Saturday, May 16, 2020

Gardening, wearing masks, and our not-so-small sacrifices: Notes from my quarantine journal

Cindy La Ferle

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"There must be a happy medium somewhere between being totally informed and blissfully unaware." ~ Douglas Larson


Saturday, May 16 ...
Last week, I caught myself laughing at the sheer irony: The governor of Michigan had lifted restrictions on nurseries and landscaping services, but nightly frost warnings made it impossible for anyone to plant anything. The weather was so unseasonably cold, in fact, that I dragged my beautiful Mother's Day container gardens inside the house, several nights in a row. 

So I wondered if the folks who'd been grousing about the landscaping restrictions were happily chopping their shovels into the frozen soil.

Across the state, Gov. Whitmer's critics have been protesting most of her pandemic orders, despite the fact that Michigan -- once near the top of national COVID-19 cases and death rates -- started showing a decline in scary statistics. Those of us who'd followed the shelter-in-place orders, here in Michigan as well as other states, were credited for slowing the spread. 

Nobody had to convince me to put public health ahead of my own desire to purchase rosemary and basil plants. While I didn't necessarily agree with all of the governor's restrictions (many of which will be lifted soon, anyway), I've never argued against the need to be vigilant when facing an unpredictable foe like the coronavirus. 

Real men wear masks

As if the ongoing stress of this plague weren't dispiriting enough, there's a small army of citizens who've turned the issue of mask-wearing into yet another political skirmish.

Last night, a COVID-19 update on WebMD reported that a high percentage of men claim that wearing a protective mask is "uncool." Seriously? Either the insecure dudes taking the survey were totally clueless, or they never noticed all those smoking-hot doctors wearing surgical masks on Grey's Anatomy

I'll admit that protective masks can be uncomfortable, especially when they don't fit properly. Like other people who 
wear glasses, I face the constant challenge of foggy lenses when I wear masks. Even so, I'll wear them when necessary -- out of respect for others around me. The way I see it, if the owner of any business stipulates that masks must be worn on their premises, only a clod would challenge such a simple request. 

"Class is considerate of others," explained Ann Landers in her famous newspaper essay. "It knows that good manners is nothing more than a series of small sacrifices and minor inconveniences." 

Choosing to wear a mask during a pandemic seems like a no-brainer -- the classy, responsible thing to do. Masks help slow the spread of COVID-19, and slowing the spread means we'll all get back to business sooner than later. Why on God's green earth is that so hard to reconcile?  

Responsibility isn't for wimps  

Then again, being responsible often requires that we make some difficult, unselfish decisions and even endure some pain or hardship. It means valuing the greater good -- not just whatever works for us at the time. Being responsible is what we mean when we try to tell our kids how to act like grown-ups. Being responsible is what we expect from real grown-ups.

These days, everyone is feeling small, caged in, fed up, and itching to break free. I get it. We're all angry, impatient, and crabby. Like it or hate it, sheltering in place for months on end is a huge sacrifice -- and it's testing the most patient among us. 

I wish I could say that I'm feeling safer or more optimistic than I did when I started this journal back in March. But I'm not. 

Another memo to the White House: You won't fix your damaged economy until you get a handle on the damned virus. Period.  

In other words, they can lift all the restrictions they want; they can tell us anything they want us to believe. (And yes, I understand that people have to get back to work.) But I'm not rushing back to indoor restaurants or shopping malls or stadiums until there's a vaccine that really works -- or proof from a team of respected epidemiologists that this plague is under control. 

Shop until we drop?

I get the impression that continuing to shelter in place is now considered unpatriotic. The current administration appears to be more worried about the national economy than the health of its citizens. In a nutshell: They want me out of the house -- spending money.

Yet if I've learned nothing else during these long weeks of lockdown, I've discovered how rewarding it is to live less extravagantly than I used to

Over the past two months, I've found some amazing recipes, saved money on meals, cleaned my own home, learned how to repair things myself. I'm taking better care of what I already own -- which is a lot -- and I don't shop to entertain myself anymore. All in all, I've started appreciating other aspects of my life -- including some wonderful relationships -- that I'd neglected long before the pandemic. 

Already, in other parts of the country, some folks are heading out to bars, hair salons, and retail shops. I've seen TV news reports featuring carefree diners gathered around tables, elbow to elbow, raising beer mugs in celebration. There are suntanned beachcombers strolling shoulder to shoulder on the shorelines -- happily freed from their pandemic captivity. Skeptic that I am, I see them all as proverbial canaries being lowered down a mineshaft. I'll be monitoring the stats from home, to see how it's working for them. I will hope for the best, and hope my worst suspicions are wrong.  

In the meantime, there's a garden to plant in my backyard. ~Cindy La Ferle   

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