CBS Sunday Morning, May 17, 2020

On a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment, journalist Lee Cowan posited that the social isolation of the Coronavirus pandemic gives us an opportunity to build a better way of living.

As nice as all of this [solitude in nature] looks, most of us would trade peace for other people right now.

Lee Cowan, CBS Sunday Morning

Sitting in my covered patio as I write this, I am appreciating the sound of a neighbor’s voice. Four houses over, he is doing business on his telephone. Now that his yappy Chihuahua has given up barking at every moving leaf and gone inside, I like hearing my neighbor’s voice. It used to bother me very much. Now, it’s just evidence of all of us living at home.

Across the lake that we overlook, a mom is pushing her toddler’s wagon home along the cement pathway that winds its way between the lake and the forever wild preserve. They are part of the parade that we witness every day. The guy who strides along power walking. A man pushing his wife on her Rollator. When virtual school is over for the day, there will be siblings riding their bikes, families of lumbering adults and scooting offspring. There are people I don’t ever recall seeing.

I leased this Rollator to help me walk in August. With me is Pancho, Victoria’s dog

They’re not new. I’ve got new eyes.

This crisis does caused people to reflect on how they’ve been doing things, how they’ve been living, and it’s already inspired much new thinking.

Margaret Atwood
Kumba and I

I’ve been isolated from the world for five of the past twelve months: three months in 2019 in an Amsterdam hospital and the past two months in our Florida home.

I last entered a place of business — a car dealership — on Friday, March 13. Earlier that day, I took my last walk with a friend; Janet took this picture.

I’ve walked a lot since then, even working my way up to an Old Lady Jog, while appreciating the company of our rescue Lab, Kumba. But he doesn’t chat, and my husband likes to walk without conversation. I missing catching up with a friend.

We also haven’t visited in person with our daughter since mid-January, when she and Pancho joined us to meet Kumba at his foster home. We are happy that she’s been able to work remotely with patients — the leap forward in insurance’s coverage of telemedicine is one good thing that’s come of the pandemic.

We’re also happy that she’s had the company of her boyfriend while she sheltered in place for the past two months. He is steady and positive and tremendously supportive of our daughter. As her internship moves into its final weeks, they are laying out the groundwork for their life together when she begins her post-doctoral year.

At the University of Florida’s Butterfly Garden in November

I do think you’re seeing a prioritizing of relationships in a way that maybe we haven’t seen in the past. People are recognizing where their values lie in new ways.

Vaile Wright, American Psychological Association

I’ve been more present in my life. Instead of burying myself in writing this month, I’ve enjoyed joining Ray in re-creating our living spaces. Leftover paint turned this thrift-shop table into bright additions to our family room. The beautiful pot that my friends in Albany gave me upon my retirement has a new place of honor, and is now housing dried palm leaves enhanced by a bit of spraypaint. We’re taking advantage of our tall walls and high ceilings to display my husband’s other palm leaf art and look forward to a day in which we can invite people into our home to see how it all fits together.

For now, it’s fun to try things out without worrying too much about what anyone else thinks. Another pandemic silver lining.

Donald Laukkanen’s still life.

In moving paintings around, I noticed for the first time that the still life hanging in our house — which was in my parents’ home on Cape Cod — had, on the back, the name and Minneapolis address of the painter, Don Laukkanen, from whom my parents bought the piece while on Home Leave one August. Although the artist passed away in 2019, I was able to reach a daughter through Facebook to let her know that the beauty her father created continues to bring joy.

The American flag soaring above our kitchen cabinets was inspired by a huge raw palm base and a moment of pushing back at the disappointing leadership in Washington.

Kind of makes you want to vote, right?

Meantime, I think I’ll pull out my mother’s sewing basket and work up a couple of new masks. We continue to order groceries online and live away from others, using what we have (or can find while out walking!), but being prepared is a very good idea.

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