A sunny day ahead and after breakfast, a trip to the box store down the street was deemed necessary. A bit irrational perhaps, to think about cookies during the pandemic, but a real need of McVities’s Digestive biscuits, a treat we both like with tea or coffee, left me no choice. A perk coming with that cookie is that it’s dunkable, without drowning in your favorite coffee. Risking my life for cookies on this fine day, I decided to take the woody path behind the mill. Once into the woods, my mind settled on the environment and I slowly forgot about covid. I passed the rocky stream again and it looked more beautiful than the last time I crossed it. The moss on the old boulders seemed fresher, the bright green alive with a sheen of morning dew. The water flows rapidly between boulders and long rooted trees before falling into a thirty feet wide gully down below. The gully may be an ancient river bed transformed into a series of marshes and near still water ponds. It lays about ten to fifteen feet down between the two small wooded crests that borders it.
Spring is making a timid approach in the woods, leaves are just starting to show signs of life. Birds, in contrast, are busy foraging and claiming their territory. Passing by a mess of brushes at least fifteen foot long and six wide, I startled a few birds that went scattering, in fright, into the bushes and out of my sight. There must have been a dozen birds there, judging by the commotion they made. I saw a couple of robins and glanced at a red something that may have been a cardinal. When I reached the point were I could see the homeless camp, I noticed that this time, it was occupied. From fifty feet away I could see that someone had been using it since I saw it last. The big No Trespassing signs around the camp were also a clear indication that folks had claimed that parcel of the woods. I did not bother the tenants. Suddenly, the camp brought me back to reality and to covid. Is that person or persons more in danger here in the woods than a homeless facility? Governors are trying to requisition hotels to house homeless folks. In the meantime, what happens to the ones who are left without dwelling and the ones who are withdrawn from society, invisible?
My visit to the store went as usual, but now, folks seemed to be more aware of distancing. The manager and employees were restocking the shelves, trying to keep safe distances but not wearing masks. I asked the manager about McVitie’s but he had no idea what they were. Finally I found a misshelved orphaned pack, went to ask the manager again, pack in hand. That jolted his memory and he guided me to the shelf he had just restocked, ten minutes before, with a full new shipment. Go figure. I chalked the distraction to the stress of working for the public in the time of Covid-19.
I hoarded shamelessly three packages of Digestives and by that time my backpack was full, even though I did not find the white vinegar I was asked to bring home. The police officer paying the cashier ahead of me did not wear a mask, neither did the cashier. I quickly paid and went back the same way I came. Again, the woods lifted my mood all the way home. By that time noon was approaching and scrambled eggs laced with ham chunks and Parmesan cheese satiated us while watching the day’s musical offering. The Barber of Seville enchanted us for a couple of hours filled with smiles and laughter, something we both needed. Culture comes in various ways, today Figaro taught me a new word, factotum, a word I may never use again, but one that has entered my already jam packed brain, the proof that one can learn even when neurons start disappearing as we age. Rossini’s music is a good antidote to the sadness of the ever depressing news. There is a comic scene where the plague of the day is used to trick a character. Necrophiliacs beware, there is no languishing death in the Barber, instead you can enjoy an equally long love declaration, sang beautifully towards the end of the Opera.
My good mood continued as I packed the small fifties’ German parlor guitar I’ve had for a dozen years. I had bought it from Jay, a luthier/carpenter friend who keeps a booth at the Antiques barn were I also have a spot to sell vintage and downright ancient items. On that last visit with my grandsons, Max, the younger one, expressed interest in guitar playing while we were cooking rocket fuel in the driveway. Although I really liked that small guitar, I really seldom played it as I have half a dozen to choose from. I figured that it would be a good instrument to learn with, the action, the width and length of the neck comfortable. It sports steel strings now, but could as well be strung with nylon for easier fingering. I printed the UPS ground label and dropped the parcel at the usual store. This time, a table was set outside to keep folks from entering and the drop off bin pushes some six feet away, was also outside. I was glad to see the precautions taken to minimize contact. It was a good sign to see that businesses were starting to react to the pandemic in a sensical way. I dropped off the package, hoping it will make it all the way south to North Carolina, and drove to my last digs to gather more of our stuff to bring back to the loft. One of the items is a restaurant terrace table with a cast iron base and slate top, one of a pair that I had bought forty years ago when I lived on Madison Avenue, from a restaurant on fifth avenue almost directly across the Metropolitan museum. The restaurant was modernizing and selling the old furniture. I remember paying fifty bucks for two of them. Cleaning it gave me another chance to spend time in the fresh air and I took my time to enjoy the chore. Driving back home, the large white tents in the hospital parking lot were a sobering remainder that my mild euphoria was only an ephemeral state of mind. The day passed too quickly, evening was closing fast and with it, the deluge of bad Coronavirus news.
The news of a six month old infant succumbing to covid, together with rising numbers of infections and death are starting to lean on heads of states. They are changing their tunes on social distancing and closing unnecessary business. It’s about time, but it’s also way too late to keep people from been infected. The genie is out of the bottle, the procrastinating stance to refuse taking necessary precautions will cost lives, no doubt about it. While the heads of these states have no excuses to have waited so long, they invent them, shifting the blame as much as they can, refusing to accept responsibility for the inactions. That’s also what the administration and the persons in charge of overseen the epidemic, the same folks making decisions of life and death, are doing now, trying to absolve themselves by shifting whatever blame to the same institutions they govern, to the other political side, and of course, to the press. Governors are bidding against each other and against the federal government for the purchase of life saving supplies. On this April fool day, the Chinese fire drill would be humorous if the situation was not so tragic, and no one is laughing. Is it not ironic, that a president, obsessed with the grandiose, on this once in a hundred years pandemic, instead of taking the team reigns and with a grounded plan take charge, and like the great business man he has claimed all along to be, guide us to the flat lining of the virus. He would have been the hero I’m pretty sure he dreams to be most nights. He would have merited his coveted Nobel prize. Putin would eye him with jealous envy. Instead, from the start he was likened to Nero playing a jig as Rome was in flames.
Some folks are still trying to profit during this horrible time. A hobby store, own by a vocal and influential Christian family, staunch right wing Republicans, lobbied to obtain dispensation for essential businesses, meaning they can stay open to sale essential goods. Their argument for essential offerings, fabrics sold to quilters our be made into masks. The owners are billionaires but they can’t raise money to keep their employees home for three months?
We learn, from the latest new, that nearly ten million workers are unemployed. We are presented with alarming numbers of infections and climbing deaths. Worldwide infections closing to a million people, the death toll approaching fifty thousand. Our country mourns five thousand dead and fear for over two hundred thousand infected.
Covid is no joke on this first day of April.