Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Passing the Time in Pandem[onium]

We’re a little over two months into quarantine/social distancing now, and it’s starting to feel a little like our new normal, which is kind of scary-comforting—I was a tad hermity before this all started, and it’s a pretty short hop across the line to recluse. But we’re keeping busy, and I’m still showering for now…

Semester, usually determined to kick me off a cliff by the end, sort of fizzled out this spring. In the Pandem[onium], a few students just disappeared without turning in final work. This made me aware that in face-to-face classrooms, these are the students whose hands I would hold, for whom I would make every class an opportunity to be accountable, and who I would try to drag over the finish line. But that wasn’t possible this semester. The most I could do was email and text numerous pesky reminders, which today’s tech-savvy  students are accustomed to screening and ignoring. Alas, my grades are turned in, and I hope the disappeared students are okay.

My summer class.
I’m teaching a summer class (online) that started this week, and it was restorative to meet a new crop of nervous, excited, and/or confident students, even if they were all in 2” windows and our class looked like an episode of Hollywood Squares.

Another thing I’ve been doing to make quarantine more bearable is something I call “a good old Irish walk.” When I was in Ireland last summer, sans car, Irish folks would tell me that whatever I was looking for was “just a short walk” away, which could mean anywhere from 1 to 25 miles. I did a LOT of walking. So lately I’ve been taking long walks whenever I can, exploring Little Town’s nooks & crannies.

Luck o' the good old Irish walk.

Above the Missouri River
One of the side effects of quarantine is projectitis, a sudden need to start, or get back to, completely random projects. For the past two weekends, Ray has been hauling cartloads of the 7 cubic yards (that’s about 6 TONS) of black dirt we ordered into the garden. I bought 8 brackets on clearance about 5 years ago, and each holds the ends of 2x12’s to make raised garden beds.

I’ll also be painting the 4 unfinished wren houses I ordered from the Audubon Society, because I LOVE those bossy little wrens, and they raise babies each year in a broken frog head hanging from a shepherd’s hook in my back yard. They deserve better. A robin built a gorgeous nest on top of a wreath hanging just outside our front door, where she sits on 6 blue eggs. When we drive her off occasionally because WE HAVE TO USE OUR FRONT DOOR, she and Mr. Robin flit around the yard chirping robin obscenities until it’s safe for her to return.

Shhhh! Babies sleeping!
Speaking of babies, I’m also knitting babies. It’s part of an Ireland project to commemorate the approximately 6000 babies who died in Ireland’s “mother and baby” homes: https://www.thebabogproject.com/2020/02/15/the-babog-project-needs-you/. I’m making simple little babies while watching Curiosity Stream documentaries, usually on stuff like native forests of Mongolia, mapping the human brain, or tool use in scrub jays.

Babies for babies.
Like probably half of the world right now, I’m also teaching myself to make sourdough bread. Maintaining the starter is a cross between The Blob and a horrid junior high chemistry class, and our house always smells like yeast. So far, I’ve made one beautiful loaf and several discuses, doorstops, and patio umbrella stands for the Christmas gift stockpile.

The one we could actually eat.
Isolated at home, I’m also confronted by the tapestry wall hanging I started when I was 21…shouldn’t I get back to that? And wasn’t I going to make something out of that Rubbermaid tub full of old band t-shirts? What about the pasta maker I bought, loaned out for a few years, got back, and have stored in the basement ever since? Shouldn’t I be making homemade ravioli? Now would be a great time to teach Yogi (dog) to use those speech buttons I bought a decade ago. 2020: The Year to Get Shite Done. (Double entendre intended.)

People are finding other ways to pass the pandemic. Our local businesses are re-opening, but they’ve been mostly doing curbside/pickup, and Little Town folk are turning out to support them. A local balloon business is keeping spirits up with scavenger hunts. The owner makes ingenious balloon sculptures each week and places them around town, then posts when the hunt is on. We have occasional short, socially-distanced, masked porch visits. We have a weekly family Zoom that gets bigger and wilder every week.

I see your true colors, Poppy.
Sadly, the CDC just predicted that over 100,000 people in the U.S. alone could die by June 1, and that we should start serious planning for a worse “2nd wave” in the fall. Worse? Really? Whenever someone suggests Covid is a hoax, or it’s no worse than the flu, or blahblahblah, I ask them to tell it to the 90,000 dead Americans. Many re-open and/or die people are out and about, without masks, oblivious to social distancing. Going for supplies is an obstacle course, dodging and weaving around unconcerned “not me” Covid targets who ignore my 6’ bubble. And like many universities, Little Town U is planning to be back on campus in the fall.

These things terrify me, here in our household of three high-risk, medically-compromised, but still vital and valuable human beings. So for the foreseeable future, we'll be tucked in here. Time to queue up another episode of Ballykissangel while I make paper mache molds of Ray’s feet…where’s the tempera paint…