Masks Off, and Other Spring Tales

It’s my first outing after Washington ended the mask mandate in most venues. I knew what to expect in my rural hometown: many people got a jump on abandonment here, or never wore them in the first place. But I was headed to Olympia for Monday cafe, yoga, groceries, where there has been maximal adherence to science all along. I was curious about what I would find.

I put on my mask (it is my own “guinea pig” choice time now, and I am not willing) and head for the cafe door, minus the “mask required” signage. All the staff are masked, all the unseated patrons are masked (though a few unmasked arrive later). Olympia continues to be my friend; I’m relieved. I observe the naked counter. It’s looks odd, and takes me a minute to figure out why. I’m surprised they removed the plexiglass germ guard so soon; keeping it in place seems like a good interim measure until it’s known how this will go down.

My yoga studio (apparently after much debate among teachers) decided to keep the vaccination requirement for in-person practice for now (Zoom yoga will continue for others), and only mats are mask-free zones. My teacher is choosing to keep hers on. So am I, for now, though given the space between mats and sadly low attendance, I feel pretty safe there.

Time will tell if this is behind us. I hope it is. I don’t think for a pandemic second it is. It’s a brave new world. (And, speaking of brave, have you noticed the absence of masks in the horrific pictures from Ukraine of people stuffed into shelters? And no mention of Covid in news reports? And hospitals being bombed? We can only deal with one trauma at a time, but I can’t help but wonder . . .)


I have a well-storied love-hate relationship with spring. Who can’t love (occasional) blue skies, (sometimes) warmer weather, (ubiquitous) spring showers, teenage deer, birds, spring peepers, budding bushes, emerging flowers?

I’m trying to stop kvetching about having to emerge from my cozy winter cocoon to start spring clean-up, and just do it. I start dreading it way too early. And I didn’t follow through after my one failed attempt finally to find help. It’s really not bad when I just get off my duff and get out there, but oy vey the getting out. I don’t push it: one task, or one step of a task at a time. I’m glad when it rains though, like it is as I write this.

So far I have completed the woodlot and meadow clean-up (twenty-two piles of debris). The meadow is ready to mow when it’s dry enough, and the woodlot looks like a park, complete with playground. I just need the children.

And may I say how pleased I am with the result of cutting down, a few years ago, one of the two trees my father planted that were preventing each other from thriving at the edge of the meadow? Results have taken a while, but it’s looking really good. (I don’t know what the tree is, maybe a nut-less—since there is only one—chestnut; I cut down a pin oak that was bent over in search of light.)

I’ve completed two steps of the driveway clean-up: pulled fallen branches off the steep hill and scraped silt & fir needle loam off the pavement edge before it sprouts weeds. Still to go: pull out blackberry vines, cut off last year’s sword fern fronds, and prune the salal on top of the wall. Oofta.

I bought seeds (mostly flowers), without making a decision on what to do with my falling apart garden. I guess I’ll repair the fence for starters, and plant the boxes I didn’t demolish due to rot and buttercup takeover.

Would it be glib to compare buttercup to Russia, and my valiant attempts to keep it at bay to Ukraine? I surely hope the buttercup gives it up before the whole garden is obliterated. And maybe the gardener needs to be as courageous as the garden and rebuild back to beauty. I got sunflower seeds.


Yoga focus this month is thoracic spine, which means an hour of twists. Twists are my favorite yoga postures. The thoracic spine is the longest region of the spine, and by some measures, I read, the most complex region. I love bending in ways that one doesn’t in normal movement, challenging complex parts to creak and object, then do it anyway. And it feels good to loosen resentment and kvetching. I do hope hamstrings are never the focus.


I sent out my first ever e-letter on Sunday, connecting subscribers to new content on my new website, along with a wee musing. And I joined an AARP family caregiver Facebook page as a caregiver ally. Reading the conversations in the AARP group sends me back to mother care memories—though from a comfortable distance—and makes me realize how lucky my mother was to remain in such good health for so very long. And, by extension, how lucky my sisters and I were. It’s a rough world out there in eldercare land.


The cafe has filled with more people than I’ve seen here since I returned to my weekly habit some months ago. Drop the mask mandate and people come out of the woodwork. I’m puzzled. And concerned. Taking off your mask does not mean we are out of the woods and can forget Covid is a thing. It only means we have leave to proceed to the ocean, put a toe in the water, and wait and see if there’s a tidal wave that will throw us back onto the beach.

It’s time to go twist my spine and see how many of the half dozen yogis remain masked (all of them), then do the same at the grocery store (employees unmasked, most of shoppers masked, sneeze guards in place).


I hope you will visit my new website: read fun stuff about my coming memoir (look here! it’s official, pretty darned thrilling), explore resources for family caregiving, and subscribe to the e-letter to receive next month’s edition in your in-box. I would love to see you there.

www.gretchenstaebler.com

6 thoughts on “Masks Off, and Other Spring Tales

  1. For me, caring for my parents right now, it’s a no-brainer about wearing masks in public spaces. Luckily, aside from the horrible hospital, I haven’t been indoors with questionable people. Soon enough I will encounter a situation where I will have to decide. Spring in your many gardens is always a delight. The birds love your style: not overworked, but lovingly tended. Let it be. Pluck the weeds when you can. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful place 🧡

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, for the gardener to be as brave as the garden. I will tuck that into my back pocket and take it outside with me. That large and long slate of things to be done can be overwhelming and I like breaking it down to tinier tasks.
    I’m with you on the masks. It’s as if a magic wand was waved for some, but these are desperate times. I get it. Maybe they’re keeping their anxiety locked tight. I felt good the other day at the gym when I wore my mask, and passing mommies and kids, also masked, did not have to look at me with fear and suspicion.
    Splendid website progress!
    And… I just need the children. Truer words never written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We over-65ers and mommies and small people are a veritable army. Not that I give two flips if people think bad thoughts about me in my KN95 mask (I would rather have the one in the banner photo), but it was nice to be in the clear majority. Yes, where are the children! They had better be up for Camp Gigi this summer.

      Liked by 2 people

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