Mary Beth Writes

Something I read recently - and something someone rhetorically asked me - pursue the same question.

When will this end? How can we live well in the middle of this scary, divisive, devastating pandemic?

I have no precise or particular answer but I do see it through two lenses.

Politics. Story.

Part of the Misery of Now is the Politics of Now. We observe the chaos brought upon all of us by the lack of a plan (even though the Obama team left a plan). If we pay attention to the news the main theme is the divisiveness, the stalemating, the this governor vs Trump, and Trump vs that reporter who was asking a legitimate question, and then the others who are Trump’s backbone stating that the problem is not the paucity of plans or planners, but the media, and on and on it goes. Scientists being second-guessed by politicians who couldn’t figure out how to get out of a locked cardboard box. The politics of money and the politics of power; usually they are about the same thing. Unless one is waiting for money. Then it is about the politics of “Where is the money?”

It is legitimate to pay attention to this. Not paying attention, not knowing some of the names and some of the plays and players reduces us. Power is happening. We don’t put out a fire by turning our back on it to pick the flowers across the street. If you haven’t watch PBS News Hour lately, watch the first 10-15 minutes of it a few times per week. There really are smart people out there who are working hard to talk to smart people.

But there is also a Story going on. Dixie and Michol, Franc and Joyce and others of you have written some really good comments lately. Quarantine is not awful all the time. For some of us, this is a breather in complicated lives. Lessening of income is scary. Losing financial security is scary. Not knowing what will happen to us economically or health-wise is scary.

But buying less, going no place, tipping more to the individuals who help us, seeing the people in our neighborhoods play with their kids – these are powerful differences. Going to bed without worrying about tomorrow’s to-do list because it isn’t critical, this is different. Gaining 4 pounds around our middle while losing 27 pounds of anxiousness about things we can’t fix. Okay. There is a story going on here.

You hear parts of mine. Walking more. Saw a turtle. Visiting nesting ospreys. Reading to my grandchild. (Apparently the Blue Angels were flying over Chicago today. She called them the Blue Aprons. Thus the photos….) My neighbor across the street walks her baby once a day, her dog twice a day, and herself three times a day. People are planting more and bigger gardens. People are adopting dogs and cats! My son works for a bicycle manufacturing company, last weekend they had one of the biggest day of sales in their history. 

There is the politics of this pandemic. There are our stories playing out.

When you can’t stand any more of the political craziness, turn away and look at your story, the story of people in your neighborhood, the ones you see out your window. Len and I made this rule years ago. When you see the same neighborhood dog the second time, you can name it. The dog doesn’t care and you have made your life more whimsical.

When stories get too cloying, pay attention to politics again. One story is a story. When 85,000 people die, those stories become the next wave of politics.

We are in a crisis. Crises are about stories and politics and stories.

I haven’t got anything else today. It’s sunny outside and Len is in the yard doing things and in about five minutes, I’m going to be there, too. 




To quote Laura Ingalls Wilder, "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all". With so many untruths being thrown around at press conferences these days, I love the idea of turning to our own lives and looking for the everyday joys. Be it Osprey (we had one diving for fish in the cove in back of our house...very exciting), newly budding trees, our neighbor's shrub plantings or maybe my cat peeking out from under the Sweet Pepper Bush. Thanks for the reminder to stop and take a breath.

I've been watching PBS news hour every night since before this epidemic started and continue to do so... Then I turn inside and look at my life in these times... I just got back shortly from a 25mi bike ride and I'm sore yet somehow healthier because of it, excercise has been a large part of by covid regimen... I'm seeing the body changes show up before my eyes as I watch my father's body transform to something I'm liking better... I'm one of the lucky retired people who is financially secure and so I can pass some of that along to those people I care about who still depend on money coming in... The relationship that has been forming at about the same time as this damn epidemic is growing stronger dispite the fact that we still haven't met in person.( When that will happen is anyone's guess ) As for that bike ride, I took a detour on my way back home to a park with the most wonderful pathways leading into a woods full of wild flowers in full bloom... I let the child in me get off the bike and enjoy the large swathes of Trillium, May Apple, Dog Tooth violet, and Rue up close with only the birds to share it with... ¿Who says there's nothing to do during this time of social distancing? Open your eyes and take a real close look at the world around you like you've never done before... Who knows what you might see, it could be mud, or it could be a turtle... Let your child's eye do the seeing and enjoy...
Leonard's picture

Stories gain power because they give us a way of understanding changes that are happening in the world, but the changes themselves are mostly happening because of politics. They're both important. I watch PBS and listen to NPR. But, mostly, I want to know where Franc is riding his bike.

Lenard the name of the park is "Sam Poerio Park" I saw it from the bike path on my way into Kenosha... I rode to Gateway then headed back to Racine, took a little detour and rode into the park... Just past the parking and playgrounds there are several gravel paths one can take to a river and an old railroad bridge... A train came through as I was taking pictures of the wildflowers... It's peaceful and gorgeous... If you search Kenosha parks and hit Poerio Park they have about 80 photos of the place... It's going to be my new go to when in Kenosha...

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Quarantine Diary #150 8/11/2020 Taking a Break

I’m depressed. How about you?  I’m not the kind of depressed where I should call a doctor. I’m more “Michelle Obama depressed.”  Things feel stuck, wrong, and getting worse. There’s the pandemic and the feeble, chaotic response to it. There’s racial strife. When, if ever, will the police police themselves? Teachers and kids are being thrown back into schools like spaghetti thrown against a wall - to see who will stick? There’s the angry self-entitled idiocy of too many people.

Quarantine Diary #142 Swimming Lessons

“It's a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.” Unknown author

I was well into my 40’s when I realized that one doesn’t have to wait for perfect weather if one wants to go into the water. 

Quarantine Diary #141 8/5/2020 "Red Dust"

I just finished reading “Red Dust – A Path Through China” by Ma Jain.  It is a remarkable book that asks more questions than it answers.

Ma Jain was born in the 50’s and grew up grew up very poor in a small Chinese city. He remembers when his mother would simmer stones for dinner so that the neighbors would see her cooking and not realize how poor they were.  (A whole different take on the children’s tale “Stone Soup.") The violent and terrifying Cultural Revolution that Chinese citizens lived through is over but memories of it are in everyone’s minds.

Quarantine Diary #140 7/31/2020 Wishing you a Merry Quarantine Weekend

When I’m in a certain mood I love how-to articles – and I’m in that mood right now. I think it happens at the intersection of reasonable weather and Friday ... when happiness still seems possible.

I googled “How to have a nice weekend in the time of Covid” and guess what? There are no Wiki-How articles on how to be happy in a pandemic.

Let’s invent this right here, right now.

Quarantine Diary #134 Written while sweating …

My best coping skill for appalling weather is to show it who is boss. 30 below?  Cool. Let me put on all my clothes plus a hat down to my eyebrows and another one up to my glasses, and I’ll go out there.

Quarantine Diary #131 7/23/2020 "Becoming Labrador"

Yesterday I forgot to write about a movie we watched which I think many of you might like to watch, also.  We’ve been talking here about what one can stand to read and watch these days when our spirits are stressed and anxious.

I thought I wanted to reprise some of our Canada travels.  FYI, if you’ve traveled in a place you loved, put that place into your streaming service Search window, find some great or mediocre documentaries about that place, and revisit your memories.  It’s fun.

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