Supermoon, Deer Replace Alarms: How a Virus Made Us Explore the World That Was Against Our Nature

This is against our nature: We are meant to be together. Blending voices in worship and clinking glasses in taverns. Line dancing at weddings and standing in line at wakes. High-fiving at ballgames, applauding shamelessly at school concerts, moving as one in packed subways lurching forward.

But a contagious virus, able to transmit death through touch and breath, has forced us to suppress our social tendencies. So we shelter in place, maybe with family or a friend, not knowing when we will breathe freely again. Not knowing when an unmasking will reveal smiles.

It can seem as if time itself has been altered. March vanished into April, which is disappearing into May, with not even the day of the week always clear. The rituals by which we normally mark these days — the proms and graduations, the tournaments and parades — have been canceled or postponed, inviting anxieties to fill the void.

Will my family be all right? Will I be all right? When will this end? Will it end? And if it does, will life ever be as it was?

But time does not pause. Its petals unfold as always, only now we have the time — yes, the time — to notice what flourishes around us.

The bunny slippers of a child. The belly of an expectant mother. The blurred red of a cardinal in flight. The yellow burst of forsythia against the gray vestiges of winter. A small boy at lakeside, saying he has never felt so alive.

In this unnatural state of isolation, these are the things that bind.

— DAN BARRY

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Josh Haner

San Francisco

On March 3 I flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles to photograph Super Tuesday and a Joe Biden campaign event. The SFO airport felt like a ghost town, and it was much the same at LAX. My plan was to catch an 11 p.m. flight home. But the Biden campaign announced a news conference for the next afternoon so I had to stay.

I was already nervous about hotels. As I photographed in the buffer between supporters and the candidate, I felt anxious with every cough and yell from inches behind me. The next day I flew home to San Francisco, and noticed more people on the plane wearing masks. That would be my last assignment for a long while.

I doubt our 15-month-old daughter notices much difference in her daily life except that her dad is around more. Her mom still works from home for a baby food startup. We no longer play on the swings at the park or take long bike rides. But we still say hi to the birds from our porch and check on our newly planted vegetable seeds in the backyard. She still sees her grandparents and play-date-friends, but via video chat.

Taking care of a toddler on top of work is challenging. We’ve found ways to adapt, bifurcating our attention with work and child care. All our groceries now arrive in boxes, delivered to the front porch once a week. Boxes are stored in a quarantine zone we’ve set up in the basement.

Then late at night, I put on gloves and begin the hourlong process of washing fruits, vegetables, bags of pasta, cans of beans and bottles of milk. Some afternoons, I sit on the porch, squinting into the sun, watching my neighbors walk by wearing gloves and masks, carrying grocery bags.

Josh Haner is a New York Times staff photographer and the senior editor for photo technology, based in San Francisco.

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L. Kasimu Harris

New Orleans

The rest of the family is asleep as the wind moves tree branches. The rain is indecisive, but it’s still bad weather for just before Good Friday.

For a month, while my family has sheltered in place, the elements in New Orleans have been beautiful. I feel, however, anxiety, as if a hurricane is coming. We’ve stocked up similarly. Before New Orleans was a hot spot for the coronavirus, supermarket runs were a diversion; then the family started waiting in the car. Last night, my wife shopped for groceries online.

In March, when places began to shutter, it deflated me. I went from a solo exhibition and three group shows across America to uncertainty. My wife, Ariel, said she had us.

Ariel, 36, has been the constant warm sun, and laughter that’s essential to our souls. She’s seven months pregnant, and we have my 7-year-old son, Grayson, from a previous relationship, and Liori, our 21-month-old daughter. Normally, Grayson would be in Charlotte, North Carolina, but we’re treated to mornings when he makes a “fort” next to Liori’s crib and waits for her to awaken.

Ariel makes breakfast, before tackling conference calls and other obligations as a communication director. Sometimes we work across the table from each other and alternate teaching, entertaining and potty training Liori.

Moving into the third trimester, Ariel recently felt abdominal pain and instinctively knew to get it checked. Initially, the doctor said they were going to monitor Ariel overnight. The hospitals’ test results determined that she and the baby are fine. We returned home; because of the coronavirus, the hospital is not keeping patients that are stable.

