Living in the Age COVID-19: 04/23/2020 Reaching Out while Staying Home


Most everyone seems to be feeling their last nerve getting raw, are afraid, and angry at whoever seems like an easy scapegoat. The vast majority of people, like 70%, want the stay-at-home orders to continue but everyone also wants people to be able to go back to work and support themselves. I can’t comprehend how frustrating it is, what desperation is felt, to be in line for hours for charity – for food for their kids. I can’t imagine the panic people must feel who are doing things to feed people, like making meals in restaurants or helping in food pantries, when they see the huge number of people who are in need of something as basic as food.

There are some things that I know to be true. First, we have to limit contact, to protect ourselves and to protect others from contracting the disease. Second and just as urgently, we have to make sure that people who are suffering the economic, emotional, and physical hardships as a result of the virus are able to get their needs met, if only at the most basic level for now. Third, this is a crisis and we need to respond quickly – but it is also a problem that will be around for a long time so we need to be aware of and respond to the changing needs of people as the virus makes its way across our very large country and then returns again and probably several times more.

This is a really big problem that is beyond the scope of what any individual or local community can solve – we need to make sure government leaders at all levels know what the needs are and what we expect them to do. But I believe it is important for each of us to do something to help, for the good of our communities and also ourselves. We are leaving for our home community tomorrow after spending the winter in a warmer climate and I am eager to get back into helping that community.

I am really excited about getting to my stash of fabric so I can start making masks again. I know that community well from my years of leading a social work program at the local university and I’m eager to do some calling to see who can use masks.

There was a commentary in the local paper this morning that suggests everyone who has an income commit to tithe some % of their income during this pandemic. The author of this article suggests that money be given to local communities, to agencies or groups that are helping people deal with hunger or health issues or their anxieties. I know that I need to help support those who have lost jobs or are working reduced hours at lower wages. Jim and I have been talking about how we are going to disburse the money we are able to give. Some of the money will go to our Florida church who does a lot of mission with farm workers in a nearby community. We will also give to the food bank in our community in Michigan. This excites me. Do you have ideas of organizations that may need financial help? Would you be willing to join in this commitment to help your local community – either through monetary contributions or safe volunteering? It seems to me that by helping others we experience a closer tie to our communities.

I’m really interested in what you are doing to help others as you help yourself get through these trying times.

Living in the Age of COVID-19: 4/19/2020


A Spring Evening View in Michigan

We have anguished over the decision of when would be the best time to travel from our winter home in southern Florida to our summer home in southern Michigan. After talking with a friend who drove from Florida to Michigan a week ago, we decided that we could do it safely and we are ready. I have begun the process of packing up half-finished quilt projects to finish up north, have put away my sewing machine, and am starting to sort through and organize the small piles of papers and books, some to leave here and some to take with us. I’ve even begun the difficult task of deciding what clothes to leave and which to take north. There is a sense of peace in making order and getting ready to leave in a week.

My life seems to be characterized by a huge and constant sense of disconnect. I watch the news on TV throughout the day and see how communities are being devastated by the virus and people are loosing loved ones. I see the suffering of health care workers who aren’t able to physically protect themselves because PPE is in such short supply while at the same time have to help people die who are separated from families. Health care workers trained to save lives have to live with the knowledge that refrigerated trailers are sitting outside holding the overflow bodies, the bodies of someone’s loved one that can’t be claimed.  I watch journalists trying to bring us facts of sickness and death in nursing homes around the country and wonder how they deal with the weeks of emotional battering they have endured from looking for and making sense of human suffering without having a melt-down on camera.

And I feel a disconnect as I live my life with just some frustrating inconveniences, that’s all, just some inconveniences like not being able to go to our favorite restaurants or getting together with friends to play cards and laugh and eat snacks. Inconveniences like not being able to get a hair cut, exercise at the gym, or go to my favorite fabric stores. I go outside and see blue skies, spend a little time in the pool talking with friends as I exercise at a safe distance from others, and no one I know is in immediate danger unless they choose to put themselves there. None of my inconveniences are life threatening, in fact they are only inconveniences to me because I want to do certain things – going without isn’t a matter of life and death. I think about how my life with all its inconveniences is a thousand time better than most of the world’s population on their best days. There is a disconnect, a lack of congruence, between my daily lived existence and the carnage that the COVID-19 virus is causing across our world. I sometimes feel like I can’t get my head around what is happening.

