The weather is miserable. It rains every day. And now she is feeling better, after last week’s miserable cold (she got it checked out: it was not THAT, and it was not either of the most popular strains of the flu. It was just a deep-down, hard-ass cold, and the doctor said she’d just need to ride it out. It would take two weeks, he said, but already she is feeling halfway normal, so that’s really good). Now she’d like to get out and walk.
The gym is closed for the duration, and she’s glad of that, not wanting to wander in that closed environment, where people sweat and cough and sneeze, and whatever flies up into the air must fall down somewhere and linger, landing on foam grips and faux-leather seats, waiting for contact with the next soft, wet hand, the next bare upper leg. Walking outdoors is so much better.
And even though it rains each day, there are big chunks of time when it’s just gray; then she can go out for long, stretching walks. After she’s walked a bit, when she’s ten minutes or so into it, she begins to taste the freshness of the air. She smells the fecund earth, and she can feel the muscles in her legs and belly working, and then, it feels so good to be outdoors and moving.
And she notices things. There are robins all over now, robin couples, hopping and searching, perhaps finding what they need to set up their springtime household. And crocuses are blooming, translucent violet and shy. Tiny jonquils, impossibly pretty, bow and nod, and each day more daffodils bloom.
The air is filled with birdsong.
These are not things she would see or hear at the gym. She may be missing the machines that are supposed to stretch and strengthen her shoulder, but this crisis is ensuring that she gets plenty of outdoor time, in between rainstorms.
Well, she thinks as she marches along grimly, well. That’s one good thing.
Her son, grown but nervous, struggles with the whole pandemic concept. She tries to create a routine, to get him outside and moving at least twice a day. They go to the post office and mail letters and bills. They take big plastic bins to the recycling trailer and dump out their contents. They go to the fitness trail at the local hospital and walk in opposite directions, meeting, refreshed, at the car.
Facebook and other media point out that this is a particularly difficult time for small, local businesses, so she takes her son out shopping. They stop at a local butcher shop, where they buy two beautiful chuck roasts, and they note that this is a place to buy local honey. The little market also carries eggs, which are in short supply everywhere: the supermarket shelves are bare even of the cheap, factory-farmed, pale-yolked eggs.
Right now, the eggs are gone (“They sold within 45 minutes,” says the small, worried looking woman at the counter. She is friendly and helpful. She underlines the telephone number on the receipt.
“Call me tomorrow,” she says, “and if we get more, I will save you some.”)
The next day, they hit the drugstore where their prescriptions are NOT ready. They run to the car in the latest bout of rain. Before she drives off, she calls the butcher shop.
They have eggs. She could have two dozen.
They drive right over and pick them up; the same helpful woman waits on them.
“Come back soon!” the woman says, and she realizes she has gained a new market along with farm-fresh eggs.
Well, she thinks. That’s ONE good thing.
She spends her mornings converting her classes to on-line format, and, by the third day of planning, a clear path forward emerges. She finds Internet resources to share, links on the college library’s website, electronic resources supplied by the textbook publisher. This falls into place as she plugs away, and suddenly, it seems almost fun to make this change. It’s kind of a, ‘We’ll show you: you can’t stop this learning,’ kind of challenge.
She gets up from her computer and goes walking, and then she comes home to plan the next outing. The days grow sinew and develop a sturdy shape.
And she still has time to get some extra things done. With her son’s help, she clears off, dusts, and organizes shelves. They discover long-buried treasure, and they sort handy things into accessible containers.
After dinner they begin an X-Men marathon, one director’s cut a night. And each night, she hems another sheer curtain. That’s a project that she’s been putting off since she hung the curtains six months ago. The bottoms puddle, but are hidden by the furniture, and so the job lost its urgency.
But now, she works on them steadily, measuring and pinning and ironing, sitting with a lapful of gauzy white stuff and watching Marvel action heroes, needle slipping in and out as the good guys regroup to win.
By the week’s end, two windows’ worth of curtains hang nicely.
She feels pleasantly accomplished. Well, she thinks, that’s one good thing.
She touches base with friends she hasn’t spoken to in far too long; she texts and talks and catches up.
One late afternoon, she is washing dishes and there’s a pounding on the door. She dries her hands and hurries to the door to see her friend heading off to the waiting car. There’s a foil wrapped plate of cookies on the bench.
They have a physically distant conversation, and then her friend runs off to the car, and she carries the cookies into the house.
They are GOOD cookies. The boyos love them. They don’t last long.
Well, she thinks. That was a good thing.
She leaves a message for her friend Larry. He calls her back that afternoon and tells a painful story about trying to get home from California, about cancelled flights and crowded airports and worrisome conditions. He talks about the joys of being home.
And then he talks about going out to stock up on some things, toilet paper included, and encountering the bare shelves of his local market, the darting eyes of shoppers pushing carts full of toilet paper and hand sanitizers–grim, frightened people claiming, maybe, more than their fair share. Discouraged, he left the store.
In the parking lot, a young man in a rusty car waved him over. The boy, says Larry, looked a little ragged. He had some sort of throat problem. To talk, he pressed his hand to a device, and his voice was jaggedly electronic.
“Are you a veteran?” he asked Larry.
“No,” Larry told him. He is not.
“Are you a senior citizen?” the young man persisted. Larry owned up to that one.
The young man smiled and got out of his car.
“Here,” he said, and he opened the back door. It was crammed full of necessities, of the very things missing from the supermarket shelves.
“I had coupons and vouchers,” he told Larry, “and I got more of this stuff than I needed. So I’ve been driving around giving stuff to veterans and senior citizens, because I know some people are making it hard to find these things.”
He handed Larry a big package of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer. He got back into his car and drove away, waving off Larry’s thanks, looking for his next vet or senior.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Larry tells her. “He could have SOLD that stuff.”
“Wow,” she says, and she starts to think, Well, that’s one…but then she stops herself. There’s a whole lot more than one good thing tumbled together in that story. And, she realizes, there has been a whole lot more than one good thing tumbled into this whole week.
She says goodbye to Larry, and she sees that the clouds have lifted; there is even sun shining through. Time for a walk, time to celebrate the first day of spring, and to appreciate all the good that bubbles up, she thinks, even when life is disagreeable or inconvenient.