Ramblings

The state of Louisiana is under a stay at home order. In our state, we are permitted to get food, medicine, etc, as well as exercise outside as long as appropriate social distancing is observed. On Sunday afternoon, I  chose places within walking distance in Abita Springs, where I live. If I had to choose a place to be, I could do worse. There were only a few folks out, mostly using the bike trail that runs throughout the parish.

I dusted off my Canon camera, and I set off for a photo walk around town. These are special times we are living in, so my phone camera just wouldn’t do. No, I needed the Canon 35mm, which I haven’t used in over a year.

I didn’t have a predetermined course. I just rambled a bit downtown.  Some places were closed. I didn’t bother with pictures of the two town museums or the brewery since they weren’t open to the public. The churches are closed, too, so I skipped pictures of St. Jane de Chantal Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Nice buildings though.

I focused my camera’s lens on pretty houses and a few businesses that have remained open. I thought a few houses were places I would prefer to be sheltering in rather than my house. There’s nothing wrong with my house, but a grander home would please me more.

 

hotel-3The Abita Springs Hotel would be a grand place to be sequestered. Maid service, fresh linens, and maybe a nice meal or two provided with the stay. I could get used to that sort of quarantine. The hotel is open during the stay at home mandate but it looked empty. Want to stay here? Maybe when this virus scare has passed? Here’s the link to our local hotel – Abita Springs Hotel. 

blue-houseI also liked the house next door to the hotel. It’s a private residence but surely the owners would be glad to exchange houses for a few weeks for a change of scenery.  It’s inviting, isn’t it?

womens-center I wouldn’t mind taking up residence in the Women’s Center. The sign says its a place for healing and transformation. That sounds like a fine place to stay for a quarantine.

abita-brew-pubThe Abita Brew Pub is not open for seating inside, but the pub is taking orders for take-out. They have great burgers, and of course, a large selection of Abita beer. In Louisiana, the law is allowing customers to order alcohol to go from restaurants. I was tempted to stop and get a burger, but I had leftover pizza and Abita beer in the fridge at home.

abita-farmers-marketLater this week, I plan on stopping by the Abita Farmer’s Market. I don’t need a regular grocery store stop this week since my pantry is well-stocked. I have already eaten all the good stuff though, like chips and ice cream. Maybe now is the time to add fresh fruit and vegetables to my diet.

backroads-mercantile

Afterwards I got in my Mazda and took a drive out of town towards the town of Waldheim, driving east towards Mississippi. I stopped at this store, but it was closed. I need to stop when it’s open. Looks interesting, doesn’t it?

I’m glad I found my Canon camera and rambled around town and a bit farther on Sunday afternoon. I might be limited to where I can go during this statewide shelter in place order, but I can still find interesting places to view.

 

One Day at a Time

This morning I began my day as most days since the stay at home order for Louisiana started. I rise at 5:30, get the coffee brewing, take the dog out for a short walk, and then settle down at 6 am for a 30 minutes session with Facebook live streaming. The broadcast from my church features worship songs, a short devotional, and a group prayer time.

Then, I check the news online as well as skim Facebook for a short time. After that it’s time to take the dog out again, since she’s generally refuses to do her business outside without repeated coaxing on my part. When I get back inside, I drink the rest of my coffee and eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Everything I had been doing before this crisis has been cancelled, so I need a new routine. No more tutoring, ESL classes, nor food bank. There’s more time for reading, blogging, and cooking.

I confess that through the years since I returned from Honduras, my cooking skills have atrophied. When I lived there, I cooked occasionally for our kids’ project as well as doing most of my own cooking at home. There were few places in Honduras that had high hygiene practices in Honduras, and I seldom had a dining partner for the few nicer restaurants in town that earned my confidence.

I am doing basic cooking here now in the age of Covid-19. I have prepared, among other things, jambalaya, grilled chicken, saffron rice and steamed veggies. Thus far, I haven’t fixed a gumbo, but my mother has prepared gumbo twice in recent weeks; a seafood and okra gumbo and a chicken and sausage gumbo. I ate some of the seafood gumbo at her house.

