At the start of the pandemic, when people around the world endured weeks of lockdown, everyone from CEOs and writers to life coaches to general pontificators talked about slowing down, using the opportunity to reflect, and choosing what’s truly important. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, a way to deal with what was essentially an unknown situation that demanded endurance, but the biggest casualty of this enforced isolation was that we were deprived of social contact. Many have since written of missing casual daily conversations, not just with colleagues and neighbours, but also with the familiar strangers who populated our daily lives—security guards, Metro station regulars, tea-stall owners, cobblers on the street corner whom you never patronised but always greeted. But rather than focus on what we miss, in this issue, we have chosen to look at the new and somewhat unusual friendships that people managed to form and sustain despite distancing and covid-19 restrictions. From neighbours’ children and kittens on the street to bees that arrived on balconies and strangers on the internet, people have forged connections with creatures they otherwise may not have paused to notice. They are heart-warming stories of the human need to reach out and create familiarity.
Many of the stories in this issue are about such shifts in the way we live, enduring restrictions. One story details the ways in which the bereaved, stripped of the familiarity of traditional funerals, are mourning. They are making up their own new rituals, from painting and writing letters to tending cattle. In another piece, people who have temporarily lost their sense of smell after contracting and recovering from covid-19 share the ways in which they learnt to navigate the world with one sense diminished. A columnist writes about cooking comfort food as a means of coping, and shares his grandmother’s recipe. We also have suggestions on what to read, listen to, and watch while staying home this weekend.
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