For context, you might consider first reading “One Month In: the COVID-19 quarantine”.
So now, we’re two months – sort of – into this quarantine. I know that stay-at-home orders are being lifted and that Alabama’s rules were relaxed on April 30, but my family is still living along a fairly stringent degree of separation. We’re at home most of the time anyway, since I’m teaching from home and my children are schooling from home. The bright side has consisted of walks and bike rides, and takeout food from neighborhood eateries. On the other side, it has been hard seeing the date of the Alabama Book Festival pass, being unable to take my wife out for our wedding anniversary, and having to maintain distance on Mother’s Day last weekend. But I understand why we’re doing this and don’t want a relapse that could cause us to do this again!
I also never want to do school like this again. I’m not a fan of the sentimentalism associated with the teaching profession, but I have to admit that this quarantine has shown me that I really enjoy being with my students, in my classroom, and around my school garden. High schools in springtime are hives of furious energy, but this year, silence came in its stead. So many of the fun and celebratory events that we look forward to are held in April and May – prom, awards day, signing day, graduation – and cancelling those really stinks. It’s easy to get grouchy and ready-to-be-done in the spring, but I hadn’t realized how important those weeks are.
Of course, spring is also the best season for gardening, but instead of gathering students to dig in the dirt, I brought the tools, rain barrel, and other supplies into my classroom, and carried the rain barrel stand, the compost sifter, and the compost bin home for repairs. By the end of April, I had covered our two long vegetables beds. Four months of spring into summer – from mid-March through early August – is more than enough time for the grass and weeds to take over, and I’d kind of like for the beds to be there when we get back.
In the meantime, I have been able to get some work done on two of my projects. My book on the history of our local Catholic school is well underway. After nearly a year of researching and reading, I’ve got an overarching sense of what I’m writing about. The book will be ready by 2023 as the school’s 150th anniversary commemorations begin. Likewise, the planning is falling into place to do more oral history collection in Newtown and to compile a subsequent book publication about that community. Right before the school closure, I got a second education grant from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission to continue the work we did in 2019. That project will begin with baby steps this summer, then ramp up in the fall if responsible practices allow.
Alongside those two projects, I’m also continuing to develop level:deepsouth. The first queries and submissions are coming in, and from experience, I know that new projects start slowly. People look on the site and see scant content, and they wonder whether the project is viable . . . I heard a long time ago that “people want to be where people are.” That’s why starting something new requires patience, consistency, and stick-to-itiveness. I know that the project’s premise is solid, and that I’m the editor for the job, so it’s a matter of showing others that it’s worthwhile to contribute.
For reading, in April, I finished three books I had already started – Randall Kenan’s short-story collection Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, Stanley Fish’s writing-advice book How to Write a Sentence, and Abigail Thernstrom’s 1987 study Whose Votes Count? – and I just finished Sister Helen Prejean’s The Death of Innocents last weekend. For the rest of the spring and the summer, I bought Thich Nhat Hanh’s Love Letter to the Earth and compilations of writings by Catherine de Hueck and St. John of the Cross. Those latter two are, in part, for when the adoration chapel opens back up. I always read a lot of nonfiction, but it might time for a good novel.
On the home front, we’ve got our raised bed at the Old Cloverdale Community Garden full with four yellow squash, one cucumber, a beef steak tomato, two sweet peppers, some mint, and some basil. Curious to try something long-term, I planted a Seedless Suffolk grape vine, and on the whimsical end, the kids and I planted a half-rotten onion that was sprouting on the kitchen counter— and it’s splitting and growing! For my next task, I’ve been assigned to build a worm farm up there, so we can make a little bit of compost and fertilize our plants with “worm tea.”
I hope and pray that I won’t be writing a post titled “Three Months In” next month. It seems to me that the country’s cooperative mood is fading. Though I’m still cooperating, I’ll admit that mine is, too. My family has been OK so far, but as a “victim” of the Great Recession ten years ago, I have been particularly concerned about the hard-working people who’ve gone without jobs and paychecks. While I don’t want people to get sick or die, especially not en masse, I am all too aware that financial repercussions from a crisis can hurt a family for years. I don’t want our hospitals to be overrun, but I also don’t want our food banks and shelters to be. And having worked for family-owned businesses in the past, I don’t want for any family’s generational blood, sweat, and tears to be wiped away when their business can’t sustain a months-long closure. I won’t try to become another amateur public health expert, but what I do know is: somehow, some way, we’ve got to balance the medical and the economic with the emotional and the psychological— all of it.