adventures from the homefront, COVID-19 edition, episode 13: new things I do

There are so many magical conspiracy theories about imaginary things floating through the ether these days, and also so many fresh ideas about how certain real things are actually hoaxes. It’s a wonder. I wish I had such wild imaginings. I would be much less bored.

But alas, I don’t actually believe that COVID-19 is a hoax, or that 5G is causing these illnesses and deaths instead. I don’t believe our hospitals are empty and the news is totally fake except for Fox and Breitbart. I don’t know about the efficacy of cloth masks, but I don’t think the lack of clarity is a hoax. It’s just science trying to catch up and people having no idea yet.  

But wouldn’t it be great if wishful thinking was effective, and we could just will away the things that really scare and unbalance us by declaring them hoaxes? Thanks to the unhinged people who are doing this a lot to assuage their panic about COVID-19, and whose voices are being incredibly amplified by social media and on-line news in recent weeks, I also think about it a lot.  

So that’s a new thing I do in the era of COVID-19:  wishful thinking about things that I wish were hoaxes.  Like, I wish garlic mustard was a hoax.  I’m so tired of weeding it. Can’t it just die off already and be gone? Hoax it! It’s not an invasive species at all! All the other woodlands plants that we’re told are being crowded out by it? They’re the invasive species. This hoax is brought to us by a conspiracy of garden weeding tool manufacturers led by… wait for it… CORONA Tools. Does that company name feel like too much of a coincidence for you? Yeah, me too. I’m not weeding garlic mustard anymore.  It’s probably hurting my immunities to do it anyway.  

I also wish the emerald ash borer was a hoax. We have about half an acre of woods in our back yard, maybe a little less.  Almost all of the trees are ash, beautiful old woodland ash grown tall and straight, towering at about 70 or 80 feet. A couple of them are really big in diameter too, just gorgeous old beauties. We’re probably going to have them all cut down this summer and autumn, and we’ll plant new saplings to replace them. I guess it’ll be fun to put in a mixed deciduous mini-forest, maple and beech and birch and such, but I’ll be dead before they’re as majestic as the current ash. It’s kind of devastating. I admit I have hugged the dying trees and cried.  But I have a solution:  hoax it! My ash trees only look dead, it’s a deep conspiracy of arborists, they’ve done something to make the leaves fall off and the branches look unhealthy but it’s fake! They just want to make more money cutting down trees! There is no ash borer! Fake News!

What? You identified the actual bug? The trees are actually dead? The emerald ash borer is a scapegoat! What’s really killing my ash are the 5G towers, not the bug! Tear down the towers, not my trees!

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There are other new things I’m doing.  

I sniff my toothpaste tube every day to make sure I can still smell it. I also open the jar of kimchi almost day to make sure I can still smell it.  It seems more sensible than seeing if I can smell the 2-year-old dried dill in the spice cabinet.  I also try to make Anthony smell the kimchi jar, and I query him. Can you smell it? Can you still smell it? He is never amused.

Speaking of spice, I’ve been putting extra spices in all my meals; it makes for a better test of whether I still have a sense of taste.

I find excuses to touch my family’s faces.  Loving strokes, hugs and touches.  Checking for fever.

I have anxiety attacks when Anthony’s allergies cause his sinuses to drain so much that he gags and coughs. This is not new, but I have a new filter in my mind.  I have anxiety attacks about my own asthma-like feelings, which I’ve had for years because of spring allergies. I hope that’s still what it is.

When Jesse says, “I don’t feel good,” my thoughts have changed from “she says that every day” to “please don’t be dying of COVID-19.”

When I’m bagging my 60-pound poodle’s stools during a walk and I’m overwhelmed by the stench, I’m grateful that I can still smell it.  

I am growing vegetables.  To be fair, I’ve been threatening to do this for several years. It’s just that now I actually have time for it.  We built two 3×6 boxes for raised beds and we’ve got a couple spots in our existing garden beds available for veggies.  I’ve got seedlings coming up under a grow light in our basement.  In addition to the rhubarb and raspberries we already have, if things go well we will have chard and beets and green onions and napa cabbages and hot peppers and tomatoes and green beans and onions and lettuce and radishes and some herbs and strawberries and asparagus.  

Apparently, being very ambitious is also a new thing I’m doing. If it doesn’t work out and I don’t do a good job of following through because I get bored and lazy, that will not be a new thing. That will just be the same old story of my brilliant mediocrity.  

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I do lots of new things in this era.  

I fall asleep with a dry mouth for fear of what’s to come.  Anthony and I have elderly parents. We are cautiously optimistic that they’ll pull through.  Anthony and I are in our 50’s and we have young children. We need to make it through.  I don’t know.  Existential dread takes on a new shape when you have young ones.  

Our economy is shredded, and I spend too much time pondering how it is that capitalism is so brittle.  Shouldn’t it be more robust if it’s so great? Shouldn’t multi-national corporations whose CEOs make 50 mill a year (plus extras) have reserves that allow them to carry on for longer than a month or two without a government bailout? What happens when the house of cards all falls apart, when people realize monetary systems are a pure mythology? Will my vegetable garden be enough? Will our kids be hungry someday soon, joining the 1 out of 5 American kids who don’t have enough to eat already? Will the ultra-rich ever come out of their ivory towers and show us some noblesse oblige, demonstrating once and for all that trickle-down economics isn’t also a hoax?

I wonder about whether Americans lead lives of meaning.  If what brings you out to a demonstration is your need for a mani/pedi, and not the need of your pedicurists to feed their families, is something missing? If the only way you’ll go to a demonstration at a statehouse is with a semi-automatic weapon in your arms, do you actually have courage of conviction? If the way people north of the Mason-Dixon Line express a sense of patriotism and commitment to our national republic is by flying the Confederate secessionist flag, um… ?

I drink too much.  I wonder if I’ll ever see my mom alive again. I make face masks. I stare at the kids for no reason. I worry. Worrying isn’t new I guess, but the intensity of it is.

I spend hours with Anthony in the yard. We’re clearing out as much invasive buckthorn as we can and cleaning up the woods so we can enjoy them better and have less mosquitos and tics.  We dug a muddy trench to drain the pond that forms in the woods near our house when heavy rains fall.  The ducks that visit will not be happy.  We drag large pieces of fallen wood (the emerald-ash-borer-hoax-addled young ashes are starting to fall on their own) around the land and get dirty. I dress in a black Spiderman t-shirt and pale blue long-shorts that come just to the top of my knees and striped hot-pink compression socks up to my knees and filthy hiking boots and march out to the woods to join Anthony. I pose like a runway model with a shovel. I giggle and giggle.  I think this is new and funny. When he’s done laughing, Anthony declares that it’s just like the old Carla.

What? He married a clown?

I guess being a clown isn’t new.