Writing Through the Pandemic While Baking Bread and Canning Food

May 23, 2020

crop unrecognizable person with jar of pickled zucchini
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

The sun is out today and the high will reach 80*, which is great for the seedlings and plants in my garden. The AC is on because high heat always brings high humidity in this area. Too bad high temperatures don’t kill the coronavirus…wouldn’t that be awesome if it did?

I finally discovered a way to discourage birds from pulling up tender seedlings and sheering off the tops of the tomato plants in the garden–red Solo cups with the bottoms cut out! I placed a cup over each seedling and it seems to be working. I’m happy I started lots of seeds in large pots back in March because the culprits were relentless. I didn’t think my three small plots required a scarecrow, but I thought about it.

healthy vegetables hand gardening
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I’m still waiting on the delivery of the pricey All American 915 canner pressure cooker with high hopes of canning vegetables in the future. Yes, I’m taking this pandemic seriously. I did my research and ended up ordering one approved by the FDA so I don’t contract salmonella or blow up my house.

I’ve never canned in my life, so that should be interesting. One of the participants in my The Artist’s Way group, a West Virginia native and a hunter, is a canning pro and offered to teach me. She cans loaves of bread (how can that work?) in addition to chili, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, jams, eggs (?), and wait for it…pudding. Don’t ask. I have no clue how she does that, but she does. I’m excited to learn from her.

Hopefully, my late spring and summer harvests are plentiful and healthy enough to can. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, the lettuce, kale, and spinach taste great and I’m baking bread again. Merci, Jacques Pepin.

***

coronavirus
Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

The CDC needs to speak to the American people again! Are they hiding during this pandemic? Why are they silent?

“If authors have any responsibilities in the face of disaster, the greatest of them is to bear witness.” That’s an excerpt from the author Fang Fang’s (her pen name) controversial chronicle of life and death in Wuhan, China during the pandemic.

From the New York Times article, “She Kept a Diary of China’s Epidemic. Now She Faces a Political Storm”,

“Her online diary, though sometimes censored, became vital reading for tens of millions of Chinese readers — a plain-spoken, spontaneous view into Wuhan residents’ fears, frustrations and hopes during their 11 weeks under lockdown in their homes.

Her account has recently drawn bitter condemnation from zealous Chinese nationalists who have called plans to publish a translation in English an effort to malign the government and undermine the heroic image of Wuhan.

 

Fang Fang, who uses her pen name rather than her birth name, Wang Fang, said that she did not want to be cast as either a cheerleader for the government, or as a reflexively embittered critic. She called herself a witness, highlighting the bravery of doctors, street cleaners and neighbors helping neighbors, while vowing to hold to account officials who let the virus spread.”

I would love to read her pandemic chronicle one day in English.

 

Brazil. The news of the incredibly high number of deaths in Brazil is heartwrenching–24,048 deaths as of yesterday. Bolsinaro, the president of Brazil calls the pandemic in his country “a little flu”…he is South America’s version of Trump…Lord help the Brazilians.

What’s happening in the Navajo Nation is truly a national tragedy–4,434 confirmed cases and 147 deaths this morning. It’s just awful. Today, as US deaths approach 100,000 souls,  the world comes to grips with 240,879 deaths. At times, the numbers are difficult to process. A newscaster described the numbers we see today as war-time numbers.

According to www.worldometers.com, as of today, Puerto Rico, my birthplace, has 3, 100 total cases, 70 new cases, and 127 deaths. Their numbers are higher than Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. I don’t know why that is. I wonder if it’s because thousands of tourists landed on the island early on? It’s clear high temperatures don’t stop this virus. My adopted state of West Virginia is at 1,717 total cases, 12 new cases, and 72 deaths. I’m staying home.

Last week, I had a contentious discussion with one of my postal carriers, who took offense to me questioning why he wasn’t wearing a mask. His immediate response was, “Why should I?” Okay. I should have thanked him and closed the door right then, but I was honestly curious. So I asked why he, a person who comes into contact with hundreds of people on a daily basis, wouldn’t think to protect himself and others by wearing a mask. Long story short, he replied that more people die each year from the flu and pneumonia, it’s all a big hoax, and it’s too hot to wear a mask. He kept his distance and he sounded exactly like Trump, so I thanked him for delivering my mail and shut the door.

I found him callous, irresponsible, and rude. Even if people don’t care about themselves and their health, for God’s sake, how about caring about others? Apparently, it never occurred to him or maybe it did and he just doesn’t care.

As I continue to quarantine at home and venture out on Sundays to my local farmers market, I will wear a mask for the foreseeable future. For myself and for you.

