I practice yoga every day but I’ve never thought so much about breathing as when I’m wearing a mask. In yoga, the breath comes first. In life, the breath comes first. With the virus, the breath comes first – or, sadly, last.
One of my most favorite activities is walking but I can’t take a brisk walk wearing a mask. I have to slow down. The mask makes me take short breaths and every five or six I try to take a deeper one, even if it means stopping. Yesterday, for the first time, I sneezed while wearing it, opening my mouth wide and inhaling violently, making my mask curl inside my lips. The exhalation pushed the mask back out. It was the oddest sensation I’ve had in a long time.
In Hebrew, ruach means breath, wind or spirit and can refer to a person’s emotional state of being or their soul or spirit. When I’m wearing a mask, I’m conscious of every breath. Does that mean I am more aware of my soul? I think it does. Every morning, when I wake, my first thought is that I feel OK, my chest does not hurt, my breathing is not labored. I am grateful for one more day without the virus.
Another dilemma when wearing a mask: No one can see you are smiling. I often wear sunglasses when I take Savannah out during the day so even my eyes are covered. Yesterday, I smiled at someone who took a 6-foot detour round us on the path and realized he couldn’t possibly see I was a friendly face. “I’m smiling, I’m smiling,” I said. He laughed and that made me feel better. But I don’t like looking inscrutable – I wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe I should paint a smile on the outside of a mask with a sharpie and lipstick?
Or I could make a lollipop stick from a ping pong paddle with a smiley face on it and carry it about?
I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask when I leave the apartment that sometimes I forget either that I’ve got it on or am about to don it. This morning, we had a Zoom Bible study scheduled and in anticipation I put on some mascara and lipstick. I decided I had time to pop out to the mail room first. Cedric looked at me as I took hold of my mask and commented on my pretty lipstick. I thought he was simply being nice … until he said, you’re about to put on your mask. Drat! I had to wipe the lipstick off first and start over.
Yesterday, I put on my mask to take Savannah out for a walk. I reached out for my glass of water to take a gulp and … oops, don’t try this at home!
There are so many who deserve our thanks. We lift up the front-line workers every day, those caring for the sick and putting themselves at risk. We are also grateful to our newspaper carrier, who has not missed a single day’s delivery in this duration. Every morning, before 7 a.m. our newspaper is outside the front door – not tossed from a distance but always there where we simply bend down and pick it up – she walks the whole length of the hallway from the elevator and often leans the paper on the front door so that it plops down inside when we open the door. We always send her a little something for Christmas and in the summer, but last week, Cedric left a thank-you gift outside our front door to show our appreciation.
Our Instacart shopper on Friday made my day. He texted me a running commentary of the substitute items he found, including several pictures of shelves to show me what was available. I asked him to leave our bags outside the door, to protect him as much as much as us but I waved and blew him kisses from the balcony. I told him I added to my prayer list people like him who are keeping our communities functioning and he touched his heart in acknowledgement. It’s this sort of connection that is manifesting the essence of goodness in us all.
The challenge will be to keep this goodness alive in the months to come. I will if you will.
We all tell stories – big ones, little ones, exaggerated ones, forgotten ones, neglected ones, white-lie ones. I wanna tell you a story, said Max Bygraves. It’s fun to tell friends what we’ve been doing, how we’ve been spending our time and what we plan to do next. I remember, a couple of years ago, telling my family in England that we were all prepared for a hurricane that was forecast to hit Atlanta. This one was serious. We had a suitcase packed in the event of an evacuation order including dog food, treats and toys for our little dog, Savannah. I even took a picture of the suitcase sitting by the front door.
But in The Silent Spring, we’re all in the same predicament, all social distancing and all washing hands. We really don’t want “news” because it will likely be bad and there’s no need to describe isolation to someone who is also experiencing isolation. But don’t lose your narrative during this time – write down something every day, even if it’s just one word. On Saturday, March 14, Cedric wrote, “The real siege begins.” When we look back, we’ll have our story and remember what we went through.
We will never forget.
