Mary Beth Writes

Something I read recently - and something someone rhetorically asked me - pursue the same question.

When will this end? How can we live well in the middle of this scary, divisive, devastating pandemic?

I have no precise or particular answer but I do see it through two lenses.

Politics. Story.

Part of the Misery of Now is the Politics of Now. We observe the chaos brought upon all of us by the lack of a plan (even though the Obama team left a plan). If we pay attention to the news the main theme is the divisiveness, the stalemating, the this governor vs Trump, and Trump vs that reporter who was asking a legitimate question, and then the others who are Trump’s backbone stating that the problem is not the paucity of plans or planners, but the media, and on and on it goes. Scientists being second-guessed by politicians who couldn’t figure out how to get out of a locked cardboard box. The politics of money and the politics of power; usually they are about the same thing. Unless one is waiting for money. Then it is about the politics of “Where is the money?”

It is legitimate to pay attention to this. Not paying attention, not knowing some of the names and some of the plays and players reduces us. Power is happening. We don’t put out a fire by turning our back on it to pick the flowers across the street. If you haven’t watch PBS News Hour lately, watch the first 10-15 minutes of it a few times per week. There really are smart people out there who are working hard to talk to smart people.

But there is also a Story going on. Dixie and Michol, Franc and Joyce and others of you have written some really good comments lately. Quarantine is not awful all the time. For some of us, this is a breather in complicated lives. Lessening of income is scary. Losing financial security is scary. Not knowing what will happen to us economically or health-wise is scary.

But buying less, going no place, tipping more to the individuals who help us, seeing the people in our neighborhoods play with their kids – these are powerful differences. Going to bed without worrying about tomorrow’s to-do list because it isn’t critical, this is different. Gaining 4 pounds around our middle while losing 27 pounds of anxiousness about things we can’t fix. Okay. There is a story going on here.

You hear parts of mine. Walking more. Saw a turtle. Visiting nesting ospreys. Reading to my grandchild. (Apparently the Blue Angels were flying over Chicago today. She called them the Blue Aprons. Thus the photos….) My neighbor across the street walks her baby once a day, her dog twice a day, and herself three times a day. People are planting more and bigger gardens. People are adopting dogs and cats! My son works for a bicycle manufacturing company, last weekend they had one of the biggest day of sales in their history. 

There is the politics of this pandemic. There are our stories playing out.

When you can’t stand any more of the political craziness, turn away and look at your story, the story of people in your neighborhood, the ones you see out your window. Len and I made this rule years ago. When you see the same neighborhood dog the second time, you can name it. The dog doesn’t care and you have made your life more whimsical.

When stories get too cloying, pay attention to politics again. One story is a story. When 85,000 people die, those stories become the next wave of politics.

We are in a crisis. Crises are about stories and politics and stories.

I haven’t got anything else today. It’s sunny outside and Len is in the yard doing things and in about five minutes, I’m going to be there, too. 




To quote Laura Ingalls Wilder, "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all". With so many untruths being thrown around at press conferences these days, I love the idea of turning to our own lives and looking for the everyday joys. Be it Osprey (we had one diving for fish in the cove in back of our house...very exciting), newly budding trees, our neighbor's shrub plantings or maybe my cat peeking out from under the Sweet Pepper Bush. Thanks for the reminder to stop and take a breath.

I've been watching PBS news hour every night since before this epidemic started and continue to do so... Then I turn inside and look at my life in these times... I just got back shortly from a 25mi bike ride and I'm sore yet somehow healthier because of it, excercise has been a large part of by covid regimen... I'm seeing the body changes show up before my eyes as I watch my father's body transform to something I'm liking better... I'm one of the lucky retired people who is financially secure and so I can pass some of that along to those people I care about who still depend on money coming in... The relationship that has been forming at about the same time as this damn epidemic is growing stronger dispite the fact that we still haven't met in person.( When that will happen is anyone's guess ) As for that bike ride, I took a detour on my way back home to a park with the most wonderful pathways leading into a woods full of wild flowers in full bloom... I let the child in me get off the bike and enjoy the large swathes of Trillium, May Apple, Dog Tooth violet, and Rue up close with only the birds to share it with... ¿Who says there's nothing to do during this time of social distancing? Open your eyes and take a real close look at the world around you like you've never done before... Who knows what you might see, it could be mud, or it could be a turtle... Let your child's eye do the seeing and enjoy...
Leonard's picture

Stories gain power because they give us a way of understanding changes that are happening in the world, but the changes themselves are mostly happening because of politics. They're both important. I watch PBS and listen to NPR. But, mostly, I want to know where Franc is riding his bike.

Lenard the name of the park is "Sam Poerio Park" I saw it from the bike path on my way into Kenosha... I rode to Gateway then headed back to Racine, took a little detour and rode into the park... Just past the parking and playgrounds there are several gravel paths one can take to a river and an old railroad bridge... A train came through as I was taking pictures of the wildflowers... It's peaceful and gorgeous... If you search Kenosha parks and hit Poerio Park they have about 80 photos of the place... It's going to be my new go to when in Kenosha...

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Quarantine Diary #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.


 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.


Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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