But I know that I am getting my head around it because I am in a constant state of fear, of fight or flight. I am so in tune to social distancing that watching commercials on TV causes anxiety because the people on the screen are way too close. I feel the dread of contagion, of death. This reaction makes me laugh, but I know my fear is no laughing matter. It is real and appropriate because I am old, my husband is old, and most of my friends are old, even our children are getting old. If we get sick there is a greater likelihood of dying than of recovering. Usually I don’t embrace fear because I make decision that keep me safe, but with this virus I am keeping my fear active because I need it to stay safe while a virus that isn’t understood or controlled is knocking at my door. I need to keep fear close and active so that I don’t do something stupid that will lead to panic. Only when our government produces more testing and tracking and isolating of those who are carriers will I start to let my fear relax.

In the mean time I am going to continue to socially isolate myself and take precautionary measures even if government officials decide to put the economy ahead of saving human lives. I have so much to say about this but most of it isn’t nice or appropriate to say out loud. So right now I will think about safely getting some necessary provisions and get out some of the quilt squares I have packed to take home. I want to cut them down an inch so that they are better proportioned for the wall hanging they are destined to become.

Please, please stay safe and put aside your own needs if getting those needs met endanger others. It won’t be forever and in the grand scheme of things even two years isn’t much over your whole lifetime. If I can live with inconveniences for a year or two at my age, so can you. And all of us, together, can become creative in helping those who have lost incomes make it through. Jim and I will be using our government check to support our local food bank. What can you do to help yourself and others? We can do this, together, but at a safe distance!


Hope Comes with Onesies


Two days ago I did my weekly walk-about at the Naples Botanical Garden, but when I arrived the garden was blanketed under low cloud cover. An unusual occurrence. I felt edgy, reminding myself to take deep breaths and urging myself to find beauty. OMG, did I just say I had to work to find beauty in a botanical garden?

The impeachment trial of donald trump is stressing me. It is plummeting my sacred belief that if facts are presented in a clear and logical manner, people will understand. Adam Schiff has been outstanding in arguing the evidence presented by creditable witnesses during the hearing in the House of Representatives that led to the impeachment the president. The president’s defenders in both houses of congress have not produced a single piece of evidence to argue against the facts to impeach and remove him from office. I’ve watched most of the hearings in the House of Representatives and the “trial” in the Senate. What I have heard are a continuous stream of lies and irrelevant arguments from the Republicans. It has grated on my nerves and I’m not in a good spot this week. And my brain keeps screaming, “I must be able to do something.”


This is the shroud I carried into the cloudy garden on Tuesday. I was trying to find a glimmer of beauty, of goodness, of hope. I watched as the light would become a little brighter as the sun shone through a thinner (very small) patch of clouds. I had my camera on the tripod, all the settings were where I wanted them, and I watched – ready to push the shutter. And I looked from where the clouds were coming, and to surrounding sky and didn’t see many areas of thinning clouds. When I looked through the viewfinder, I saw the grey reflection of clouds on the water and the dulled colors of the lilies. Yes, what I chose to look at reflected the shroud of clouds within my brain and soul.


The sun did come out but my mood didn’t brighten much. I thought that a scone and ginger limeade would help but it didn’t. The limeade refreshed my dehydration and the scone was a little warm and full of berries but joy was lacking.

When I downloaded my photos these stood out. The water lilies seemed to be gentle instead of muted grey, they seemed to tell me that there is hope and beauty even if I am feeling betrayed and threatened. I liked them, drew pleasure from them but had a hard time starting a blog about them. I had to live with them as my brain and soul searched for a way to live in the political turmoil as I watch more of the trial yesterday.

Last night Jim spoke through my turmoil and asked what was the best part of the day. We laughed because he knew. There is a kitchen worker at our favorite restaurant who is pregnant. We only notice her because we sit at the counter across from the beverage station and she brings clean cups and glasses out. I had bought some long-sleeved onesies to take to her but realized her baby is due in March, and the weather will be hot by then. Jim came home from breakfast with his ROMEO buddies (Retired Old Men Eating Out) all excited that there is a children shop next to the restaurant he went to that has lots of short-sleeve onesies for $1 each. We went there on our way to exercise and I got lost in onesies heaven. I bought a whole pile of them for her. When I think about that experience, my life is full of joy, beauty, and hope.

