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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

It's a bug's life — and now ours, too

After the caterpillars spent time eating and growing,

After the caterpillars spent time eating and growing, they began to hang upside down from the top of their first home, a jar. Credit: Newsday/Randi F. Marshall

For the last 10 days or so, two small jars have been sitting on our dining room table. Inside each one, five caterpillars have been growing. They’ve been fascinating to watch.

It’s something we used to do each spring when our daughter was younger. The caterpillars come complete with the food they need at the start, and we get to watch — and help a bit — as they transform.

Even though our daughter is now 16, it felt like a good time to have another visit with a new set of caterpillars, to experience the magic yet again.

Over the last few days, each caterpillar began hanging upside down from the top of the jar, and turning into a chrysalis. A hard outer shell formed to protect each of them. By Tuesday, we gently moved those hanging chrysalises into a larger habitat, preparing them for what comes next.

But still they stay — inside their shells, until they’re fully ready to emerge.

It is a moment not unlike the one we humans are experiencing and it illustrates just how important it is to wait, to stay protected until we’re all fully ready — and until the world around us is, too. We’ve spun our own cocoons, and there we stay.

That’s why the scenes of people gathering as the weather warms, without masks and without distance, are so troubling, because we are still amid the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s why the rally some New Yorkers are planning for Friday, as they seek some type of immediate, mass reopening, is so irresponsible.

Instead, we have to wait for a slow, methodical transformation to occur.

That starts with robust virus testing and tracing, a complicated effort federal and state officials are trying to figure out.

But the ultimate metamorphosis we’re going to have to undertake is much more massive. It’ll really mean rethinking how we live our lives. How do we travel by public transit in a post-pandemic moment? How do we go out to eat, or celebrate a wedding, or go to a baseball game? How do we operate nursing homes and homeless shelters and other residences differently? What will classrooms and offices look like? How can we continue expanding the region’s economic development efforts, and provide the housing and commercial space our residents now and in the future will need? What about tourism and entertainment and Broadway, and beaches — and all of the industries that make this region’s economy run?

The answers are far from simple. What we do know, however, is that as our evolution occurs, and as we emerge, everything we do will be different.

Like so many others, I’ve lost dear friends, and dear friends have lost family members, to this horrific pandemic. We may be past the peak in New York, we may be flattening the curve, but hundreds of people still are dying each day in New York from the coronavirus. Thousands more still are being diagnosed.

Each one is another tremor of grief, of uncertainty and of fear.

And each one tells us why we must stay inside our shells for a while longer.

When we are ready, we will find a way to become something more beautiful, something full of life, in a new reality we’re ready to embrace.

That will take time.

In the meantime, at our house, we look forward to seeing our caterpillars complete their transformation, to meeting our butterflies — and then to the moment when they’re ready for us to set them free.

For now, we wait.

Randi F. Marshall is a member of Newsday's editorial board.

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