I have mixed feelings about visiting with my mother. She is almost 87 years old. She lives alone. She doesn’t drive. I have picked up groceries for her last week, and we visited most of the day. However, I found it really tough to keep social distancing in the house. I totally failed at it actually. I suppose I will head to her house later this week, despite my misgivings.

I am debating whether to keep the foster dog at my house. Today is day eight for Daisy. She’s not responding well to my attempts to housebreak her. Most days she has at least one accident in the house. I don’t think accident is the right word, since it all seems quite natural for her to do her business on my wood floors. We’ll see how the day progresses today. I’ll make a decision soon if she can stay or not. I didn’t want this to be a forever dog, anyway. She’s too big to stay with me forever, since I don’t have a fenced yard. I can’t imagine walking her as often as she needs walking each day.

This afternoon I will take the dog out again a few times to encourage bathroom breaks. I will read a bit more on my Kindle. Right now I am reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History.  The choice was quite incidental, as I had already started the book before the present pandemic became the big news story. One thing I should do is do some gardening. Spring came early to Louisiana, and the weather is now almost summer like. That means the glower beds need constant attention.

How has your life changed with the coronavirus changes? How has your life routine changed? What are you cooking in the kitchen?

 

How To Spend The Time

Since my state, Louisiana, is under orders for the citizenry to stay home except for essential tasks, I have to consider how to spend my time. I am not spending the time listening to presidential news conferences that seem mostly useless. I am not engaging or prompting social media arguments, which no one has ever won. I am not eating out in restaurants anymore, but we can order delivery or take out. I have done my part to support the restaurants that are trying to survive by ordering a few lunch orders to go.

Probably many of us, although I can only speak for myself, have spent the first weeks of this imposed sheltering at home, attending video chats and Zoom meetings. I have accepted every Zoom invitation I have received. Soon, I will need to find an online Zoom support meeting for Zoom codependency.

And I walk. A lot. I have a foster dog who has not entirely decided that my dining room is not her toilet. We walk whenever I think she has an eye for the far side of the dining room table. Thus far, I haven’t seen a reduction in using the floor, as she seems bent on finding relief in the house once a day. That’s not terribly bad, but zero is the goal here. Since Daisy is recovering from a hip injury, our walks are slow with lots of time to sniff and investigate the ground.

House
Creole cottage next door

Although it’s technically trespassing, our walks tend to be in the extensive grounds of an empty Creole cottage next door to me. The house has been on the market for over a year, with only occasional visits from realtors, visitors or a lawn care crew. It’s perfect because there are no cars, no driveway, and lots of shady space. Since Daisy likes to chase cars, walking on the streets is not the best place for a dog with a hip injury.

I am reading, too. I just finished A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines. Why have I not read this book before? It’s a small, well-crafted novel set in 1940s Louisiana. This was the last book I checked out of the local library before it closed for the duration.

Now l will have to read on my Kindle. Last night, I downloaded The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History by John Barry. I actually had read a free sample a few months ago, before the craziness began. Now that the times have changed, I think I’ll indulge in a little light pandemic reading.

One thing I want to cultivate more is gratefulness. It’s too easy to wallow in self-absorption since I live alone. I want to be grateful for my life, the lives of my family and friends, and the small miracles that I see each day. Soon, we may be in the thick of knowing family, friends and acquaintances who are sick. I had some concern this week, as my niece was showing signs of the virus. Since she has a genetic disorder that causes her to have low immunity, her doctor ordered the test. Last night, I received news that the test was negative. For this news, I am grateful.

Later today, I will pick up an order from Walmart. There were no paper towels available when I made the order on my phone app yesterday. I’m trying to forget that I have only one paper roll in reserve at the top of my cupboard.  It’s disturbing.

IMG_0255
Louisiana live oak tree next door

Then, after putting away groceries, Daisy and I will return to the cottage grounds next door. The old oak tree next to the house provides a shady canopy that shields from the warm afternoon sun. Overgrown azaleas and magnolias growing along the fence line provide lots of curious sniffing for Daisy as we amble along.

As I stated above, the property is for sale. I believe they are asking about $400,000 for the cottage, barn, and extensive grounds. Won’t you be my neighbor?

 

 

It Will Be Alright

Several years ago, I downloaded and read A Journal of The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Defoe wrote a fictionalized account based on his early childhood memories of the plague that swept London in 1665, claiming over 67,000 lives. It was a memorable read. I never expected to write, or contemplate, even facetiously, about a plague in modern times.

