Friday, June 26, 2020

Pandemic life: Three long months and counting

I've started a couple of posts since the pandemic hit Nova Scotia in mid-March but haven't got round to finishing them - largely because the drafts felt too negative or whiny somehow.  Here's the most recent effort:
What I've learned from the pandemic: 
People's grasp on reality varies widely - even when they listen to exactly the same news reports - based largely on what they want to believe and what they see directly in front of them. 
The human capacity to normalise both good and bad stuff that happens can't be overestimated. We are masters of avoidance and self-deception, and largely unable to come to grips with our own mortality.  
Greed, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other blights manifest in endlessly creative ways.  
Even low levels of anxiety take an enormous toll when they go unrelieved for months. I no longer remember what it's like to wake up without a sinking sense of dread. 
Grief and guilt at being one of the "lucky ones" is sometimes more painful than fear. 
See what I mean?

It's not that there isn't plenty to be angry, scared and upset about. God knows, reading the news these days feels a lot like reading dystopian science fiction.

And it's not that I feel particularly obliged to be positive all the time. I don't. In fact, I often wonder whether all the memes, websites and self-help books flogging positivity are sponsored by people who'd prefer we not think too hard about the root causes of what makes life difficult for many of us.

I guess it's because blogging feels a little pointless. After all, if we're nearing the end of human life on the planet because of climate change, the coronavirus, and corrupt and incompetent governments around the world, what's the value in me sharing my few marginally coherent thoughts on a blog or anywhere else? It's not as if many people are going to read them.

But then I remember why I started this blog in the first place - which was, to motivate myself to think - really think - about what I ought to be doing with my life.  Twelve years on, I'm not sure I've made much progress in that regard - though the fact I'm pickier about the topics I tackle may mean I've learned something along the way. 

As I write this, I'm sitting on our back deck at the end of what's felt like a long tough week. A moment ago, a robin caught my eye as it flitted across the sky to perch briefly on the lowest branch of a massive white pine that grows just behind our house, before dropping back to earth to resume his search for a pre-dinner snack. In the foreground, there's a small cluster of daisies swaying gently in the afternoon breeze. I'd like to tell you that all I hear is birdsong, the wind in the trees and lapping waves on the riverbank, but the truth is the road past our house is a busy one so those natural sounds are too often drowned out by cars and trucks roaring by.

Still, I'm glad there are so many birds visiting our property these days - where it's relatively safe for them, as well as for bees, butterflies, and other critters. In the ten years we've owned this place, we've never used pesticides, and are now working with a local company called Helping Nature Heal to begin transforming it into something even more environmentally friendly - a micro-sanctuary - by re-wilding most of the lawn, reintroducing a mix of native plants, and protecting and planting more trees. The project was inspired in part by a documentary film entitled The Biggest Little Farm and in part by a couple of books I picked up at the library, including The Living Landscape.

When we started, the space in front of our house was a dreary bit of ground dominated by an overgrown spruce tree and mostly covered in moss. With the initial work done, we're already seeing positive changes. For the first time in years, I caught a glimpse of a firefly the other night, and we seem to have a wider variety of birds and butterflies than in the past. Added to which, there's the joy of watching newly planted shrubs, trees, and plants settle into their new homes. Here are a few pics of the work done by HNH in the area we now refer to as "the Meadow".

So far, the biggest changes have taken place at the front of our property, which folks see as they drive by, and I have to say it's amusing to watch their reactions. Last week, a young man pulled into the driveway to ask if we'd like to hire him to mow.  I said, "No, thanks, we're letting the grass grow on purpose", which I could see puzzled him. Others appear just as bemused and intrigued by it all. It's not a typical approach to landscaping for sure. And its not exactly neat and tidy, which is just as well since, outside my veggie beds, I'm an intermittent gardener at best.

Whatever the outcome, I'm glad we're using this pandemic time to make a small peace offering to Mother Nature.

So that's it for today, friends - a few rambling thoughts to let you know I'm still here trying to work out what's worth writing about. Hope you and yours are safe and well, wherever you are. Love to hear how you're coping through the pandemic.


  1. Glad you're still here! It's easy to get feeling down, and even easier if you're a news junkie. I try to parse the headlines a couple times a day, browse a few of the more interesting articles, but really, I don't need the gory details. So much of what passes for news is just a series of screen shots from twitter, and as soon as I see that I'm out of there. That's a sure fire sign of a lazy journalist. For us the pandemic hasn't been a big deal, and we've come through well. So far...

  2. You're not alone in having these feelings..I can complete relate.
    Also, it's so nice to discover someone else who is trying to naturalize their property. I am currently a "townie" and am gradually removing our front "lawn" and replacing it with pollinator friendly plants. Most of my neighbours either use pesticides or are ripping their lawns out and replacing them with gravel. It makes me want to tear my hair out!