Our lives, my life, have been halted in so many ways. 

But nothing, not even this, is black or white; and amidst the uncertainty and heartache, life keeps unfolding before our eyes. The blood-red and golden hues of every sunset keep shining just as magnificently, the reflections of the sunlight on the ocean keep dazzling my eyes, the drops of sea spray taste just as salty and feel just as cool. An endless stream of cormorants flows in front of us on our way back to harbor, flocks of Peruvian boobies cut the air, plunging into the Pacific around us as we sample, and the stars shine pure in the dark, as we lie on top of boxes in the stern of IMARPE VI at sea. The spectacle of nature doesn’t stop for anyone, for anything, and maybe these days I can witness it, feel it, with more clarity than before. 

Sunset from Wassermann at the mesocosm field site. Photo by Nico Smith-Sanchez

Nothing is black or white, not even COVID-19. Deciding to hold on to the good things in life at the moment doesn’t undermine the terrible ones that come hand-in-hand, the fear of loosing someone I love, the longing for being close to my family, of being certain that everyone was safe. But long after this has passed, in the years to come, I will reflect back on these Peruvian days. On a time when few things worked the way we thought they would, and the world stopped. And when I do, I want to remember how halting time, halting me, paved a way to reach peace of mind. To value life and love for what they are. I want to remember the cormorants and the blinding reflections of the sunlight on the water. How each evening we climbed to the highest point around us to catch a glimpse of the sunset colors of the sky. And how we all missed swimming in the sea.

We are resilient and we are kind. Times like this can bring out the best in all of us, even when it feels impossible to do so. I have witnessed it.

Nico Smith-Sanchez