Maybe God didn’t call me to fix the Republicans or the president or scumbag lawyers who lie and tell distorted truths. God did call me to seek and support truth and justice. Most of all God called me to touch those who are in need. Maybe I can be satisfied with being one of the millions of rays of light in the darkness.

Road Trip to a Memory Farm


For many months JB has been talking about taking a little road trip, just a couple of counties to the west, so I could take photos of the one-room school his cousin Sarah attended, so many, many years ago. We decided to go yesterday before the shrubs and trees are in full leaf – because last time he saw it, it was overgrown. He wanted to show me the school because he knows I like one-room schoolhouses, and he wanted to go see it again because he has a fond memory of going to a special family event there with Uncle Ralph, Aunt Ester and Sarah. Or maybe the time was right to visit it for just one more time. Do we need to do that to find resolution in our minds between what was with what is? Who we were and what we had – with who we are and what we have? Or maybe who we aren’t and what we don’t have any more?

We found our way to N Drive N instead of N Drive S and JB pulled onto the shoulder of the road. There were ranch houses on both sides of the road, except for the large, remodeled farm house on our right. He explains that the garage hadn’t been there, that was where the milk house was. The front porch with the gables hadn’t been there and what we could see between the house and garage had been the passage way to the milk house. The house had seemed further back from the road and there had been a big side yard where he had played on a swing, waiting for Sarah to come home from school on the school bus. Getting to ride a bus to school intrigued him then because he lived in the city and walked to school. I didn’t pick up my camera because seeing the farm house “within” the house we were looking at took a real stretch of my imagination – but JB could see it.

He spent more time looking within his own memories than trying to undo and explain away all the changes that had been made to the house. But then he became more vocal as he swept his arm in a large arch to explain that all the barns and out buildings had been on the other side of the road. I could see them, could image them being there instead of the ranch houses. I could feel the excitement he must have felt when he was able to spend the night at Uncle Ralph’s farm.

We talked a bit about Uncle Ralph and Aunt Ester. JB told me about the orchard he had planted, his cows, how the farm had been on both sides of the road – with a lane that went up a hill that Sarah and he used for sledding. Uncle Ralph had been industrious and hard working – that was what JB was remembering, until Uncle Ralph and Aunt Ester hit the sauce big time. Alcoholism was a big problem in his mother’s side of the family. The alcoholism is his most recent memory of them and maybe he needed to reconciled the later memories with the earlier memories that were so positive and happy and loving.

It wasn’t a long drive down N Drive S until he found the school. The brush had been cleared around it and someone had made some changes to make it into a home, although it is currently abandoned.


I took a few photos, trying to capture JB’s memories. JB wandered around. I was soon drawn to the redbud and dogwood in full bloom across the road. A strong wind was bringing in some rain so I enjoyed the challenge of experimenting with different settings on my new lens to get an interesting depth of field of moving targets.


When I returned from my deep concentration, JB was standing in the middle of the road looking at the old school. I walked over and cuddled up to him, gently commenting on how wonderful old memories are. He smiled and said that it doesn’t matter that the school isn’t as it was. I agree. Sometimes we need to visit places that once created good memories. But what remains from the past is only important for helping us remember the “once upon a time” experiences that have stayed with us and influenced, in some way, who we currently are.

We slowly drove a half mile or so down a dirt road as JB talked about the stream that went though Uncle Ralph’s fields and the really nice bridge that he could drive his tractor across. “Stop, stop, stop – back up, back up, a little more, there it is.”


JB thought it looked like the same bridge. Maybe it is, maybe it has been rebuilt, maybe it is a new bridge built for some new purpose. It really doesn’t matter because in our eyes it is Uncle Ralph’s tractor bridge to the next field. And my prayer for the day is that we may all have a nice bridge to the our next field of being.

We Were Made For These Time

My friend, Barb, posted this on Facebook and after going to the original I decided to use it as a blog post. We don’t have any control over when or where we are born, but we do have control over how we use our personal strengths to touch the world and the people within it. It is up to each of us to determine the ways in which we can fulfill our purpose for being made for these time.

I hope you find meaning in the words written for these times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

 My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.