Over dinner, I told my family that I loved them now more than ever. My wife is amazing and without her every day would feel like bad weather.

Kasimu Harris is a writer and photographer based in New Orleans.

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Michelle V. Agins

Brasher Falls, N.Y.

I met Florence Patterson many years ago, when she was visiting her daughter Chrysetta, my neighbor in Brooklyn.

Ms. Florence, as I call her, was in town from upstate New York. She was advocating for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk nun from the 17th century, who was made a saint in 2012. Though she invited me to her home in Brasher Falls, New York, for years, I never made that trip.

COVID-19 was the push I needed to finally drive the seven hours to Ms. Florence’s 100-acre farm near the Canadian border. It felt like another world: No car alarms or workmen, but plenty of beavers, gophers, deer and wild turkey.

Ms. Florence welcomed me wearing a mask. She directed me to her son’s unoccupied house about 160 steps away, where I would self-isolate. She apologized, but reminded me that she’d just turned 84. I understood.

Chrysetta arrived from Brooklyn on the same day I did. “Your presence brings me joy,” Ms. Florence told her daughter, who’d come to help her mother. Ms. Florence, however, is an independent and accomplished woman: a retired executive, former real estate broker, a humanitarian and an activist. I sometimes call her “The General” because she runs a tight ship.

I’m used to living my city life alone, yet surrounded by the vibrancy, noise and companionship in my neighborhood of 31 years. Life here is different. Daily activities for Ms. Florence might include planning future events for the cultural exchange organization she runs, chatting on FaceTime with her great-grandchildren, a catnap before dinner and playing bingo while the local news plays in the background.

I miss my neighborhood and my neighbors, including two elderly friends from my block, who died this week of COVID-19. But I’m grateful to be here with Ms. Florence.

Michelle V. Agins is a New York Times staff photographer based in New York.

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Ruth Fremson

Bainbridge Island, Wash.

It doesn’t have to be a big or fancy nest but it has to be imprinted with my essence. Home is also a state of mind, representing ease and safety. I had spent little time there because work kept me moving. But now the coronavirus has changed that rhythm of life.

I’ve been thinking how, for the past 30 years, I have told other peoples’ stories and joined their lives from behind my camera. I’ve been wondering if someday I will have time to digest all those incredible experiences. Perhaps, at least in a small way, that someday has arrived.

Being at home for such a long stretch, I have become reacquainted with the things that I usually rush by on my way out the door. A scarf the Dalai Lama placed around my neck when he blessed me in Dharmshala hangs in my office, years after I used it in my wedding ceremony. As a child in postwar Germany when supplies were scarce, my mother hand-sewed a Hansel and Gretel scene onto a salvaged burlap sack. As an immigrant, she brought it to America and tucked it away until I discovered it decades later.

These are the physical reminders of some of the places and people I’ve met, the incredible experiences we’ve shared; difficult and happy. I wonder how they are managing during these challenging times.

In the Pacific Northwest, where my current nest is, I am surrounded by water and mountains. I feel well held by the beauty of the landscape. As a native New Yorker I worry about my friends, family and colleagues there. Tibetan prayer flags hanging on our porch face east toward New York; I hope they spread peace and grace that way as the wind blows them.

We are only stewards of our belongings. Eventually, those things will be passed on to someone else, but for now, they connect me to all those people and memories.

In those objects I see my own story.

Ruth Fremson is a New York Times staff photographer based in Seattle.

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Tamir Kalifa

Austin, Texas

There is a cardinal in my backyard with a beautiful voice.

With the white noise of traffic conspicuously absent, I wonder if the red-feathered songbird lives here, too, and, if so, how long it’s taken for me to notice him.

A reluctant tranquility has set in across Austin as my neighbors and I, like millions of others across the nation, stay home with the goal of flattening the curve.

From my home of 11 years, a small bungalow at the end of a cul-de-sac, I’ve found comfort in making fresh observations of a place I sometimes take for granted.

I tend to look outward. That’s my job as a photojournalist — to make visual connections between people, their environments, and the greater moment. Meditating instead on my environment has provided me a path through these anxious days.