Be well and stay safe this holiday weekend. Thank you to all military members, past and present. Thank you to my dad, a Vietnam vet, for his 30 years in the US Army. Love you, Dad.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. The author lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and affords her the peace of mind to write full-time. She is currently in quarantine with a cute Chihuahua named Sophie.

Pandemic Diary: On Worry, Time, and Garden Teepees

May 3, 2020

black twin bell alarm desk clock on table
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Hello, I hope you and yours are well.

I checked my calendar and it appears I’ve been in lockdown since March 9, going on two months now. Time doesn’t hold the same meaning for me as before. Sometimes, the fluidity of the day can feel liberating, challenging, and at times, puzzling. I have no appointments, nowhere to be, so I’m able to concentrate fully on one projects, or work on two or three projects during the day. One thing I know for sure: I’m getting a lot more done at home (inside and outside) and I’m more organized with my writing time than ever before. Not always creative…but certainly more organized. This is due to a need to control my world amidst this chaotic pandemic and to warmer days. When things go out of whack, it’s normal to hold on tight and control everything in our lives, and sunny days and warmer temperatures are just wonderful, period. I go outside and immediately feel better.

In March, most of us felt alone, worried, and frightened, followed by fear and confusion in April. For some, the month brought anger and frustration. At the beginning of this month (I realize it’s only the 4th), I finally felt a sense of control over my personal world–I know what I’m doing in regard to food, medications, and my time. And it really helps to know what my kids are doing about their necessities and work schedules, as well.

Then unfortunately, all that positivity and slightly anemic certainty went down the toilet after reading the new White House statistics of how many Americans will contract the disease and how many will die from the novel coronavirus. Damn, I hope they’re wrong. But with states reopening…I’m leaning towards those numbers and I hate it.

Tonight my heart sank after reading a lead scientist said he doesn’t think we’ll ever have a vaccine for COVID-19. That’s NOT what I want to hear, mister. Don’t quote that man again. Now I’m worried. I believe it may be time to take a break from the news…again.

Off to dig in the garden to take my mind off la bestia, La cabRona.

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

***

herd of hen
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

April 4, 2020

Good morning, I hope you are well and that you’re able to get out for a bit of fresh air today. That always helps to put my mind straight and to instill hope during this precarious time. I’m choosing to be positive today. Let’s see how long that lasts, smile.

I marvel at the synchronicity of writing about my interest in raising chickens (in the city, no less) and learning that American writer Alice Walker (The Color Purple) keeps a journal and raises chickens. Her chicken journal was published as a memoir called The Chicken Chronicles: a memoir. What a fun tidbit of information about one of my favorite writers. I ordered a copy of The Chicken Chronicles (shockingly out of print) and an old collection of Lewis Sinclair novels (Babbit, It Can’t Happen Here, and Main Street), highly recommended by my son and new titles for me. I’m glad for online booksellers such as AbeBooks and Biblio, who sell out-of-print or hard-to-find books. Amazon is making money hand over fist during this pandemic, so I avoid them as much as possible in order to support local bookstores, as well. As much as possible. That seems to sum up where we are today with social distancing and following stay-at-home orders–most of us are doing our part and as much as we can.

As our lives change in fundamental ways few of us foresaw, trying to access and purchase familiar food and other items is becoming more difficult, and for far too many people in this country and around the world, it’s nearly impossible. Children are going to sleep hungry, kitchen pantries are empty, and lines of cars at food pantries are longer than long. It is shocking and reprehensible this is happening in one of the world’s richest countries. We can no longer ignore the inequalities that wealth and privilege cause and exacerbate throughout the world. Things must change and I pray we get rid of 45 in November. We can do our part by supporting food pantries, soup kitchens, local farms, restaurants, and small businesses that are feeding our neighbors and people across America.

My son and his girlfriend suggested ways to support my hairdresser and local nail salon–by buying gift certificates and paying for my appointments ahead of time until I can make my way back. I love their ideas.

I miss my morning drive to buy coffee and newspapers, but I really miss my monthly trips to visit my daughter, my family, and friends in the DC area. I hope to visit them soon…wearing a mask and practicing safe distancing…which no one on my street is doing. Not a soul wears a mask and they continue to congregate on porches, back yards, and on sidewalks. If my neighbors thought I was a curious woman before this pandemic, a writer who loves to garden and lives with a Chihuahua, they must really think I’m a true eccentric now as I do wear a mask, even in the garden. Whatever, smile.

food hands woman beans
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.comnt

Over the weekend, my daughter in Northern Virginia sent photographs of her first apple pie made from scratch and the hydrangeas and lavender plants she and her boyfriend bought for their yard. She’s a great cook and I love that she’s baking again. My son and his girlfriend are cooking up a storm in Bangkok and learning how to bake cookies without an oven. They have a great wok, however, and access to the most amazing fruits and vegetables. All that’s required for Mom to be happy is for her children and their loves to remain safe and happy.

