Sow There! Coronavirus coping means more time with friends, March 27, 2020

Thanks to a friend, chard has been both a source of nourishment and inspiration. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)

March 27, 2020 at 11:42 a.m

There have been countless times when gardening helped me overcome restlessness and discontent. While toiling in soil I was able to hear my inner voice, smooth relationship woes or notice previously overlooked gifts from Mother Nature. Many times, spade in hand, I handed my worries to God.

Nowadays, gardening is more important than ever.

By the time this column appears in print, it will be two weeks since I traveled through three airports from the East Coast to California. When I first got home, I stayed indoors to ensure I did not unwittingly harm others. Now, I’m staying safely away from other people’s dirty hands.

That first week I tried not to let my mind wander. I’d feel an itch at the back of my throat and consciously push away thoughts of dying in my prime.

Then the governor strongly urged everyone to stay indoors. Now we’re all in this together — cloistered under the curse of coronavirus. Sometimes it has felt fairly lonely.

Thank goodness for good friends. Jim stated the obvious — “This too shall pass.”

Another chum reminded me that she also lives alone, which made me feel not so alone. Often, I worried about friends who are trapped in places where they would rather not be, and this makes me feel guilty for having it so good.

To shake off the wiggles, I have found friends willing to chat via phone as I walk in circles around my neighborhood. In just five days, I logged 18 miles on the pedometer and regained traction on some important friendships.

If I was a better me, I would have started a novel or re-organized my closet. However, most of my quiet time has been spent following state, national and world news. I’m still worried about the 22 teachers, from 22 countries, who left the United States in a hurry.

I have consumed information double-fisted, watching the PBS News Hour while reading CNN and Reuters. The Chico Enterprise-Record has been my source for a sense of community and updates on local coronavirus cases. I also scanned for stores that offer drive-up shopping options.

We all have ways that we cope with life. In my case, I have noticed that my consumption of emergency chocolate is in direct correlation to my consumption of dismal news.

Sometimes my friends remind me to refer to my list of things for which I am grateful:

We don’t live in New York City. My retirement-age parents are staying at home. I have a garden. I no longer have cancer. I have excellent credit and cherished friends.

Make new friends

Over the past year or so I’ve had several short but meaningful conversations with my totally cool neighbor. He’s always working on something in his shed. Previously, we only had snippets of time to chat, but he would invite me into his man cave to check on the progress of his projects.

When I returned home from my work trip to Washington, D.C. and began my self-quarantine, I naturally vented my frustration by pulling weeds.

He must have heard me grunting and soon we began to swap bits of life history and long-considered personal philosophies. As I gathered up piles of unwanted foliage, he leaned against the fence that separates his gravel from my compost pile. After I while I learned to holler through his slightly-open door if I saw his ride parked in his driveway. We both agreed, spending time with a new friend is a great tool against the coronavirus blahs.

As we talked and talked, with occasional breaks to reapply sunscreen, we also agreed growing vegetables wouldn’t be a bad idea. It still feels too early to plant seeds, but it was something to do, given the circumstances. You never know. A bumper crop of zucchini could come in handy if access to grocery stores becomes more of a hassle. My totally cool neighbor even put some beans in the ground on his side of the fence, and I pledged to water them, since I may have time.

Lovely LaDona invited me to her house one afternoon. She wiped dust from a lawn chair that had sat vacant since January. We talked and talked in the sunshine, 10 feet away. I can’t think of the last time she and I had time to talk and talk because we’re usually both working and working.

She gets her dose of sunshine working in her back yard and has an enviable edible garden. When I went home I took a fistful of fresh chard, which I grilled in a cast iron pan with olive oil and garlic salt. That afternoon, as my T.C. Neighbor sat in a chair at the fence line, I planted seeds for quick-growing spring greens and radishes. Thanks to my mom, I have a stay-in-place supply of seeds.

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