I’ve noticed a sudden richness in the aural landscape. I’m hypnotized by the sunlight streaming through my bedroom blinds, even as it shines on laundry. It’s jarring to see parts of my city boarded up, but I’m moved by the community’s resilience and humor.

My partner, Racien, is cooped up on the third floor of her Berlin apartment. We both noticed the recent supermoon, a moment that briefly bridged the distance.

Meanwhile, my mother and sister and her family are in their own states of lockdown in Israel. I had hoped to be with them this month to mark the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death and to celebrate Passover.

Reuniting, like many other things, will have to wait. As will hugging my father, who lives just 15 minutes from me.

But for now, I’m holding on to how grateful I am to be healthy, to have a home in which to be lonely and to have noticed the cardinal in my backyard.

Tamir Kalifa is a photographer based in Austin.

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Todd Heisler

New York City

It was cold, but we ate outside anyway.

He begged us to plug in the summer lights, to put on music, so that we could enjoy our homemade pizza the way we did last summer. He doesn’t say why, perhaps even he doesn’t know, but I feel it’s a way of rekindling some sense of normalcy.

It’s been hard trying to understand how a 7-year-old is processing all of this. He is fully aware of the world around him, yet lacking the perspective of a grown-up brain. Maybe that’s better.

At first it felt almost like a camp out. My neighbor said it feels like living on a boat. They say making a schedule will get us through this. But keeping it is a different challenge. There’s no shortage of outbursts. Trying to maintain some semblance of an education through remote learning is something no one was prepared for. But there are moments of calm and beauty, too. Like a flash of creativity that seemed to take a hiatus with everything else, or a midday embrace between conference calls. As working parents we always say there’s never enough time together. Now there’s more than ever.

Watching him gently stroking a lamb’s ear plant, one of the few on our balcony that survived the winter, I think about something I read. That kids won’t remember much about what they did during this time, only how they felt.

Todd Heisler is a New York Times staff photographer based in New York.

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Alex Potter

Providence, R.I.

I met my partner in a war zone — the battle for Mosul, to be specific. For nearly a year in 2016-17, we treated thousands of trauma patients on the front lines, so Pete and I are used to being in risky situations together. Yet with the arrival of the coronavirus, the risk and fear feels different: an invisible and insidious enemy that can be easily passed from one person to another is much more terrifying to me than a threat that is visible.

Since 2012, I have split my time as a photojournalist in the Middle East and a travel nurse in the United States in various emergency departments. Most recently I’ve been in Rhode Island, where Pete is going back to school. While the tiniest state hasn’t seen nearly the surge of patients as densely packed New York City has, the risk to health care workers like myself and our loved ones is considerable.

We abide by the quarantine as much as we can. Pete takes online classes, while I work three 12-hour shifts a week, from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. I treat the usual trauma, stroke and heart attack patients, but now everyone with a fever or cough is suspect.

I completely undress before entering our apartment and throw my used scrubs in a cardboard box to be washed separately.

I no longer work at coffee shops each morning. I often leave the windows open to let in fresh air, and buy a new plant each week at the grocery store for a little bit of life. Pete and I sit outside and play cards in our parking lot, rarely catching a glimpse of our neighbors.

My greatest fear in all of this is bringing the virus home to Pete, or someone else I love. So for now, we wait in the quiet for what is yet to come.

Alex Potter is a photographer and emergency nurse based in Providence.

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Angela Jimenez

Minneapolis

Here we are, living in my wife Ashley’s childhood home. We moved here from New York City to grow our little family, take care of Ashley’s aging mom, build community and find work. Ashley, 37, is a United Church of Christ pastor and the baby is due in May. We have a 2-year-old, August Jane. My mother-in-law Linda, 72, has Parkinson’s disease and is recovering from a hip replacement surgery.

Since March 27, Minnesotans have lived under a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and, like so many of us, we have shifted our lives to adjust to this new reality.

Suddenly, everything is condensed into our home: nursing care, day care, church services, toddler music class, doctor’s appointments and work calls. I wanted to take these photos to make meaning of this situation, and to share the experience of our multigenerational, queer family.

