Tuesday, October 20, 2020

When you WALK through a storm...

Love what now?

We just passed the 7-month mark in Pandem-onium. We’re still quarantining. We’ve limited our “Q-circle” to our household—Ray, Mom and me—and our nearby kids. We go for groceries and occasional drives, and that’s about it. We mask outside our house, we social distance when we’re out (which involves dodging people who think Covid is either over or a joke), we use our porch as a drop zone for exchanges, deliveries, and very occasionally, socially distanced and masked visits with a very few, very careful friends, and we practice Hygiene Xtreme. Still, we’re at risk, and we know it. One granddaughter is in elementary school. A daughter-in-love is a frontline healthcare worker. A son-in-love teaches face-to-face (masked and socially distanced) college classes, where at least two of his students have tested positive. Ray is still working and goes through a decontamination ritual in the basement every day when he gets home. We live in South Dakota, where the governor spends millions in CARES Covid money on tourism campaigns with slogans like, “Less Covid. More Hunting.” I’m not even kidding.

Ray had a close call recently when a coworker (and the coworker’s wife) tested positive. To illustrate how bizarre things are right now, here’s how the close call went: Ray’s department reported the positive test. His employer (a major regional healthcare system!!) said everyone who doesn’t have symptoms should keep coming to work until/unless they develop symptoms. Nothing about 14-day quarantine. Nothing about asymptomatic spreaders. Nothing about exposed employees getting tested. In fact, Ray was NOT able to get a test from his employer OR from our regular local healthcare provider because he didn’t have symptoms (this in spite of our governor’s recent Trumpian claim that South Dakota is seeing higher positive tests due to more testing). Finally, he went on Walgreen’s website, filled out a questionnaire, and immediately qualified for drive-thru test, since he has “comorbidities.” He was negative, but we didn’t know that until a WEEK after he’d been exposed, during which time he could have infected many other people had he not been so careful. No wonder the U.S. is so behind (and by that I mean losing to and the cause of) the curve.


I came across this quote recently from Mu Sen Peng: “We’re ALL walking around with broken hearts. The trick is to keep walking.” The quote sums up my state of mind right now. The bad news is SO unrelenting, so pervasive thanks to social media and the 24/7 news cycle (is it really a cycle if it never stops? isn’t it more a news barrage?). SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED, and we forget that each of those peoples’ passing creates ripples of sorrow and despair that just. keep. going. 

I find myself now actively hunting for things to lift my own and others’ spirits—reasons to keep walking. The carrots I dangle in front of myself lately are kids and grandkids (my biggest stake in working for a livable, promising future), birdwatching (I recently bought a pair of German crested canaries), and poetry. October was a good, busy month of readings and listenings, and I have a new book, The Book of Crooked Prayer (appropriate title for the year, right?), out this year from Finishing Line Press. Ray hasn’t been able to play music (he’s a drummer) since Pandem-onium started, but we can play at home and listen to friends who offer real-time “concerts” online every week. Beauty can keep you walking.


And I’m homing like crazy: I’ve been outfitting my home office to make it a more useable, suitable, comfortable mixed-use space—part Zoom control center (I teach college English online), part Zen meditation space. I’ve been mad Marie-Kondo-ing every nook and cranny in the house in order to de-clutter this Museum of Me. I’ve been cooking huge quantities of (clean & keto) food to freeze in carefully portioned packages. It’s a little scary how Armageddon-y my kitchen skills are becoming.

We’re now in the predicted fall “second wave,” although here in the U.S., we never brought the first wave under control. Prairie folk have a usual pre-winter trepidation and anxiety about this time of year, when the leaves rain down and the chilling air smells like snow. Add life in a state where pheasant hunting seems more important than, oh, peoples’ lives. Toss in a global virus that’s adapting and thriving even as we humans refuse to adapt because “freedumb.” Then throw in desperate, hungry people who are out of work and/or whose businesses are shuttered or on the brink, and we get a perfect fall storm. Remember the old song? “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high”? Well, it’s okay if your head hangs low every now and then, but Just. Keep. Walking.

Beauty will keep you walking.