I thought I would introduce a little merriment into a post. I was humming an old Aretha Franklin song the other day and I realized she was asking “who’s zooming who?” If you want to hear the whole song you can https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=Gi6yGuvKv_E. I claim no responsibility for any ad that youtube plays first. I just had to click through an ad for a conspiracy newspaper!
Zoom has a long and checkered meaning, long before it was applied to that application now being used for office meetings, religious services, and book clubs. In this case it just suggests who is checking who out–you or me? In a way this also applies to the present incarnation of Zoom. How often do you find yourself checking out the books behind the speaker, the pets wandering in and out, the 80’s decor? But as Aretha points out “who’s zooming who?” I wonder what everyone in church is learning about me!
A lot of people are tired of being told to stay home. A lot of people are longing to get haircuts. A few people apparently are longing to get tattoos and go bowling. How else to explain the governor of Georgia opening beauty salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys? Georgia continues to have a rise in cases of covid-19. If you are anywhere other than the state of Georgia(or one of the doubtful citizens within Georgia) you might wonder what is going on. Grievously enough, politics is winning over science.
In some ways, this is not surprising since we have had a number of movements to discount science in the United States in recent years. Climate change is a hoax. Vaccinations cause illness. And so on. But the virus is not a hoax. It was not concocted by (take your choice) Bill Gates, the Deep State, WHO, or George Soros. It is very real, there is no cure for it, and people are dying at an astonishing rate in the United States.
I am grateful once again that I live in a part of the United States still committed to finding a way forward that honors both health and the economy. Quickly opening work places, restaurants, movie theaters, beaches and shopping malls without knowing who carries and spreads the illness will have one effect. It will kill people. And in case some governors don’t seem to grasp the obvious: the economy needs healthy people in order to thrive.
I grew up in a home surrounded by lush growth of flowers and trees. No one gardened the property as it was part of the “natural landscaping” look popular at the time. That meant there were numerous native plants, including trillium and johnny-jump-ups. There were also remnants of the time when the home, built in 1909, had employed a gardener. Hence roses, rhododendrons, daffodils, dogwood, and snowdrop bushes bloomed every spring. Countless trees populated the two acres, so many that when a storm in 1960 took our 13 trees, there were still plenty left.
In other words, I took plants for granted and never took up gardening as a hobby. Fortunately, I married a man who has a real talent in the yard and who recognized a neglected yard when he saw one. After we married in 1988, he began to FEED the plants which then actually thrived. When we moved into our present home in 2001, he continued his practice of feeding, watering, pruning, dividing and transplanting the landscaping already present. And in the intervening 19 years, he has introduced thousands of bulbs, perennials and shrubs to our city lot.
He especially loves spring bulbs, and he fights with the squirrels who want to dig them up for meals every fall after they go in the ground. He also has added some perennials to a shady spot in the yard. Above are three plantings that recently bloomed, two from bulbs, one from a plant.
Often I carelessly overlook all his work, taking it for granted in the same way I took my childhood surroundings for granted. This spring I am housebound and rejoicing at each new bloom, grateful beyond measure for having married a man with a genuine green thumb.
It is still unseasonably cold around here, but I saw a couple of signs that the birds and plants still believe in warmer weather to come. The robins who built a nest last year under my office porch(old nest on left) have returned and built a new nest. It is positioned in a way that I can easily watch what is going on without bothering the robins. Clearly the robins are not in lockdown, but are happily going about producing more robins.
On the right our raspberry vines are starting to emerge from their winter bed. By the time summer is over (assuming it ever arrives!) the vines will fill out this whole patch by the garage and produce hundreds of berries. Perhaps they realize how difficult it has been to acquire produce around here and are getting ready to do their part.
I am having to reframe my approach to the covid-19 pandemic. One wise public health official said that the United States had been preparing its citizens for a sprint. He maintains that the more apt analogy is a marathon. Clearly marathons require stamina, perseverance and a level of commitment to stay the course. As an added challenge, we don’t know how long this course will be. And of course we didn’t choose to enter this particular marathon. But here I am and here we are, moving along an unknown path, doing the best we can. For the long haul.
This morning when doing the New York Times crossword puzzle I came across a new word. As a 72 year old retired English professor, I rarely encounter a word I haven’t seen before. So I was jubilant. (Yes. During this lockdown it isn’t taking much to make me happy.) The word is “mondegreen,” apparently coined in 1954 and defined as misinterpreting a word or phrase, especially from a song lyric.
Finally. A chance to share one of my favorite “aha” moments from my marriage. My husband and I were at a concert of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon playing together. (Well not together as it turns out. They were taking turns. Sort of.) Anyway Dylan began singing “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.” I had never seen the title of this song, only heard it played. My husband turned excitedly to me saying “this is the only song that is about Mobile.” He was raised in Mobile, Alabama, so this made an impression on him. To my chagrin, I realized that for forty years I had been singing “I’m stuck inside a mobile with the Memphis blues again.” Sounded quite believable given Dylan’s frequently psychedelic verses.
My other mondegreen comes from a song I can’t recall. All I know is that I constantly sing “you’re my corn dog in the night.” I have to assume that the lyric is something quite different. At least I hope it is.
