Crazy Days

You know when you see an outdoor space wrapped in yellow police tape it’s not a good sign. That’s what I discovered this week at all of the entrances to my beloved nearby park, Parque Juarez. (See last week’s WOW post for my paean to this park.)

The park’s entrance on Aldama — shuttered this week
Another entrance wrapped in police tape

Precaución is the watchword here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, these days. All public gathering places have been closed or cordoned off in some way, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which (gracias a dios) has yet to hit this old colonial city to any discernable degree. (Three confirmed cases here so far, I believe.)

I respect the authorities’ precautionary stance completely. But still. I’ve got to say (or whine?), I miss walking in my sweet park.

Am I under house arrest?

One by one, it seems, some of the things we once depended on for our centeredness, balance, and sanity are, at least temporarily, slipping away. We’re living in crazy times, to be sure. People all over the world are frightened, some lashing out, some at their wit’s end. In other cases, rationality is flying out the window.

Take, for example, a conversation I had this week with a Mexican friend, who scoffs at the local government’s new face-covering and sana distancia (healthy distance) rules. She told me she doesn’t need to follow these guidelines because she believes in God, and God will protect her from this pestilence. (Read Psalm 91, she told me.) She said that unlike the Catholic church and other churches here, her church is still meeting for services every Sunday, and the congregation is sitting close together. She then attempted to convert me to her beliefs.

“I believe in God, too,” I countered, “but I believe God wants us to use the brains we were given.”

“Your God is not the same as my God,” she shot back.

My head then began to spin even faster than it has been spinning lately.

Coincidentally, that night on the news I saw a woman in the U.S. being interviewed on her way into her evangelical church for a large, in-person Sunday service. She, too, ridiculed her state’s new health department rules and told the TV interviewer to read Psalm 91.

Poor King David will get the blame for misleading them if they – and their friends, families, church communities, doctors, nurses, and other caregivers — get sick or die from this astoundingly contagious and deadly virus, I thought.

So what can we do to maintain our balance and our sanity during these crazy days? Here are some of my suggestions — and I’m open to yours:

First, make a list of the four or five things you’ve always loved doing throughout your life when you’ve had to stay home alone. Then, strive to do at least one of those things every day for the duration of this lockdown.

For me, this list of Favorite Things To Do at Home has remained constant since about high school: reading, writing, cooking, and sewing.

  • Reading. I’ve always especially enjoyed reading biographies of remarkable women. Right now I’m reading the award-winning biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, by John Guy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NY, 2004), which was the basis for the movie “Mary Queen of Scots.” Every night now I’m transported to mid-16th century France and Scotland – two of my favorite countries – and caught up in the court intrigue. What will happen next?! I keep reading to find out.
  • Writing. Writing in my journal every morning has been life-saving for me for many decades. I treat my journal like a therapist or a loving, caring, steadfast friend. Sharing my thoughts, memories, hopes, concerns, and (let’s face it) anguish on paper in this way has allowed me to proceed with each day feeling lighter, unburdened, and more centered. To learn more about doing such “morning pages,” I recommend Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artist’s Way.
  • Cooking. Rather than baking rich desserts (for no one to eat but me), I’ve been cooking soups nearly every day – fragrant, colorful, comforting, and full-of-goodness soups. Try going to www.epicurious.com for fresh ideas if your own soup repertoire has lost its appeal. If you don’t enjoy cooking, open a can of Campbell’s and add some chopped frozen vegetables to bump up the nutritive value.
  • Sewing. Even if you don’t own a sewing machine, it’s possible to make no-sew face masks for yourself and others to wear during this pandemic. (Consult Google for the how-to’s.) But because I do have a sewing machine that I love, I’ve been spending quality time in recent weeks sewing face masks as gifts for friends, using leftover cotton quilting fabric:
Just a few of my homemade face masks

Another thing I do for fun when I’m alone and nobody can hear me is sing show tunes, because they’re filled with wisdom and whimsy.

The songs that have been bubbling up for me lately are from Porgy and Bess — “I got plenty of nothin’, and nothin’s plenty for me! … ‘Cause the things that I prize, like the stars in the sky, are all FREE! …”

And from The Sound of Music — “… When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!”

If my roommate Isidor were a real man and not a puppet, I’m sure he would squeeze his eyes shut, stick his fingers in his ears, and shake his head as I go about my housework — dancing with a broom or mop and singing show tunes aloud and off-key. Or, worse yet, he might claim I’m crazy.

My “roommate,” Profesor Isidor

~ ~ ~

Please, if you haven’t already done so, read this relevant New York Times Op-Ed piece (published April 7) by Emily Esfahani Smith, “On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for Meaning, Not Happiness”: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/opinion/coronavirus-mental-health.html?smid=fb-share&fbclid=IwAR2uGWg66uRKdfgZq9IVIvGf729CYwDyScrqGF48tOdLZ3m3s7cXp_uVczM

22 thoughts on “Crazy Days”

  1. Keep singing!
    I have completed writing a book I’ve struggled to finish for decades… and so, soon, I shall ask you to read and review – That’s a GOOD THING coming from this lockdown – creating Professor Isidor is totally in character for you Bonnie! Here is a cyber-hug, from the safe distance of Westchester County, just north of NYC!
    xoxoxo

  2. Very nice Bonnie! I’m in quarantine at my sisters house out in the country so mostly walk , read, knit and movies. Once out of 2 week quarantine I want my sister Pat to show me how she always comes up with fabulous meals!
    Take care and see you when this global madness subsides!
    Hugs Kate

    1. Thanks so much, Kate. Glad to know you’re safe and sound at your sister’s. Yes, we’ll have to have a big celebration here in SMA when this pandemic is history. You take care too. — xx

  3. HI Bonnie, I loved the blog and the NYT opinion piece. I am trying to practice tragic optimism by writing and staying in touch with family and friends. I hike in the gorgeous hills of Oakland and Berkeley (with all proscribed precautions!). And I have been pulling weeds in the backyard of my new house. I do hope our friends in SMA get on board with the seriousness of this virus….Much love from California. Kim

  4. Just what I needed to read today–thank you, Bonnie, for your perspective, suggestions and reassurance (and for modeling such restrained behavior around someone who doesn’t believe in the seriousness of the virus!). My best to you!

