“The mayor is now on the radio asking for volunteers who have mountaineering experience to come to the fire hall asap to help with the search and rescue. Mayor Doug Olerud says boats are heading to the beach over there too, since the road is blocked by the slide, and to shine a light if you need help. The Presbyterian Church has opened as a shelter. Oh dear God. Breathe.”

I’ve been reading Heather Lende’s blog for a few years now. She’s an obituary writer in the tiny and remote borough of Haines, Alaska. She writes about her life in Haines (in-fighting on the Borough Assembly, moose hunting, bears on the porch, snow and very short daylight hours, being stranded when the ferry can’t run) and I feel a little like a virtual resident. Or a voyeur.

Maybe it’s the pandemic, when many of us are more isolated and dependent on social media for connection; but when Heather wrote this week about the horrendous mudslide in Haines—10 inches of rain on top of several feet of snow— that has blocked essential roads, stranded residents, destroyed houses, and that there are still two people missing, I felt the shock and heart-hurt as if it happened in my own small city and to people and places I know and love.

I vicariously follow my friend Bonnie‘s nearly daily early morning adventures at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge through her amazing photos of herons feasting on fish, and wandering coyotes, since my adventures are of a different sort now.

I met Donna online when she started following my blog, and she stayed at my Airbnb, BC. (Remember when I had an Airbnb?) She writes spiritual poetry from the sanctuary she has created in Nebraska and always lifts my spirits with reminders that the world is a beautiful place full of beautiful people.

An old Centralia High School friend sends me beautiful nature photos from her home in Colorado and I have a newly established bi-monthly FaceTime date with a friend in North Carolina and it was good just to see her face this morning.

My friend Christina says this:

“This is not the first time that people have individually and collectively been asked to inhibit their usual behaviors, sacrifice for one another, or find creative ways to reach out when reaching out itself is banned for our protection. Isolation is strenuous daily practice. This is not the first time, nor the worst time. But it’s our time, and it’s hard.”

You can read the rest of her post here.

I miss coffee shops, alone or with a friend, and even heard a story on NPR that one cause of our emotional stress these months is not seeing the regulars we may be accustomed to seeing in such places. Like the couple at Panera Bread I saw every week before yoga (and don’t get me started on yoga) who played Uno and Rummikub at the next table. Apparently it’s not just me who misses those connections; they are important, even if they are just a head nod or a few words.

I’ve come to depend on the virtual connections. So when my audio on my weekly Zoom call with my writing group didn’t work yesterday, and I had to visit my people by phone without seeing their faces, knowing they were seeing each other, my whole day fell apart and by evening I was pretty deep in the doldrums.

Pandemic school this week had its moments; everyone was tired. But when we look for the good, we can always find it.

The boys didn’t want to help set up my creche, which I had saved for them. I know they would have loved unwrapping and discovering the treasures, and I was disappointed. But you can’t make small people do what they think they don’t want to do; at least not these small people. They did love seeing them again though. And this tableau makes me happy every year.

Elliot didn’t want to go adventuring on Wednesday, but he didn’t get his dissent out of his mouth before Adrian said, “That sounds like fun!” So we left him behind and had a delightful time. Though we did not see any snakes on the Discovery Trail along the Chehalis River—or eagles or anything at all— we had fun stomping on mole hills, and being someplace different. He discovered that frosty leaves are cold. He is a great conversationalist, and right now communicating is everything. This week I expect Elliot will be the one who wants to help me make his Mama a 40th birthday cake.

In spite of my low spirits yesterday, I found a Christmas tree after my dental cleaning and that was an accomplishment. (The hygienist said they are seeing a big increase in the number of chipped and cracked teeth, lots of stressed people; I’ve been wearing my night guard.) Today I cut off the bottom of the tree and wrestled it into the stand and into the house. I’m feeling pretty proud of my mighty woman self. Tomorrow: lights.

There are currently no cases of Covid-19 in Haines, but helpers are coming in from hot spots. Dozens of homes are uninhabitable. One of the missing people is a kindergarten teacher. If you are the praying type, as Heather says, please pray for Haines.

