It was hard to move last week, although I managed. I sat on the sofa watching the news all day, every day, and only broke up the routine to wander off to do laundry, taking my phone with me, so I could keep up with the news.
I stayed in touch with friends and family via social media, and often the chats were full of forwarded news reports announcing new numbers of infections, the lack of test kits, the heroic work of the medical profession, and maddening reports from the fringes, both left and right. I was not soothed.
Then, I remembered my friend, Linda’s, advice, that 1950s staple of lazy afternoons, the Sunday drive. I planned my weekend around that, marking my calendar with intention. As I thought about where to go, I began to see some flaws in the plan. Gas is cheap, yes, and the open road is a perfect place to isolate, but what about pit stops?
I adjusted my itinerary to include a countryside meandering that could be completed in about an hour, giving me plenty of time to get back to my Cloroxed and disinfected home for any of my personal needs. Sunday turned out to be a gloomy day, so an hour was just about right.
I headed south, looking for the road to take me to Habit, Kentucky, and ended up at the crossroads where sits Bethabara Baptist Church. Established in the 1880s, it is simple in design, with its tall arched windows and white painted brick exterior. It might be at home in New England. There is something about it, and I took photos from different angles, never quite capturing the thing that draws me there a couple of times a year. But still, the windows reflecting the still-bare trees were haunting and matched the mood of the day.
Flowing down a small hill in the back of the church was a purple carpet of deadnettle, the weed that arrives early to tell us spring is coming. Because it is in the mint family, deadnettle is invasive and hard to get rid of, but it is lovely to look at blanketing the earth, and I took photos of it, too.
It has dawned on me slowly that isolating doesn’t mean I can’t be outside, as long as staying in means staying in my own backyard. On the first nice day I took to the flowerbed, pulling weeds and my own deadnettle. I raked leaves left over from fall, spent more time than was strictly necessary sitting in the dirt.
I need compost and seeds, more mulch, but they will have to wait until I receive the all clear to venture out. I feel fine, and think I am healthy as a horse. But I am also in a high risk group, being of a certain age and having asthma—mild asthma, and intermittent, but still. After a week of congratulating myself for being so compliant, grocery shopping when the parking lot was almost empty, it occurred to me that even that might be risky behavior.
My friends in the medical field assure me that it is.
It has taken a while for this to sink in.
So I read “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One,” Margaret Renkl’s recent essay in the New York Times. She tells us the birds don’t care about us, or this virus. They are too busy doing bird things. They prepare their nests, they sing as they are meant to, and we can listen and take comfort. Daffodils are on the way, and tulips, hyacinth. Peonies are shooting up, red and ragged, to thrill us in a month or two. My lilac is wanting to bud, but it is playing hard to get. The grass is that particular spring green, as vibrant as it will ever be until it dies away in fall.
We struggle to make sense of it all, in our fear seeing only chaos and dread. Yet we have power, too. We have control over what we have always had within our power to control, ourselves. We can work to be kind, considerate, helpful. Be patient with the ways in which our family and friends are frightened. We can work to control our own fears, our anger, our outlook. We can marvel, as Renkl would have us do, at the natural world, which has rules of its own. A world of awakening and new growth and hope. We only must get out of its way, and wonder.