    1. Thank you, Roxanne, for your feedback. My impression was that the woman I refer to does indeed realize the seriousness of the virus — for those who don’t have sufficient faith in God. Which strikes me, sadly, as a blame-the-victim stance. 🙁

  5. My favorite things to do at “home alone” are finally finding composers for sets of English lyrics I have written for works by two famous German writers, looking for an agent for my multiple books (some illustrated and in rhyme), are writing and illustrating poetry, and – most important – finding a way to promote my Peace Cadet program for children (Peace and Art) maybe on Zoom.
    Dear Lord, please send a Rainbow
    And let this flood subside.
    May it’s colors shine upon us
    And end the vicious tide.

    May Earth provide us shelter.
    May it become our Ark.
    May the shores of Rest and Healing
    Be the place for it to park.

    May the Ray of Red enfold us
    As its color beams of Love.
    May Orange give Strength and Courage
    Descending from Above.

    May Yellow be the color
    Whose blessings bring us Peace.
    May Green be Hope’s true promise
    That pain and death will cease.

    May lack and hunger’s tortures
    Be dissolved by the Ray of Blue.
    Let the Violet Ray assure us
    That Joy is born anew.

    Oh! Lord! We need that Rainbow
    Send your promise once again
    So our world regains its Glory.
    Please send it now. Amen.

  6. Bonnie querida! We have to keep up with “Susana Distancia”…ni modo. I am cooking soups too, using your recipe for chicken soup…liquid gold! EL profesor Isidor es muy guapo 🙂
    Muakisses

    1. Hmmm… That would hold true for the American Evangelicals, but I’m not so sure about the Mexican ones who don’t watch that TV network. Maybe all Evangelical ministers throughout the world are getting directions from their (human) higher-ups.

      1. Oh! I thought you were referring to American expats.

        American or Mexican, maybe they’re getting directions from their Divine higher-ups. Maybe I shouldn’t be so closed minded as to assume they’re getting it from Trump and Fox News.

        Still, if they’re interpreting according to their wishful thinking, they’ll pass it amongst themselves then pass it to the greater population. So let’s hope they have it right.

        1. Well, as they say here, Quien sabe? (Who knows?) I’ll be seeing that Mexican friend briefly on Monday and will give her one of my homemade face masks. We’ll see how (or whether) she accepts it.

  7. Hi Bonnie, I have now read your book (in the San Miguel Writers section of the library). And I am a fan of your blog. I miss my walks in Parque Juarez, but I think SMA is doing the right thing for Holy Week. Judy Rosenthal

    1. Yes, Judy, I agree with you entirely that SMA is doing the right things. Their precautionary measures are truly impressive. And, so far, it appears, they’re avoiding the large and awful numbers of cases. Thank you for reading Jamie’s Muse and for liking my WOWs! All best wishes to you and your family and friends. — Bonnie

  8. Oh yes, I had forgotten about holy week. That adds another layer. Don’t large numbers of Mexican families usually vaction during that week? We see a lot of families from Mexico at the gallery then. Unfortunately Mardi Gras went on as usual this yea, and now New Orleans is in dire straits. I’m so glad I have a big yard and can get out for a walk down my road. I Hope you have a way to at least get out into the sun and air for a bit.

    My year-long poetry project came to an end on March 11th, just as this all began. And I’d become ill with a mild respiratory infection. No way of knowing if it was covid-19. Probably not, but a mild case if it was. I planned to spend the next year reworking, polishing and refining. But until yesterday evening, I hadn’t cracked open my notebook. It seemed like no time for poetry, and the ancient apricot in my yard, wich runs through much of last year’s writing, had finally given up its floral ghost (I so loved that tree, and have waited anxiously over the course of more than 20 springs for it’s bloom while fretting terribly over late frosts.) It Is gone now, suddenly, like so many things. But last night as the sun was slowly embracing the the horizon outside the kitchen window, I sat at my table and wrote three words: one more sunset.

    Yes one more sunset and one after…

    1. Thank you, Jen dear, for being such an important voice in this conversation. I’m sure you’ll return to your poetry project in good time. Stay strong and healthy up there in our beloved Taos! — Virtual hugs from MX, BB

  9. Dear Bon,
    All your suggestions are great, as is the NYT article. Unfortunately, right now, many here seem to have lost interest in the search for meaning. They want to be told what the meaning is, and if it coincides with their own carefully constructed on-line-reality-bubble, they will believe it. Technology has made facts irrelevant. It’s frightening.
    Love,
    Paul

    1. That’s a chilling thought, Paul dear; and I fear you might be right (about many but not all). We can only hope (hope-hope-hope) that this scourge will end in the not-too-distant future, that you-know-who will be shown the door in November, and the year ahead of that will be altogether brighter than this one. Courage! — xx

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