A Flurry Of Flower Fairies
Today Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced that schools will remain closed until September. A lot of other institutions and businesses will remain closed as well, of course, and millions of people are wondering how long we can keep this level of isolation going. Watching New York’s struggles to find safe places to put thousands of their dead makes it pretty clear that we are going to figure this out together, because the alternative is just too horrifying. As I walk around my neighborhood, I’m seeing fewer people, all of whom avoid me as assiduously as I avoid them, unless we recognize each other, in which case we pause at increasingly large distances to exchange a few catch-up questions and answers before moving on. Most of the other walkers are wearing home made masks more or less like ours, in a pleasing array of colors and prints. The colorful masks seem like a symbol of our willingness to cooperate, to do what we can to try to flatten the damn curve. Maybe we are all the more willing since there are now over 100 cases in our county, and the first local person has died of covid-19.
For me, as for so many, the garden is more comforting than ever. Checking my seed trays, sowing more of this and that, tidying up the beds, making room for the seedlings that are popping up, all this is the most soothing activity in my day. However, as I puttered this morning, something even more delightful happened: Two cars pulled up in front of my little garden and two small families spilled out, carefully distanced from each other and from me. From each car came a kindergartener and parents, all garbed in homemade costumes. Fluttering wings, floral headbands, bright sashes, colorful clothes were set off by large hand painted signs explaining which kind of fairy I was seeing. A geranium fairy, an azalea, a camellia, a bluebell, a cherry blossom, all twirled and pranced and laughed and joked, then flew away to cheer up the next person on their list.
Meeting The Need
The two families had chosen 10 people to visit, including school teachers and friends like me. It was an enchanting little episode and it still makes me smile to think about it. It also made me vow to reach out more myself, to make more calls, even to do a drive-by or two myself. I have done a few, dropping off bread and cinnamon rolls to my grandkids, who waved sadly from the doorway. I’ve been baking for the family for years and home delivery seemed like a fun idea but I cried all the way home. I’m deeply grateful that they’re safe and well but it breaks my heart not to be able to hug them. And man truly does not live by bread alone; I made a loaf of sourdough for a dear friend who just entered Hospice care and learned that the real need was for toilet paper. At the store, I found single rolls available (limit four per customer) and dropped them off to even more heartfelt thanks.
In my neighborhood, two young women decided to start growing some of their own food. Neither one has a very sunny yard, but I helped them figure out where to put some big pots by using our phones to send pictures back and forth. I dug out some extra seed trays and gave them a turn with the shared seed packets that have been going the rounds. Most of us just have tiny gardens and many seed packets contain way more than any of us can use. There was a whole pack of sweet peas left over so I sowed them in small pots to pass around the neighborhood when they sprout. Several of us are sowing flats of different vegetables and will swap when they’re big enough to transplant. Community building with kale and turnips! At least we don’t have to plant the vegetables six feet apart…
Let’s Stay In Touch
For some folks, distanced visits or drive-bys aren’t possible, but we can find ways to connect even so. One neighbor’s dad is in quarantine at a local senior living facility, so he stands outside his dad’s window and talks to him on the phone. Another friend tapes cute pictures of grandkids and cats on her mom’s window and shows her family videos on a tablet held up to the window. One of my significantly impaired elderly friends is in lock-down in a nursing facility and doesn’t like to leave her phone on, which makes it extremely difficult to call her. Instead, we send cards with interesting images-she was a photographer and an artist and it’s fun to find pictures that might appeal to her.
This ongoing separation is making it very clear that friendship really does need to be actively cultivated, just like our weedy gardens. When we can’t keep up our weekly lunches or coffee dates or have tea and knit together, we have to get a bit more creative to stay in touch. Phone calls can feel a little stilted when there’s not much that’s new to talk about (especially when people are out of work), but we can always swap recipes for cooking with leftovers and random ingredients. We can also take this opportunity to go deeper than usual, being honest about the struggle to cope with an unimaginable situation. If we have a hard time writing cards, we can send poems instead of chit chat. Really, I don’t think it matters that much what we say, as long as the essential message is, I’m thinking about you, missing you, and wishing you well. Onward, right?