcting rhythms is even relevant in the face of a worldwide pandemic, but maybe it’s more relevant than ever.

Last Monday, apropos of nothing—and I mean nothing—Joshua turned to me during his lesson and announced, “You know, Miss Amy, someday, I’ll make you some eggs.”

This rendered me speechless. As well it should. It’s not every day that an eight year old offers to cook for me. What I suspect is this proves is that everyone is sensing stress these days. If we can’t make it go away, maybe we can at least feed one another.

In the meantime, I collect not only bottles of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, but also home projects I can tackle in case of a lockdown. I hoard books from the library. I make lists of music to listen to and movies to watch. I have a new needlepoint project and plenty of weeding in the garden to do. Maybe I’ll finally get the chest of drawers in the sunroom sorted. In the studio, students and I talk casually about the weather, the amaryllis next to my desk that grows at least five inches every week, the cat rolling around on the floor in the sunshine as we use hand sanitizer and wipe down the piano keys. “Our teachers are going to put classes online if school is shut down,” one kid tells me. “That sounds worse. That’s school without friends.”

Even as I write this, schools are closing everywhere. The situation changes literally every minute. But the kid is totally right. Isolation sounds worse; we need each other right now more than ever. We need normalcy—piano lessons and soccer games and random meandering conversations about nothing in particular. Or everything in general.