Mary Beth Writes

Most mornings we wake up, get coffee, then sit in bed to read news websites and Twitter on our phones. This isn’t the most spiritually centering way to begin a day but IMHO any morning one can actually rouse oneself at all is good enough.

Except this. Remember when Len and I went to Kearny, Nebraska last spring to see the migrating Sandhill Cranes? (Right here.) 

When I have freaked out enough about the news, I go to this crane cam. 

THIS is the Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary live cam.

Dawn seems to motivate the cranes to wake up and get flying - so it’s handy that Nebraska is close to an hour behind us. The birds and I are currently on a similar schedule except when it’s foggy and they get up later than even me.

People are dying alone with Coronavirus. You’ve heard this and so have I. Here’s the thing; it might happen to us. It might happen to people we love. I read a wrenching story just this morning of doctor in NYC describing the grief and fear of families who are separated when one of them is so ill and may be dying. 

This is new for all of us including our religious and spiritual leaders and pastors. How do we prepare for the possibility of death coming when we are alone?  Medical care givers are going to be swamped with patients, most will not be able to sit next to us to hold our hands. 

How can we support each other and be together in some of the hardest circumstances most of us might ever know?  I’m not trying to alarm you or me.  I am saying that this is a spiritual problem and we will do best if we think about it before a crisis comes.

I have this true story that is easier than what so many are facing. My grandmother (the one who tatted the hankies) died alone in a hospital. People had visited her the day before; it wasn’t that she was left alone, just that no one expected her to pass away that Saturday morning. But here is how that happened. A nurse walked into her room just after dawn. Grandma opened her eyes, smiled, and lifted her hand to wave as she said “Bye-bye.”  She was not afraid and she was on her way. This story helped our family.

Let’s be brave now and think about how we can hold each other’s spirits when we can’t hold hands.

I have two thoughts. One is that guilt is futile and useless. If we can’t be there, we can’t be there. The second thought is more of a wondering.  Are there warm, soft things we can take with us or give to others that represent our families, that people who are alone can hold?  I’m sure there are protocols about what is and is not allowed. But having something that smells and feels like home and love might be a help to some. 

Yup, this is depressing.  It’s why we think ahead.

If you are a bread baker – did you see that the price of yeast has TRIPLED??!!

For years I’ve ordered two vacuum-packed pounds of yeast at a time. Sometimes I give one of them to our son who also bakes often.  The price for the yeast has been $10-12 for a 2-pack.  We are almost out so I looked online AND IT IS NOW $33!!

We are now on day #2 of making sourdough starter. Never did this before.  I think one of will bake bread on Thursday or Friday. Pretty interested to see how this goes.

There’s always baking powder biscuits.

What’s surprising you?



MB, This made me smile. I love your homemade bread and remember the many times you gave me some to make "truck toast" for my morning drive to work. I'm pretty sure that your sourdough bread and/or baking powder biscuits will be equally delicious, made with love. I love to cook and bake, but never was a bread baker. My mom never made homemade bread, so I never learned. My thought has always been "I don't do yeast!" So I guess the price of yeast is one thing that isn't on my radar, but there are plenty of other things right now, that's for sure! I look forward to reading your Quarantine Diary every day.....I have so many thoughts and comments, but have not been sitting down to send them out to you. This one made me say, come on Judy, she is helping you through this crazy time by sharing her thoughts, just like she did with the truck gotta send her a note! Hugs to you & Len & your kiddos and grandkiddos. Stay safe!
Mary Beth's picture

Awww, Judy! Thanks. You know I really appreciate it - as well as all those years of being my friend and the kids' friend. There is not a chocolate silk pie on earth that is not "Judy's pie."

Thank you!!!
Mary Beth's picture


I got to George's this afternoon and went to get his mail from the front of the house like I always do... The newspaper was sitting on the porch which made me panic because he always sends me a text saying he's awake then grabs the paper... My mind went to the dark place... ¿Why didn't he get the paper?, I received no emergency message from the alert system around his neck. ¿Why?, ¿Why didn't that damn apple watch tell me his heart stopped or that he's fallen? And ¿What am I going to find when I open the back door? All perfectly logical question's when dealing with the terminaly il... I opened the door and he's sitting at the kitchen table on his iPad... Before he could get the "HELLO"out of his mouth I could hear myself saying ( LOUDLY ) ¿ Why didn't you get the paper I damn near had a heart attack thinking something was wrong? as I handed him the paper & mail... "I already read it" was his reply as he pointed with shaky fingers at the small stack of papers... Unknown to him they delivered a second paper after he had retrieved the 1st one... Thanks Kenosha News for almost stroking me out... I think this crisis has us all on edge even more than we know ourselves...
Mary Beth's picture

When one thinks everything is fine and then they find themselves in tears.... Yeah. This is a fragile time.

This is dreary but uplifting at the same Time. Thanks for that. The spiking prices piss me off though. I just wish my long gone mother in law were here on the farm to help us do this. John never had “ store bought” bread until he left home for college. I wish I had learned how to bake bread from her. And chickens....We could be so much more resourceful had I wanted to smell chickens. Horses OK, BUT CHICKENS? I feel as if we need to conjure up all those resourceful farm ladies to figure out how to survive this pandemic. I worked outside cleaning flower beds all day. Felt good. So just get outside everyone!
Mary Beth's picture

Yeah, I did TWO walks today. Outside it doesn't feel as fraught. Though outside... alone. I feel grateful just to be able to smile at a stranger and compliment their handsome dog...

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.


 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.


Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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