Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Roots + Wings

Flight. That was the theme all week. Against my mounting better judgement I got on one last Tuesday. But at that time the cases of the dreaded and looming COVID19 were largely on the west coast in America. There were three cases in my home state. And one in the state I was going. All seemed safe. Ish. But why was nobody talking about more aggressively the hidden spread (What if we are actually only catching 5% or less of the cases)? Or the exponential growth? I had a stopover in Minneapolis. A state I then learned had had six cases take off from the airport, on my airline. And yet there were no additional airport screenings. A grand total of two people, including myself were wearing reusable washable masks. One lady wiped her bag and her phone; an abysmally low number of people left the bathroom in a rush without washing their hands.  

I was going back home to try to sort through some of my mother’s things as she died five weeks ago. 

The first day I drove in my rental car to go see my grandparents. A huge and magnificent red tailed hawk greeted me roadside, but darted swiftly off when I stopped for pictures. 

This is a place that will always feel like home. It’s where we will lay most of my mom’s ashes. In the region where she was born. Where her grandparents built a home and where they, and their parents, and their infant daughter are buried. I now know where we will put her marker. 

No blooms at my house in Wisconsin, yet. But in eastern Oklahoma grandma’s tulip magnolia tree was blooming. At night the forest was alive with frogs. And if I would have had a sleeping bag, I would have curled up on that ground—to feel, to be, the earth vibrant and charged. To smell the sweetness of a new-old season in the song before summer. 

That morning the world had changed its tune. Pandemic. Flus, and plagues, and hot zones swirl in my mind. Fear and awe. Awe and fear. The world has become a moving target and we are all in the cross hares. Quickly nothing becomes certain. 

I spend one evening at my mom’s house, much less time then I planned on, and two anxious evenings trying to figure out how I am now going to get home. I, the traveler, am a liability to the cancer-stricken family of the friend I am staying with. We agree on this. We say tense and regretful goodbyes across the room at 3am. The air is restless. I leave before dawn and sleep for a few hours in the car. I wake to cops circling, like sharks. I move on. I don’t see my brother, or my dear friend, or my sister again, or finish any part of the tasks of clearing my mom’s house. 

O’Hare seems an impossibility. So after negotiations with rental car company, I will drive 2/3 of the way home. Then my husband will meet me to save costs. Our margin is small, but never have I felt more privileged, or more eager to be home. 

I have some extra time in Dubuque. I’m enticed by signs about Walnut Woods State Park.  I step out and almost positively hear a screech owl. It is an anomaly, since it is mid-afternoon. But clearly, reassuringly, they seem to do this when humans are not around, because it is my steps that bring silence in the soggy earth. In light of everything, this is a warm shawl. I breathe in, grateful and accepting, even if that were the only gift this day were to bring. But then, a pair of cooper hawks swoops across, ten feet above my head. I breathe out. It starts to snow and I walk back. 

I meet my husband. Never have I been so happy to see him! But, we greet with distance. Because. And, what if? And, pandemic. We think we are in the winning demographic, but we wonder, could we preserve one parent, for posterity, for our children? My lung twinges. My heart aches. Back home our daughter coughs and increases her nebulizer treatments.  

I get tearful though for the first time when our church closes. 

Updates pour in. All schools will be closed starting Wednesday, from the governor. Things are changing at our university. And again tears as I walk our students packing up to leave.

But Sunday we have a splendid day. We sing and play guitar. There is a gravity and a sweetness. There are songs. Our family does things we care about on Monday in the quiet of our country home. Red winged blackbird returns to my feeder. And two pairs of downy woodpeckers, a pair of mourning doves, and a pair of purple finches are frequenting the back porch. It is a good place to make a home. 


But in the outside world we know how hard it is to get things. Everyone shows up to empty shelves. Our world seems more interconnected and more fragile then ever before. Remember that food that travelled thousands of miles to get here? That FINALLY seems as fool-hardy as it should have all along. It shouldn’t stop with the realization though. 

As Ken Berlin says, “Our challenge now is to carry the gravity of the pandemic with us while continuing our work to solve the climate crisis and create a truly just and healthy future for all.” As all the numbers about lungs, ventilators, hunger, and bankruptcies swirl around us, I think we all have an obligation to live more locally and with a lot more intentionality. While many of us have the gift of more time with our families, even amidst very fluid and complicated circumstances, I hope we take the time to teach them something that matters. Can any of you for example find five wild edibles in your current area? Have you ever grown a single plant of your own food? Do you know how to catch a fish? Can your family cook something that doesn’t come from a can?

Hopefully it will prove more true that each of us trying to live a little more simply, may help others simply live. We're in this for the long haul. More than ever I’m catching the need to let the land lead and teach. Maybe you are too? More than ever our small scale farmers and businesses are going to need our support. How can we live a little more local?

My efforts feel small, but in just a couple of days for the first time we’ve made fir syrup for coughs, homemade yogurt, and sprouted peas. Our first seeds are in jars, waiting for roots. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for dropping in at our table! Feel free to insert a link back to your webpage here. We aim to publish legitimate comments. We welcome discussion, even dissension, but please try to be courteous and cite your sources.