The first of Donna’s relatives are in the hospital with Covid-19; a husband and wife. She reminds us that people with Covid struggle to breathe and suggests we all do meditative breathing: 15 minutes with your eyes closed, breathing for another person. If we all breathe with one breath, communicating with those we know and those we don’t, maybe we can get through this thing.

We’re lighting candles at dusk on Sundays with hundreds of others in the Worldwide Annual Solstice Advent Celebration, “standing in the Light that cannot die.” (Learn more here and here.) The family and I are writing names of friends who live north, east, south, and west of us and offering them a blessing. Connecting however we are able.

My friend Joanna Powell Colbert writes:

“This year we are craving community perhaps more than ever. Yet most of us (I hope) will choose to stay home, either alone or with members of our household or trusted pods. Community will happen over the ethers of videos calls, messaging, social media. And community will happen in the wild (even the urban wild) — with trees, wind, garden, birds, squirrels, deer.”

And now we wait for the light to return.

Blessings in this time of our lives,

6 thoughts on “Pandemic Connections

  1. We intuitively know that even casual human connection such as you describe at the coffee shop is important to our spiritual/psychological well-being, but sociological research has proven it. One of the things that keeps me sane in this period of so much isolation is the casual contact I have with other dog owners as we walk our pooches. Just as they sniff each other and exchange a few nose bumps of recognition, we humans do the same:
    “How’s it going?” “They have a new shipment of masks at Face and Beyond.” “My daughter had her baby!” Like a previous commenter, I think often about ancestors moving far from home, homesteaders on the prairie miles from a neighbor, children growing up without school or peers for at least half the year. This pandemic is either teaching us about the strength of our own (perhaps vestigial) inner resources or revealing that we have none!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for leaving your thoughts here. I love reading them. (Also it made me laugh: “Face and Beyond”!) Your last sentence is so true. We have become so entitled. I truly don’t know if the generations after WWII could have survived the Depression and early 40s. Some of us are learning we can do hard things; and some of us are such a bunch of whiners.


  2. I am so glad to read that you are doing some wonderful seasonal/December/holiday season activities which bring comfort and joy, such as getting a Christmas tree — good piney smells! And lighting candles, and the nativity figures. But what’s with the not wanting to do things — is it because they are boys? (I hope this is not considered sexist…) I think little girls would delight to unwrap those figures and could potentially spend hours setting them up and inventing scenarios. My oldest grandchildren are three and four years old and they want to do EVERYTHING. So maybe it is the age of your grands, or they thought the nativity figures were dolls? Sigh, at least you had fun doing it yourself. I live in an apartment and have set up a glass plate with sparkly gold candles, and a set of four sock snowmen. Chortle!


    1. I love hearing from you. You are such a faithful reader. Yeah, I don’t know about the boys. I thought the younger would especially like it; he’s very creative and loves make believe. We “do our stories” every day, for as long as I can bear it! Making up scenarios and dialog with his stuffies, or plastic figures, or flashlights and paper cups–he is not particular. He’s also subject to the influence if his big brother who is highly left-brain. Two such different children, so close in age. Makes for tough going a lot of the time. No wonder I’m tired!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this from Elizabeth Gilbert:  “There is always grace in surrender. There is always truth in surrender. There is always a great deal of human dignity in surrender. And what happens next is often very beautiful.” 

    I hold onto that when things feel unsteady. I know a lot about surrender in my life and it feels like the thing we all most need now. Thank you for the mention, I’m grateful. Thanks, too, for your familiar and authentic voice. I look forward to your words more than you know. We really CAN do hard things. 

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The other day when I was reading a lament about not being able to be with family, the song “Danny Boy” came to mind. It’s only in the past few years that I learned that it’s a father saying farewell to his son, who’s leaving Ireland and embarking for America, and the father knows he will never see his son again in this life. And I think of our ancestors, leaving their homes and families in Germany and making their way to Michigan, and the only contact was letters until my generation found each other, nearly 150 years later. Yes, they had community, but so many never even met their grandchildren. We have gained and we have lost, and out of loss comes new awareness of what we have and what is yet to come that we can’t even imagine.

    Liked by 3 people

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