Of course, our plague year cannot compare, even in a joking manner, to the Black Death. Mainly, it’s just quiet around here as the schools and most businesses are closed. The nearby city of New Orleans is emerging as the epicenter of the Louisiana outbreak. It seems like Mardi Gras was our undoing, causing the city and surrounding parishes to give rise to a troubling number of afflicted residents. Currently the state has over 1,700 reported cases and 65 dead. In the city of New Orleans, 827 cases are reported, and thirty-seven have died from the virus.

I’m introverted by nature, so solitude hasn’t been a hardship although I haven’t taken the warnings to stay home that seriously anyway. I find reasons daily to get out and about, whether it be to our local small market, the drugstore, or the post office in my small town. While I am not hoarding food or supplies, I do tend to buy stuff almost every time I venture out. My cupboards are overflowing with soup cans, pasta and lots of dairy creamer among other things.

Last night, I participated in a Zoom telecast with a group, Seeds and Souls, for an Ignatian Meditation. The idea is to listen as a moderator reads a passage of Scripture repeatedly and slowly. After the readings with pauses to reflect, participants reflect on what stood out from the reading.

Last night, the leader, Brian, chose verses from Matthew 6. The theme was not to worry about tomorrow. What stood out to me as he read from the Message translation of the Bible was the phrase, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.” In my mind, I pictured Jesus gently chiding me and offering me the chance to relax. I don’t need any more soup cans, nor do I need to worry about getting paper towels. I am worried, you see, about paper towels as I only have one extra roll in reserve. The local market doesn’t have any in stock. Neither does Walmart or Costco, at least according to their online sites.

Where will I get paper towels? I don’t know. When the time comes the store may have some or not have some. I can always clean spills with a towel I suppose if none are available. Funny thing is, I don’t use paper towels very often. That’s why I have only one extra roll in the house. I prefer to mop up spills with rags or a mop. So why worry about it? As Jesus’ words say in the extraordinary Message translation by Eugene Peterson, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.”

Early this morning, after my 5:30 am coffee and 6:00 prayer service online, I took Daisy, my foster dog, for a walk. We took it slow, as she is recovering from a hip injury. I gave her ample time to put her nose to weeds and flowers growing along the ditches that line our streets. I gave myself time to notice the beauty of the wildflowers, some white, some yellow, and some a beautiful shade of lavender.

In the same batch of verses that Brian read repeatedly last night, he said, “walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp nor shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? . . . If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers . . . don’t you think he’ll attend to you . . . do his best for you?” 

I am going to do my best to avoid looking for paper towels today.

Nonessential Services

I am normally involved weekly in a number of endeavors: tutoring kids at Sylvan Learning Center, teaching English as a Second Language, and volunteering weekly as a receptionist at the local food bank. None of these are considered essential in Louisiana right now. The food bank is still serving clients, but the lobby is now closed. Instead of having a bevy of opportunities to serve and work during each week, I now face an empty calendar because everything I did is now considered nonessential.

What can I do then? I am filling my time with walks in the neighborhood, weeding my flower beds, and catching up on household tasks. Yesterday, I brought my bicycle to a bike shop for a tune-up. I can ride the pathways on the Tammany Trace, a dedicated hiking and biking trail that was once a railroad line throughout the parish.

I can read the book that I can’t return to the library. I checked out A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines before the tsunami of state closures shuttered the library system. I planned a few reads by African American authors for the month of February. The Gaines book was on the list but I didn’t check out the book until March. Last month, I read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass.

Since I live alone, I thought it would be a good time to share my house with a pet. I planned on fostering a pup from the Humane Society, but I haven’t received a call back from the good folks there. Repeated phone calls go unanswered. I may drop by later today, and I can ask if my help is needed at this time.

I don’t think I am overreacting to the situation at hand. If anything, I have been somewhat lackadaisical in my response to the virus. I was eating out the very day that the state closed restaurants, limiting them to takeout and delivery. I am still visiting my eighty-six year old mother, despite my misgivings. I get out nearly everyday, interacting with the public in some way: getting groceries, visiting the hardware store, etc. It’s been nearly impossible for me to spend an entire day at home.