We brought Linda home early from a transitional care unit when it went into lockdown and we couldn’t visit. Now professional caretakers come to the house, risking exposure to help her heal. Ashley’s birth plans are now in flux. August, who loves people, doesn’t really understand why she can’t swing at the park, go to her day care or touch her friends. She is trying to adapt, but sometimes it catches up with her and she breaks down. Sometimes, under the financial, physical and spiritual pressure of all of this, so do the rest of us.

But we are grateful to be healthy and have food and this roof over our head. We find joy in little moments, in tiny dolls and paintbrushes, in these few hands that we can still hold, and in spurts of sunshine that promise spring will come anyway.

Angela Jimenez is a photographer based in Minneapolis.

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Brittainy Newman

New York City

My mom leaves dinner outside my bedroom door on a wooden tray and knocks gently. I open and look down: It’s spaghetti with chicken. Once finished, I take the tray into the kitchen, thank her for the food, walk back into my room and close the door. My mother then wipes my bedroom doorknob vigorously with a disinfectant wipe, smokes a cigarette and turns on the TV news.

These are our family dinners since I came down with mild symptoms of what I can only assume to be COVID-19.

I live in New York City, and on March 21, I started to feel weak, have a severe dry cough, and sleep all the time. The following week, my symptoms got worse and I lost my sense of taste and smell. My mother’s instinct when I am sick is to be with me. Now she keeps her distance.

In my telemedicine appointment, a doctor told me that because I am healthy and in my 20s, my body “would heal itself.” The most important thing I could do was self-isolate.

I woke up one morning, and saw my mother crying. She had been trying to file for unemployment. This was heartbreaking. I grew up watching my mother work tirelessly as a professional clown to provide me with so many opportunities throughout my life. Now, her clown shoes are in the closet, collecting dust until this is over.

Isolation is hard. We are wired for connection. We are at war with an invisible enemy, and it is easy to become restless and aggressive when we have so much empty time on our hands. But, confinement can also bring positive things. I started to embrace silence and discover myself on the other side of the camera. I started meditating, reading and listening to new genres of music. I’m using this time as creative relief.

Brittany Newman is a New York Times photography fellow based in New York.

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Cig Harvey

Rockport, Maine

You have to work hard at living in Maine in late March. You have to make an effort at being happy when your day can peak with the orange light at dawn. Wear a pink scarf, cook with pomegranate seeds, paint a wall red, something to show you’re not defeated by the unrelenting winter. For the majority of the country, the start of April is glorious, spring bursting full of color and smells. But where I live, the trees are still completely bare. Everything is beige except when it snows. Our reward is the kaleidoscope of summer and fall and then, just like new mothers, we forget about early April, remembering only just how much we love Maine.

This year the virus intensifies these feelings. I am overwhelmed by the news and feel short of breath standing in front of the television. I want to show my daughter the world, but not this one.

I have never been more grateful to be able to go outside, yet I am desperate for blossom. I force spring in our house and plant row after row of zinnia, cosmos, morning glory, nasturtium. Enlisting an army of flowers around me. Planting seeds is like living with your fingers crossed, an act of hope. Five days ago I cut bare branches of forsythia and forced them to bloom in warm water. This morning they opened, turning my whole kitchen gold. I wept on my knees.

Cig Harvey is a photographer based in Rockport.

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Damon Winter

Cortland, N.Y.

On a recent weekend we took my son, Noa, to a small lake near where we have been sheltering with my father and stepmother in central New York. He loves water and spent most of the time throwing rocks and digging holes in the gravelly sand.

At one point, Noa asked me to help him make a sailboat. We came up with a catamaran design made from hollow reeds and a decaying oak leaf. If not beautiful, it was at least lake-worthy.

After playing for a few minutes with our new boat, Noa, who is 7, turned to me and said, “I’ve never felt so alive.”

There have been many days since leaving New York City a few weeks ago when I feel this pressure on my chest like an anvil weighing on my rib cage. I am afraid there are people in my life I will never see again. I am afraid for what will become of my city. I feel this nagging guilt for leaving it behind. In my mind the real New York morphs into a half-truth vision from television news and my tortured dreams: a deserted, pre-apocalyptic wasteland on the precipice of implosion. In my nightmares I cough up blood.

