Normality: it’s not a thing

Yesterday, I was happily puttering in the vegetable garden, prepping soil and setting up raised beds and sowing peas. We had a visitor who is 26 years old and not a gardener, so I teased her by saying, “If the Apocalypse happens, come to us–I’ll have food!”

“This is the Apocalypse,” she responded. Joking, sort of, not really. She’s anxious, and I understand. When I was between 21 and 26 years old (and living on almost no money in New York City), a virus swept through and rapidly killed some of my beautiful, talented, young friends–a virus about which medical science had no firm understanding and few ways to diagnose, screen, or treat. And no vaccine.

It was frightening. There were also the hostage crisis in Iran, gas shortages, and a rise in nationalist and fundamentalist/apocalyptic/anti-feminist rhetoric that led to a polarized presidential election and divisiveness among neighbors (all of which was partly the inspiration for Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale).

Am I less frightened now? Yes. Does that make me less cautious about “social distancing” and public gatherings? No–although I would say I am perhaps less freaked out than most people I know. We went to the local diner last evening; I met a friend at a coffee shop. My workplace has asked staff to go to our offices, so I’ll be there tomorrow even though the students will not. They are finishing the semester online, as are so many other university students.

Looking back at the past couple of years, it seems we live in a time of plague and fire and politically difficult situations; but that’s the way the world has ever been. Many times have felt like end times to those enduring the uncertainties that come with changed routines and dangerous events, natural and human-created. Here we are, raking the garden, hoping there’ll be harvest.

I think of Samuel Pepys, the diarist, and the London of his life and times. Times of plague and fire. All of which makes Dave Bonta’s Samuel Pepys erasure poems project about as relevant as can be! Also of relevance, Jeannine Hall Gailey on Slate.com about love in a time of coronavirus.

When my young friend asserted that this is the Apocalypse, I wanted to assure her that, at very least, she’ll be eating some of my garden veggies this summer. To let her know that normal’s just a word we made up that, when you think about it, has a very shifty continuum for a definition. Also, I wanted to give her a hug.

But–you know–social distancing.  🙂

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10 comments on “Normality: it’s not a thing

  1. Lou Faber says:

    What do you charge for shipping to Florida?

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  2. Dave Bonta says:

    Thanks for the shout-out! Yes, Pepys’ descriptions of London under the plague, and then the great fire, have been much on my mind the last couple of weeks. But even more so, the immeasurably greater if largely unrecorded decimation of Native American peoples after 1492 by smallpox, measles and chickenpox – upwards of 90%. Which is not to say that a 5% death rate, if it goes that high, won’t still touch nearly every American. And it may permanently reshape our expectations about old age. And as in the past, the general indifference or hostility of the powerful towards the poor and people of color will significantly inflate our losses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Ann E. Michael, Normality: it’s not a thing […]

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  4. Ren Powell says:

    Social distancing.
    I understand it – but the circling of wagons scares me so much. What will the fear lead to in the long run. Will it fuel nationalists?

    I keep hoping we will learn from this round. Because it won’t be the last.

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    • I will try not to be cynical about whether we will learn anything. I remind myself that speculation tends to fuel fears (at times like these). O, the challenge of retreating to ignorance vs being hyper-aware. Breathe–now, while there’s less pollution temporarily!

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  5. andreablythe says:

    What a lovely thoughtful post. Normal is totally not a thing. The ground is always shifting. Loved this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Here’s another blogger whose perspective is to try to keep things in perspective: https://www.sandiamorello.com/single-post/2020/03/17/To-the-gentleman-who-received-my-sons-heart

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for these thoughts and for some links that are new to me. So appreciate your recommendations and point of view.

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