The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, shared news and advice in a one-hour broadcast last night. He has been active in directing the state response to the corona virus. As of yesterday, there were 1,172 positive cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana. Most of Louisiana cases, 562, are in the city of New Orleans, 562 cases. Louisiana is one of the leaders in the country with infection rates when the number is case rate is considered per 1000 people. Louisiana only has about 4.5 million people. The city of New Orleans has about 400,000 residents

Governor Edwards shared that today he would be in fasting and prayer for the state. I can do that. I suppose something I do today will be essential as I join many in Louisiana in prayer.  Here’s the Bible verse that Edwards used to end his remarks:

I am the Lord your God,
    who holds your right hand.
And I tell you, ‘Don’t be afraid!
    I will help you.*

I suppose I can feel like I am doing something essential today. I am joining the governor of Louisiana in prayer and fasting. What could be more essential than a moment or two of meditation and asking God for favor in these times?

*Isaiah 41:13 Easy to Read Version

 

Love in the Age of Covid-19

The new coronavirus, also called Covid-19, is drawing comparisons to the flu pandemic of 1919 as well as, gasp!, the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages. I’ve never heard it compared to cholera, but the title is apropos. You must admit my take on the title is catchy.

With non-stop coverage by the media of the worldwide pandemic, it’s hard to escape the barrage of messaging: wash your hands, keep your distance, don’t panic, but do be prepared for a host of issues. Prepare to stay home for 2 weeks or longer, get sick, lose your 401k in the stock market crash or die. All are cast as possible if not probable. Above all, don’t panic. Imagine that? Don’t panic.

I lived through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I remember those dark days. I’ve lived through one of the worst natural disasters in this hemisphere. What did I learn? I recall that during the weeks and months preceding the Cat5 hurricane that swept in from the Gulf, I had two songs that were always in my head: Dwell by Casey Corum and The Times They are A’changing by Bob Dylan. When the storm had passed and we were in recovery mode, I reflected on those songs. God’s presence was dwelling with me and yes, times had definitely been a’changing.

Now in the time of Covid-19, I have to remember that God is always with me, and times have surely changed in just a few short weeks.  Another thing that stuck with me in the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina was that serving others become a way of life for me and my church community. We fed the community, first responders, and later, teams. There were scores of volunteers who needed shelter and food as they came to help our neighbors with flooded homes and businesses. I had no time for anxiety. I was too busy.

So how do I love in the time of Covid-19? Here in Louisiana, all restaurants were closed last night until further notice. All schools, colleges and universities are closed. Gatherings are limited to 50 people or less. In New Orleans, the limit on social gatherings is even more restricted. A certain level of anxiety hangs in the air.

A few days ago, I talked for a bit with an anxious neighbor. Mary is an older lady who lives in a home without electricity, running water. She doesn’t have a car. She rides her bike to get groceries or to the gym for showers.  I can be kind to all my neighbors, including Mary.

My little town, Abita Springs, is collecting names of folks in our town who need help with meals, groceries or lack of transportation. They want to help. I can make donations or deliver groceries for my neighbors.

In the big city of New Orleans, a hotspot for the virus, my former church is serving today as a site for grab and go meals for children. New Orleans is a locale not only filled for music and  good food, but also a place rife with poverty. With all the schools shut down, a meal is a good place to start.

So, that’s what love looks like right now. It’s about having hope and sharing hope. We can all do that, can’t we?

Win-Spring

azaleas
Azaleas in bloom in Abita Springs

In southern Louisiana, we’re in the season of Win-Spring. My cousin invented the moniker to describe the clash of seasons we’re experiencing. Camellias and azaleas are in bloom this month, a full six weeks ahead of schedule. Oak trees are budding, and pollen is developing. Yet, later this week, we’ll have two or three mornings with below freezing temperatures.

Everywhere you look, nature is budding with ambivalence.  Even a two-season climate doesn’t seem to follow the norms. In Central America, there’s just two seasons: wet and dry, or if you prefer winter and summer. My friends in Honduras are having rain although it’s the dry season right now.

Nature run amok. Now, if you excuse me, I need to pluck dandelions in the flower beds as well as check my supply of firewood. Strange times.