Last month, in what now appears to be an odd prescience of advice, I wrote a column on boredom, suggesting, among other things, that we crafty folk sew safety masks. What a difference a few weeks make! When I wrote that, we were nowhere near any social distancing or sheltering in place. As we are all too familiar with the downsides of COVID-19, let’s examine the creative ways in which people are coping, and the chance there could be some useful takeaways from this devastating and challenging experience.
One Washington bookstore rents out their shop hourly to an individual or family, as long as the participants wear gloves and face masks. They’ve been scheduled daily and have been able to keep paying their five employees. Locally, some restaurants, like The Lanyard, are cooking up family meals, which feed five to seven. Local families have gone out of their way to order the take-out meals, nightly, enabling the restaurant to pay its staff.
Some families have undertaken decluttering campaigns, which have resulted in 10-year-old grandsons finding the lost (intentionally hidden) 50-year-old BB guns of legendary family fame…great. Some of the same families, also courtesy of 10-year-old grandsons, are now renovating basements into man/boy (I prefer to call Never Never Land) caves, replete with air hockey, mini fridge, TV and recliners. Long overdue painting and fix-up projects are underway in every neighborhood, as well as massive raids on fabric stashes, to make the aforementioned face masks for first responders and health care providers. Joann Fabrics, when it was still open, was out of all appropriate elastic, causing stitchers to creatively use stretchy beading cord and thinly cut T-shirt strips, which curl into clever no fray strips.
The parents who are usually rushing from job to job and ferrying their kids from programmed activity to activity are, for the first time, sitting down together to eat as a family. As older students successfully learn online, maybe the financial stranglehold of colleges and universities will loosen, allowing a better system to evolve. Some people, forced by necessity to step away from their personal rat race of life, may reevaluate their goals, and, having little to lose, may change careers or their life’s focus. Pet adoption is up, because there is time to housebreak those furry critters. Gardens are being planned and planted where they never existed, and chicks are taking up residence in newly erected coops. Walking, jogging, cycling and hiking have increased, creating more of us who appreciate our natural surroundings. Crime is down, since there is less drunk driving home from bars, and apparently criminals are more afraid of the coronavirus than getting caught. Companies have relaxed the protocol for working from home and workers love the freedom. Maybe more good things are happening than bad.
In any event, April is National Letter Writing Month. Could it come at a better time? Go online and learn about postcrossing—sending (often artistically decorated) postcards all over the world and receiving them in return. Two hundred and nine countries and over 700,000 people participate. Join Worldwide Snail Mail Pen Pals or Global Pen Friends. I began a pen pal relationship with my cousin from Nova Scotia when I was nine and she was 15, we have continued to communicate ever since, with a few years for busy family life (we each had five boys) in between. If you don’t want to write to someone far away, create an expressive card with stamping, textures, drawing and painting, even your own poetry, and mail it to local teachers, first responders, healthcare workers or nursing home residents.
For those who seek a more adventurous writing experience, there’s always the old message in a bottle route. We do have the advantage of a nearby ocean. Use a glass bottle and preserve the letter/message inside by melting wax on the cork when you seal the bottle. It could take years for someone to respond, if ever, but bottles from the Titanic survived over a century.
If you don’t want to write to anyone, write to yourself. Be introspective or historical. Put a stamp on it and mail it to your address. Don’t open it when it arrives, save it for a few years from now, or forever. Put it in the front of a book or in a desk drawer. Someday, someone might be surprised at what they read, and that someone might be you! Sew, write on, create, Keep Calm and coronavirus on. And listen to these thoughtful words from Alexandre Dumas’ “Count of Monte Cristo”:
“All human wisdom is contained in the two words—wait and hope.”