Pandemic proclamations

“Today, I ate a sandwich.”

Not exactly an earth-shattering proclamation. Or is it? Really depends on the context.

My step-mom, Prudy, once had a friend say that exact sentence to her, and it was the biggest deal either of them could imagine. It was back before Facebook, so they were face-to-face friends. Roommates, actually, who spent most afternoons gabbing about health concerns, families, or nothing much in particular. Except for one auspicious afternoon when Prudy’s friend turned toward her, her face radiant in the sun as she sat by the window, and said in a reverent whisper: “Today, I ate a sandwich.”

They couldn’t post, IM, text, or tweet their news. But they did want to shout it from the rooftop, Prudy told me. And, knowing her and her like-minded old lady friends, I believe they would’ve tried. If they hadn’t been stuck at Maine Medical. In the oncology ward. So they used all the energy they could muster boasting to the nurses and anyone else within earshot. After months of chemo, Prudy’s bedside bestie had finally eaten real food. A whole sandwich! The best darn sandwich of her life. And even though Prudy herself was still weeks away from being weaned off IV liquids, she could almost taste that sandwich each time she told the story.

Been thinking a lot about the Sandwich Lady lately. I never got to meet her or even know her real name. But I’ll never forget her, especially now that I really need to channel her life-affirming spunk, her finesse at making the ordinary extraordinary. More than ever, her story reminds me to see silver linings, to tune out idle chatter amid inspiration.

I talk a lot like the Sandwich Lady. Have been for years. Deep into retirement, and living pretty darn deep in the woods, my monologue usually goes something like: Today, I watched the lake thaw. Today, I washed windows. And on real noteworthy days, I include others, add cool modifiers, and switch to first-person plural: Today, we had a Zoom call with Helen and Becky. Today, we did the big town loop, and hit the PO, IGA, and the dump!

Most days, though, I didn’t really sound like the Sandwich Lady. Or act like her and Prudy. “Yeah, today you…whatever,” I’d mutter to my Facebook feed. “And we’re all sharing without really caring about this…why?” I’d chuck most “I’m doing blah blah blah and then I’m gonna yada yada yada” posts into my Whoop-Dee-Do bin and keep scrolling—paging down past the “here is today’s lunch” pics, the afternoon Starbucks “yum!” pics, and the yoga mat in the living room pics. I’d post something ho-hum just to fill the nagging “What’s on your mind, Joy?” space at the top of my timeline, and go about life as usual. Sleep walking in the virtual cloud, shuffling through my normal routine.

But that was all BC. Before COVID-19. Before “life as usual” got blown outta the water like the fireworks finale over Town Cove Park. Before the new normal routine shoved aside the old normal routine like a loaded logging truck barrel-assin’ toward the mill.

No more sitting around asking “So what?” to updates I used to deem useless. I’m too darn busy wondering “So…what the heck?” and “So…how…????” Weeks into “sheltering in place” there is nothing simple anymore about simple announcements, no such thing for me as social media overload. I drink in every drop, reading and reporting posts to my husband, my dog and, especially, myself because I suddenly find the sound of my own voice so reassuring. And whether news comes from a Rangeley friend whose naked face I still recall, or some Facebook “friend” from Australia who I’ll likely never see, doesn’t matter. We are all Corona comrades now and, together, our words make major headlines. Bright lights flashing again on Broadway type news!

“Today, I saw a robin!” I said reverently, my face radiant in the sun as I sat by my office/TV room window. It was the 84th day of April, and I was on day whatever of sporting the indoor Corona-wear I had to trade for the outdoors in the tropical sun drinking Corona and/or rum drinks beach-side wear I’d typically be struttin’ in April. My indoor Corona-wear is an ancient “camp” sweatshirt paired with baggy drawstring pants. I call ’em yoga pants, but that’s more of a stretch than the pants themselves. Because, lately, the only pose I’m doing with any discipline is “seated warrior,” in which I slump lower and lower in my computer chair and hold it as long as I can. That and sun salutations in front of the refrigerator.

It’s all good, though. Because, today, I started a really good book. I sat on my porch in the sun. And, tomorrow, God willing, I’ll get back on my bike. These days, those are pivotal proclamations, ones I shout to the rafters in true Sandwich Lady style. Actually, I’ve probably kicked her style up a few notches and decibels. I’ve acquired a manner of speaking which, like my everyday outfit, is my default mode. It’s not my inside voice or my outside voice because it only has one volume setting. Loud. I call it my anytime voice. Amped up by shouting out the truck window or off the porch from a safe social distance, it lends the proper oomph to my vital pronouncements.

They all seem so vital now, too, all the little thoughts I used to keep to myself, write on a to-do list, or put in a draft that might never get published. Maybe it’s because, thank God, I can’t really see the danger that’s supposedly all around me. But I know it’s there. So I keep trying to drown out the silent approaching threat by repeatedly squawking. About silly stuff that could turn serious. Fidgeting and chirping like a human version of a yard raven. And when there’s nothing specific to broadcast, my outbursts are more primal than ever. “Oh!” I say repeatedly. Or just “OK!” or “There!” No verbs, nouns, or extra syllables. Just me self-soothing with my own echo.

Tom calls it verbal processing. It’s a nice way of saying I could talk the ears off of a jackrabbit. Him, not so much. He’s never been a talker, never much felt the need chime in over my steady drone. Until COVID-19. Something about all this uncertainty and tension has been pressing hard on his TALK button, too. On the phone, online, or on our bicycles yelling to neighbors, Tom’s become a man of more and more words. We’re just a couple of old stereo speakers now, sitting side-by-side in our own private chat room each night—spewing, spinning, and otherwise verbally processing our thoughts.

