Living in Strange Times

Living in Strange Times

When I was a child, I used to imagine the years of life as a ladder. Each rung represented a year, and in my imagination, the rungs had different colors.

Now I am at the top end of the ladder, and I can look down, and look back, and I have some advice.

1. This too will pass. These odd times of social distancing and the worldwide economic slowdown will be over eventually. I do not mean to minimize the pain of people who are ill and those who have lost loved ones, or the worry of those who’ve lost jobs. I’m just trying to put it in perspective.

2. Response to the pandemic may seem chaotic and spotty. But in fact, the world has never seen such swift, severe action in the face of a common enemy. That’s because, in other eras, communication was slower. The world has seen pandemics before, and they come to an end. We’ve become so used to healthy populations because of vaccinations and antibiotics we’ve forgotten the dread of disease. We’ve been so lucky.

3. Some of the things we have been forced to do in these weeks have benefits. We catch glimpses of these despite all the negative newscasts. Air pollution is down because people are driving and flying less. Doesn’t the air smell beautiful, these spring days?

4. Nesting at home, we have no commutes. We can still communicate through technology, and yet we have time, now, for family and stay-at-home hobbies. Crafts are coming back. Sewers are stitching, knitters are clicking their needles, painters are sorting through their watercolors, writers are pushing out words, and gardeners are putting in their seeds.

5. We’re advised to go shopping less and to buy two weeks supply of food at a time. If there are temporary shortages of eggs and flour, that’s because people are cooking. And baking. I’ve been experimenting with bread recipes and coffee cake. There’s always a pot of soup on the stove and I’m contemplating making jam.

6. Meal-planning is back. When my kids were small and we didn’t have much money, I’d plan each week’s menus and shop accordingly. When you do that, leftovers don’t go to waste, nor do they repeat themselves. Instead, new combinations of the same or leftover ingredients form delicious meals. Remember, chicken bones, and all those little bits of carrot and celery and onion you might ordinarily throw away when chopping vegetables can be frozen in plastic bags and later turned into a nutritious stock. It costs you absolutely nothing but your time. Which now we have.

7. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who bravely tend the sick and do other essential jobs. Your grocery clerk deserves a smile and a thank you. And a smile and a thank you is not out of place for everyone we meet. Thanks for doing your bit!