What lyrics have you been mishearing for years? Of course if no one has corrected you this question will make no sense!
The weather in Connecticut this year has been very strange. Winter never really hit us with any intensity and now spring seems very reluctant to move in. I think that this photo I took this morning sums up the situation perfectly. In the foreground you see the blossoms on our sour cherry tree finally beginning to appear. But, lest you get your hopes up, notice the background of the photo. That silver image is of one of our snow shovels, the yellow stripes belong to its companion, another shovel. Today hail is forecast so we shouldn’t need the shovels, but two days ago we awoke to a layer of snow.
Unlike some of the governors to our south, our governor continues to put our continued health over a short term boost in the economy. He believes, and I agree, that too hasty a lifting of regulations will lead to a rebound of the illness. It has hit this part of the country especially hard, and no one wants to see the numbers quickly soar again. So we remain hunkered down, making it feel kind of like late winter but with more daylight.
A few more signs of the potential for spring will appear in my next posts. Mind you I said “potential.” I am not confident that winter has left us for good.
In November of 1969, I became very ill. I was freezing cold, curled up on the heat register of my house and wondered what was the matter. I had other troubling symptoms, including my eyes turning yellow, that alerted me that I needed to get help. I saw a doctor, learned that I had hepatitis A and moved back in with my parents for a two month rest and recuperation. I slept a great deal, ate a lot of white rice since I could digest it easily, and waited for the disease to be over.
After a couple of weeks, I was visited by an official from the county health department. Hepatitis A was a reportable disease and he needed to try to figure out how I had become infected. No one in my family had the bug, nor did my closest friends, so he made a list of all the places I had eaten out. He took this information back to the office and continued with the very laborious process of mapping all the places I had eaten food. He did this for other new cases of the disease also. Eventually he found a cluster of pins on his map at the Tastee-Freez drive-in. Armed with this information, he was able to go to the place, interview the workers, identify and isolate the ill employee. He also closed the restaurant for inadequate sanitary procedures.
I remembered this when I began to read of what it will take to reopen my state’s businesses. When the disease is sufficiently contained, when there is adequate testing both for the illness and for antibodies to the virus, new cases will prompt a thorough contact tracing outward from the new victim. This is a kind of reverse of the process I was involved in. In this new mapping, the known carrier is the starting point, and her contacts will be quarantined and monitored.
Many Americans have lost any understanding of PUBLIC health. We have competent health professionals who continue to try to minimize disease throughout a community. I am not just responsible for my own health, but for others’ as well. I welcome the contact tracing to come, knowing it is an effective check of the rampant spread of any disease.
Every once in a while I rediscover a word and reflect on its relevance. For me, as I am at home for a month now, I have been thinking about “palimpsest.” The original application for this word comes from the practice of reusing a piece of parchment or other material by writing over the previous writing. As shown above, traces of the original still show through, even though the new text stands out more clearly.
But when I was thinking and then writing about my muscle memory, I realized that as I was exercising I was experiencing my body as a sort of living palimpsest. Here were my biceps, once swinging from the monkey bars, now lifting weights. Here were my quads, once pumping my one speed bicycle up steep hills, now being raised to help my sore knees. And there was my brain, simultaneously focusing on the task at hand while musing on all the similar tasks in the past.
This layered experience, not precisely nostalgic, seems to be a constant companion during this pandemic. Perhaps because my life is totally slowed down and contained in a narrow sphere, I have become more contemplative. Whatever the reason, I find that I am frequently in several overlapping places at once. I am peeling the carrot in my kitchen, remembering fixing dinner on the houseboat, thinking of cutting up carrot sticks for my school lunch. Layer on layer. A rich way to enjoy finding connections of present and past. An unexpected benefit of quarantine.
When I was growing up there were a number of promotions that required you to dial in from the telephone. Sometimes it was for money if you knew the password of the day. Other times it was to get a chance to dedicate a song to your secret crush.(This occupied much of my fifth grade after school times with my best friend.) Then there was the “lucky caller number seven gets a chance to win tickets to….” I was often caller number six it seemed, that is if I ever got through to the person answering. There was no rapid redial feature on those phones. One had to patiently dial a digit, wait for the dial to return to home, then dial each additional digit in turn. It took a long time to call back. And you had to call back over and over, hoping to have someone pick up the phone.
This practice came back to me lately as I have been trying to get through to the grocery store on-line service. I am using the computer this time, rather than the telephone, but the process is very nearly the same. “No delivery times available. Times for delivery are released throughout the day,” says the helpful web page for one store. “No delivery times available. Try again later,” says another. Sometimes by the time I have filled a cart with my desired items the available time slot has disappeared.
Yesterday by some miracle of modern science, I not only got a time slot but my basket didn’t empty before I checked out. And even better, it allowed me to add more items until the shopper began my order. I quickly called a family member and said to add things before it was too late. Last evening a very lovely young couple arrived and placed our purchases on my sidewalk, six feet away from my front door as I requested.
In this dreadful time, I am taking my thrills where I can find them. Right now it is “dialing for groceries!” You can hear my victory chant across the neighborhood when I score.