“Well, today, I read a new virus report,” is usually how the couch dialogue opens. It continues for longer than we’d like in that vein, till we’ve tossed around all our hypothesis about what we think we know and what we hope to be able to do about it. We throw all our fears, our rants and pandemic postulations into our imaginary COVID Cuisinart and process away. And then, in honor of a rule we made on or about the 97th day of April, we stop churning negativity and balance out the awful-izing. Each one of us must express at least three things we are grateful for that day.

There’s quite a bit of duplication between the two of us and from day to day. But that’s OK. Repetition is nice. Especially when we both put just being together at the top of our lists. Tom says he wouldn’t want to be trapped in a cabin in the midst of a global pandemic with anyone but me, and I say likewise. That and our health. Now the weightiest and most incredibly complex object of all our thoughts and deeds, health is right up there in the blessings count. We sure are glad to have that for another day. And we’re thankful that, as far as we know, our family and friends are surviving with their sanity and optimism intact, too.

“Today, I’m grateful we got groceries again!” I said the other night. Not so long ago, talking like that would’ve sounded like I was reading a third grader’s diary. But now it’s far from simple. After seeing snippets of what social distancing food shopping entailed in bigger cities closer to supply hubs and fancy logistics, I wondered what kind of results I’d get way up here in Rangeley. My answer is: phenomenal. Let me tell you, some of those frenzied, bull horn blasted people packing the stores down country could learn a thing or two from the hard-working, inventive, adaptable folks at our tiny local grocery stores! If anyone ever told me I’d be emailing in my food order, calling on my cell from the parking lot for pickup—all the while trusting that my list would be filled without being able to actually see and/or touch each item—I would have laughed and fondly shook my head. But now I’m smiling with pride and admiration! Thanks to my community—to the folks keeping the “social” behind social media and the lifeline that turns online requests into curbside delivery—our pantry, our stomachs, and our hearts are full. We can crawl back into our hidey-hole for a fortnight, if needed, between each virtual forage run.

“Tomorrow, we can go on a picnic,” I said as Tom nodded. “I’m grateful for that.” Like most everything lately, going on a picnic has a brave new connotation. We drive up to the Height of Land, overlooking our sheltering place and the connecting hamlets of friends waiting to hug and high-five us in better times. And we slowly savor every bite of the take-out sandwiches we picked up in town. Because they are the best sandwiches we ever ate.


Thank you to all the people working tirelessly behind the scenes to help us pull through! Stay safe everyone. And repeat after me: Rangeley rises!

For more Corona bright spots, see:

This entry was posted in Community, Corona bright spots, Mindfulness, health and healing, Retirementality. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Pandemic proclamations

  1. Karen Foster says:

    Oh Joy, that is wonderful! I laughed out loud several times. Do you send these to Amalie? If not, I’ll forward mine.
    I must show you a picture of my chocolate chip cookies I made today. They look funny because I put twice the amount of butter. But they taste yummy. Love, Karen

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    Like

    • Joy Clough says:

      Thanks, Karen! I’m glad I gave you some chuckles. Amalie probably sees my posts on Facebook since we are friends there. But please feel free to share the link with anyone you know. XO

      Like

  2. Marcia says:

    Wonderful uplifting thoughts. Helps put things in perspective

    Like

  3. Kern Ries says:

    Hi, Joy! It has been a long time since I last looked at your blog. I’m was so glad to find a fresh post. I think we’re all feeling more philosophical in these times of the Coronavirus. Your post really captures the times. Thanks for it. I’m glad that you and Tom are doing well so far. I can’t think of a better place to be in these times. Down in the flatlands of Maryland things are a bit more scary. We’ve had about 250 in our county so far, including some very close to us. We’re staying in except for weekly trips to the store. We tried to order groceries for delivery or pickup, but the stores are overwhelmed and the wait is too long, so we put on our masks and carry hand sanitizer. So far so good, but I’ll sure appreciate when we can finally get out of the house to do other things. Stay safe, and of course say hi to Tom for me.

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    • Joy Clough says:

      Thanks Kern! ❤ You just made my day. Thanks for reading and please enjoy scrolling thru my blog. Been writing it for 10 years now. Yes, we are very fortunate to be "upta camp" and retired during this time. We've been practicing social distancing for years, but in a much nicer way than demanded due to the pandemic. Before all this hit, we were really hoping for a Derelicts Turn 65 type reunion this year. But that, along with most everything else, will need to wait. Please keep in touch and all our best to Helen, too.

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      • Kern Ries says:

        A Derelicts reunion would be great, but it looks like it will have to be delayed for a while. Let’s just hope for a good treatment or a vaccine developed soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the spring in Maine.

        Like

  4. Pamela Rodgers says:

    I just found this blog. Lovely writing, thank you. I live in Rangeley too, hope to meet you in person one day.

    Like

  5. Christina Fuller says:

    Thanks for posting this new one – it was a lovely read. I’m not sure I could ever imagine a ‘talkative Tom’! I’m glad the two of you have each other and are well. Take care!!

    Like

    • Joy Clough says:

      Christina! Thanks for reading. We were just talking about you and Jeremy and the whole virtual teaching thing and Tom says he is glad to be retired more than ever now. You guys are welcome to come visit anytime. XO

      Like

  6. Pingback: My college to COVID(eo) composite | Rooted In Rangeley

  7. Pingback: A few of my new COVID things | Rooted In Rangeley

  8. Hello Joy. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of your pieces. So, I’m going to follow your blog. No pressure to reciprocate, though I won’t mind at all if you do. Neil Scheinin

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  9. Pingback: Not saying the “C” words | Rooted In Rangeley

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