A wise woman once told my prayer group that it was OK to whine about a hangnail, because “It’s my hangnail, dammit!” We were praying for her friend who was seriously ill but she said we could always ask for prayer for what might seem to some to be inconsequential requests or niggling pain, like a hangnail. I’m keeping her words close as I deal with an irritation. Compared to what millions of people are going through, I feel guilty for being annoyed, but I’m frustrated that the inefficiency of a vendor coupled with the recalcitrance of the post office means I am without the new spectacles I ordered before the pandemic took hold.
I’ll let it go until this uncertain and challenging time comes to an end and hope that my eyeglass prescription doesn’t change in the meantime … please tell me it won’t be more than a year! Meanwhile, I am whining about this particular hangnail.
There is so little to be excited about right now that I’m excited about being excited. I have some fiddlehead ferns. I got a farm delivery this morning and the cute little fronds were included in the basket. They look … just like ferns! I’ve blanched them and tonight will sauté in butter and add some lemon zest. This is definitely the highlight of the week – let’s hold on to every little milestone and every little occasion; make a big deal about the smallest accomplishment. Every step will bring us to the end of this crisis and we will look back and be grateful for all the little fragments of excitement that made up The Silent Spring.
… if you are a dog. The general consensus is that we are all packing on the pounds by comfort eating while sheltering in place. But, social distancing has meant that Savannah is not getting her usual share of treats. She has two special friends who always have treats at the ready either in pockets or drawers. We usually visit Morgan in her office every day and it’s hard to explain to Savannah that we can’t go in the door as we walk past. Then, we have daily walks with Melodie whose pockets are always stuffed with doggie treats. I’m sure Savannah’s trimmer waistline is the result of the absence of extra sustenance.
Are we eating more? I’m not sure, but one friend in California texted me that she was not confessing to eating a lot but the refrigerator door light was giving her a nice tan.
I’m a fairly calm, organized, obey-the-rules kinda gal. So, I’m handling the sanitation issue in a calm, organized and obey-the-rules kinda way. But yesterday I had a quiet, tidy meltdown.
Just giving you the visual – I went for a walk without Savannah, because with her, it’s a sniff not a walk. It was a gorgeous afternoon – almost too hot to walk in a mask so I cut my walk a bit short when I saw my watch ping to let me know I had a parcel to be picked up from the parcel room. The system is technology at its best … the delivery carrier places the box in a locker, scans it and the system automatically sends a notification with a code. I checked to make sure no one else was in the parcel room – it’s too small for social distancing between the locker aisles – entered my code and retrieved my parcel, a soft envelope containing fabric that I’d ordered to make more masks – that’s another story. Clasping the envelope to my body with my arms because I needed two hands to exit the parcel room door and two hands to use my key fob and pull open the building entrance door, my heart stopped when I realized I was without doubt rubbing virus germs all over myself. Typically I take a carrier bag to pick up parcels and mail for that reason but I had been mid-walk outside.
So there I was, covered in potential virus and starting to hyperventilate with a mask on. I got the front door open and was about to drop the parcel on the sanitation station inside when I realized I hadn’t opened the sheet of newspaper in readiness and the bottle of Lysol was lying on top of a stack of newspaper and not standing to attention. I didn’t want to drop the package on the floor and transfer germs inside so I walked onto the porch but then realized that Savannah might lie on top of the virus before I had time to clean. So, I started to rip the package open to get the fabric out … but I still had gloves on and plastic envelopes are constructed not to rip easily. I finally managed to pull out the packets of fabric, grabbed the Lysol and sprayed the plastic bags liberally and then placed the dripping products on the porch and tossed the outer virus-carrying envelope. Remember, I still had my mask on. I could hardly breathe. Finally, I removed my gloves, in the correct way, then my mask and, being careful not to touch where I had clasped the parcel, I finished wiping the fabric bags, tossed those before Savannah could sniff them, washed my hands, ran into the bathroom, tore off my clothes the way I have learned to remove gloves – inside out – and jumped into the shower.
As I said, it’s not easy being clean!
I know that when I take Savannah out for her final walk of the day, the stars are out. I had never thought much about it but now I realize that I rarely see any stars. The other night when I took her out, I looked up and was overcome by how many stars I could see. The sky is so much darker and the air is so much clearer. Let’s hope we can hold on to that sliver of silver lining after the duration.