I am not sure why Noa said what he did. Maybe it was the simple pleasure of unadulterated play or the joy of bonding over a creative endeavor. As we pushed our stick boat into the placid water, I saw a life raft, the kind you would cobble together to escape a deserted island. Noa saw a vessel for discovery, the beginning of a new adventure. As I heard him say those words, my fear and anxiety began to melt away and I was at peace with our choice to leave, at least for a few hours.

Damon Winter is a New York Times staff photographer based in New York.

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Emily Kask

New Orleans

I can’t fall asleep until sunrise. The birds chirping outside signal a reverse alarm clock, and a tightness releases in my chest. I’ve become a graveyard-shift security guard for my own body.

A few months ago, I was robbed while inside my house. I had never seen the man before in my life, but he knew exactly where I kept my camera gear. Since then, my little home has transformed from a colorful bachelorette pad to a personal cage in which I do not feel safe.

On nights when I was particularly afraid, I would go to a friend’s place or have someone spend the night with me. That escape and comfort aren’t there anymore. I’ve had to choose between my own mental health and the public health of my neighborhood. I don’t trust that all my friends are isolating themselves, just as I don’t trust the footsteps I hear on the sidewalk at 2 in the morning. My lungs feel heavy when I think of either.

Paranoia has ritualized itself these past few weeks. I hold my breath when I hear stirring in the yard, I check my locks constantly, I can’t leave at night without my dog and my handgun, and a Bluetooth speaker tied to my front door projects a playlist of men coughing.

Originally I worried that my greatest struggle in quarantine would be being alone in my house. Turns out that my greatest fear is that for a few moments, I might not be.

Emily Kask is a photographer based in New Orleans.

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Maggie Steber

Miami

I am a documentary photographer who has worked in 70 countries, covering war and hunger and many sad things but also great beauty and courage.

I live alone in a small house in Miami with two cats, A and B, who think they are dogs. I don’t mind being alone during this corona crisis because I grew up alone, an only child of an only parent who was a brilliant and eccentric scientist.

I was fortunate to have the mother I had. She was a parasitologist and worked with viruses as well, including early research on the virus that causes AIDS. When I was a child, my mother would tell me bedtime stories in which the main characters were parasites and viruses. On weekends, we would go to her lab and I would play with white mice and look with fascination at jars containing tapeworms and all kinds of icky-looking manifestations of parasites.

One thing she taught me has stuck with me: that everything in the world is made up of small things, including living creatures and atoms, and that it is important to respect and understand the things we cannot see because nothing would be here without them.

Of late, I have been making visual interpretations of experiences from my childhood in a project called the Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma. Lily is my alter ego and the mistress of this secret place. This corona-enforced solitude and quarantine has given me the time to observe the beauty and magic that occurs on a daily basis in my imagined garden and in the real garden just outside my door. It was only by slowing down that I could see these things.

If there is any kind of silver lining to this deadly and tragic coronavirus it is that it has brought us to our knees and made us stop and think.

Maggie Steber is a photographer based in Miami.

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Idris Solomon

New York City

We’ve always considered home schooling our 5-year-old son, Talib. Never would we imagine it would happen because of quarantine.

For my family, this quarantine has stirred up a gumbo of emotions. We’ve learned to navigate our professional lives, personal projects and family time. It hasn’t been easy. Besides adjusting to my own family’s needs, we’ve agreed to school my son’s classmate. Many people are still required to go to work. 9 to 5. Monday through Friday. We have the blessing of time and space so we offered to support a fellow parent.

My wife and I both come from single-parent households. This could have been either one of our mothers at any given time.

During this quarantine we’ve celebrated two birthdays. One consisted of a virtual “SURPRISE” via FaceTime. The other was my mother’s 65th. She is not fond of having her photo taken but this year she requested I make a portrait of her. My wife helped with her makeup.

There is no guidebook for a pandemic. What came natural for my wife and me was to create a happy environment for our son. We needed a routine. My wife created a daily schedule to coincide with his virtual learning. The routine was morning song, reading, wiggle breaks, math, dance battles and recess. He is happier now than he was in school. We watch a lot of movies. I teach him how to cook and play chess. We wrestle and kick the soccer ball around.

As parents, the emotional health of our child is paramount. His innocence is something we want to preserve. That has been our motivation to make this situation as calm and healthy as possible.

Idris Solomon is a photographer based in New York.