By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at Into the 70s
Last Saturday morning, I attended religious services at my virtual synagogue. Setting up ZOOM was easy, a personal triumph. I loved the experience of sitting down with my mug of hot coffee in front of the computer, meeting my fellow congregants seeking comfort in troubled times.
The Rabbi read a modern translation of Psalm 92 that resonated with me. I can’t remember it word for word, something like, “Plant yourself exactly where you are...for six days, you are the gardener...but on this day (the Sabbath) you are the garden.”
In the afternoon, I left the isolation of my house for a walk in the fresh air. After a lengthy cold spell and then a week of soaking rain, New England sees the sun again. Pedestrians appeared in full force to savor the first mild day of spring.
Uh oh. Loud alarm bells go off in my head.
I live in a town of 3500 residents spread over eight square miles. The density of 632 persons per square mile is low compared to the adjacent city with density of 2804. Even so, the walk in my own neighborhood unsettled me from the outset.
At least every five minutes, I looked behind to see if walkers or joggers were gaining on me. I crossed the street even before awaiting their own courteous maneuver to let me pass.
If walkers came towards me, I made a split second decision of timing and direction. If I stepped off the curb, I had to avoid vehicles heading in my direction on the same side of the road.
The constant effort to keep from crossing paths kept me hopscotching all over the place. In my mind, my fellow outdoor adventurers emitted a radioactive glow. My fresh air walk turned out to be crazy-making.I had planned to turn into the path to Long Hill, a small state property a mile up the street, and walk through the apple orchard to the gardens at the Great House. A locked gate and signboard in large red letters blocked my route: PROPERTY CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
I returned home after a vigilant and exhausting hour that woke me up to the reality of the new order.
Walking around my yard, surrounded by woods and unbuildable wetlands, I saw that winter had done its usual damage leaving branches and twigs strewn about, boards hanging off the side of the woodshed.
Daffodils surprised me, as they always do—even the new bulbs I hadn’t managed to plant until mid-December pushed up their shoots through the wet ground. The garden shed barely survived another winter, with its peeling paint and busted up door, looking neglected but still functional.
All of it more beautiful than I ever remembered.
In my childhood, the danger would come from the sky.
The threat of nuclear war was the major national fear. You too may have experienced air raid drills: when the siren sounded, we hid under our school desks or in the halls to avoid the explosion, flying objects and radiation that might be real next time.
The principal monitored the hallways as we crouched against the lockers, our faces resting on our folded arms, our eyes shut tight like good little citizens.
Some families built bomb shelters in their backyards or basements, according to reports in Life magazine. I wanted one too to keep my mom and dad and brother safe.
Ultimately, no bombs landed on us. My parents, my school, and our President Eisenhower (term 1953-1961) protected me from harm.
As I write this in early April of 2020 - the year like no other - the coronavirus looms merciless, strong and agile. We work daily to sort out the information, coming at us from so many sources, to determine our own parameters, the parameters that keep changing, shaping - and hopefully saving - our lives and those dear to us.
Stay healthy, my good friends, safe in the place you are planted for now.
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