Chop Wood, Carry Hay

There are some things we do not want to be right about.

For the last several weeks as the country “opens up” I have watched the folks around me behave as if Covid-19 is a thing of the past.  I do not believe this. It is a weird position to hold in my area. It is a bit as if I am refusing to eat tide pods when every else is, and swearing they taste good. The stores are full, no one is wearing a mask, no one is social distancing. Life is normal here and that is part of the problem for me. I do not believe in normal. I wish I believed that the worst of this miserable virus was over. I wish I believed I could get on a plane and fly south but that is when the barrier comes up. The planes that would take me south are not flying.  A red warning banner comes up on the airline’s website stating: “Covid-19 alert, travel restricted to this area.” This warning belies the appearance of ‘normal’ that surrounds me. The airline’s evidently agree with me. There is a pandemic. It is not in control. There is a reason to continue to work from home, to social distance, to not fly.

 A woman I know through a friend, a respiratory therapist, is going to leave New York for Gallup, as the epicenter is moving on. She is moving to the next currently visible battle. I am glad she survived New York and I read her posts. She says people are still dying and her services are needed in this next emergency zone. Gallop is much closer to my home than New York but I think most of the folks in Idaho are not reading or hearing much about Gallup. If New York was as desperate a situation as it was, and that is undisputable, Gallup with far less access to care will be in a battle to survive. The fatality rate there may be far higher.

The other day I talked to an old friend, two states away. We talked about a difficult case I am working on, someone who I believe is going off the rails, someone who I wish would go back to the balanced human she was a couple of months ago. Instead she is terrified that Bill Gates will sterilize her. My friend and I talked about how fear affects people and about how sometimes we cannot get through that it is not Bill Gates, it is fear. Reason does not necessarily prevail.

In the conversation with my old friend, I told her I was thinking of putting in a wood burning stove. Just in case. The winters are cold here and I have always loved wood heat, but this is not why I am thinking of putting it in. In 1918, the pandemic raged on for years. In those days, a lot of people in rural areas grew their own food and heated with wood. If you had enough wood, you did not run out of heat. Now we rely on a plant to keep putting out gas, we rely on some anonymous person to show up at work that day and run the plant. I do not even know where the plant is that provides me with heat. Now, in the beginning of what may be a long haul I think I want to have a bit more control over whether my house is warm. Days after the conversation with my friend she wrote a message that said simply, “Put in the wood stove.”

With Covid-19 we live in uncertainty, and as many have remarked, humans are not particularly good at uncertainty. So, what do we do? About a month ago, after initially panicking, I decided that this was a time where all my skills at staying put were needed. Kind of like how we train our dogs: “Stay girl.” The difference though between dogs and people is that dogs are good at staying put. They simply look at you as if to say, “Really?” Then they lay down and sigh and go to sleep. Humans do not do this.

I have a horrible time with staying put. I love to fly off to whatever place I have cheap tickets for, whatever country, adventure or curiosity calls, has my attention. So, this staying put idea was not my first choice.

Then I remembered “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” A book from my twenties that I skimmed, got the idea and then promptly ignored. I think it was about small-scale sustainable living, being mindful of the world around you, doing one thing at a time. It was about mindfulness of a certain type long before it was fashionable and lauded on every morning TV show. So instead of panicking and watching the grim news daily, I decided to plant a garden. In my backyard this is a challenge. I have space, that is not the problem. It is the hens that present the dilemma.

The girls, like me, like to wander and they love green things. Nice new veggies would suit them wonderfully. They are free range and I hate the idea of corralling them, but it was evident that I would have to come up with something to prevent vegetable theft. The girls will have a lovely, new, smaller pen soon rather than my entire back yard. This will improve the dog’s breath as well. They love chicken poop and their access will soon be limited.

In addition to gardening, I set up an exercise regimen and study Spanish daily. It is amazing how both keep you focused on the task at hand. My tired and flabby body must pull my attention away from any mental wanderings to do leg lifts. Good heavens it has been forty years since I have done leg lifts! It does require my focus. As for Spanish, well you must be present to learn, the accents get away from me quickly and Duolingo is unforgiving of any errors made. If it is the wrong gender, I am cooked.

So, I am slowing down. Staying a bit. Watching little news, just enough to know it is bad out there. The house is clean, the planters are being filled with small green life, the goats are fed. Today I will go buy a wood stove. This requires a drive, but it is a drive that will allow me to stay put as winter arrives. Come what will, the stove will provide heat if the person at the plant does not show up.

10 thoughts on “Chop Wood, Carry Hay”

  1. Excellent advice, doing the same, garden’s started, wood’s stacked already.
    Kodiak is also oblivious; people are not only thinking it’s over, but believing it won’t reach us.
    Brent and I have gotten busy mask-making for front-liners in the community. We know this is going to be a long-haul, years. So we’re rethinking future work and making small steps toward that; we’re not in a waiting mode, waiting for “re-opening”.
    Good to hear your thoughts. Stay strong, be still.

  2. Great article that makes me believe, for the first time, our world will never be as it was. I believe “the good old days” are gone. But, I also believe God is with us and we will be blessed.

  3. Great article. We feel much the same way. This is not going to just go away because the politicians want us to go back to normal life and boost the economy! Some things may never be the same again. So we chop wood, water garden, stay home and feel gratitude for each day we have our health and home.
    Sending you love and blessings, Mary It’s great hearing from you.

  4. This is so true! You’ve written a brilliant piece. The library has opened, but we have restrictions in place. Everyone must wear a mask, no children are allowed yet, and we’re not checking out DVDs. We’re taking the health department’s recommendations seriously. Did you know that the Fourth of July celebration in Paris has been cancelled? As the weather warms up, we’ll get a lot of summer visitors. I hope the virus doesn’t come along with them.

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