On Saturday, I watched YouTube videos on how to build simple bamboo teepees and A-frame supports out of various materials for climbing beans and cucumbers. Vertical gardening makes perfect sense to me and I love the idea of building anything simple and utilitarian. My impatient nature had me rummaging through the garden shed for bamboo poles and wooden spikes to use in the garden instead of purchasing them online and waiting until next month or longer for them to arrive. Success. Yesterday, I built three A-frame supports out of seven, 6-foot bamboo poles. I’m thrilled with the results. Building the supports gave me the idea of digging a second garden plot next to the first. I have high hopes for the garden, less grass to mow, and I’m having fun researching canning equipment for a bountiful harvest. My sore muscles “tell” me how out of shape I am after a long winter and from living the writing life (sitting way too much), but digging in the garden always helps.

Later this afternoon, I’ll work on my novel-in-progress, The Laments. That’s when I travel back in time to 1927 Puerto Rico and get lost in the words and the world I created for my wonderful, beautifully-flawed characters.

Make some art, you’ll feel better.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and affords her the peace to write full-time. She is currently in lockdown with a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

 

On Local Farms, Beekeeping, and Honoring The Dead

May 1, 2020

brown hen on green grass
Photo by Juanjo Menta on Pexels.com

Happy May Day. I hope you are well.

A close friend gave me two wonderful gifts yesterday: the websites of a local butcher with a drive-thru window and a local cooperative farm that sells produce and eggs with a pickup location close to my home. I gave my friend the website of the local farm, where I buy my cheese. We’re both happy. I’m not giving up on my own vegetable and herb gardens, though the days of rain and few sunny days are not helpful. I have lettuce, kale, and spinach popping up and in the next day or so, I must space them out as they’re crowding each other. That’s a good sign. I remain hopeful for a good harvest.

For fresh fruit, I’m trying out an online fruit market that has pretty good prices and free shipping. I miss fruit smoothies and making green juice with greens, apples, and ginger. Last month, I bought a bag of fresh ginger and placed chunks of ginger in a container of water and put it in the fridge. I hope that method keeps the ginger fresh as I love steeped ginger tea with a teaspoon of acai or acerola powder for a healthy energy boost. I am determined not to go to the supermarket and so far, I’ve found ways around that.

Why not go all the way and become an urban beekeeper? I say that tongue in cheek because while I love honey, I’m afraid of bees. There are those who can sit still when bees land on their shoulders or arms. Not me, I run like hell. Maybe it’s best to search for fresh, local honey instead. In case my fears of bees are unwarranted, I ordered the debut memoir, “A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings”  by Helen Jukes, who said beekeeping changed her life. So, there is a glimmer of hope and if beekeeping isn’t for me, at least I’ll have read a memoir described as wonderful by Publisher’s Weekly. A win-win.

Last month (before my friend recommended the local farm for fresh eggs), I considered turning my garden shed into a hen house. I know! What is this pandemic doing to my brain, where I think I can turn this city house with a garden into a homestead? Somehow, it has freed me to think more outside the box than I usually do…and my long-held belief that life is precious is as crystal clear to me than ever. It’s an interesting phenomenon. And I miss fresh eggs! Why not start with two hens and turn this city home into a homestead? Well for starters, there may be ordinances against raising chickens within the city limits. There’s that and I’d have to deal with several neighborhood cats, who’ve left two dead baby birds on my kitchen porch. Not a good situation for chickens. I’ll start by calling City Hall. I’m curious, smile.

***

May 2, 2020

monochrome photo of man sitting on grass
Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

I’ve thought about death over the last two months. Most probably, we’ve all thought about it at some level. I’m worried about my 87-year-old father who suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives in a Florida nursing home. I keep in good contact with his caregiver, who reports he seems to be doing well physically. How I wish he could remember us. I’d love to speak with him about what we’re going through with this pandemic and living in quarantine. My dad was always a no-nonsense guy with a keen sense of humor. I’m sure he’d have a lot to say. For now, I rest easy knowing he is well-cared for and seems relatively happy.

I wish my sweet mom, who passed on in January 1992, was still with us in the physical sense. I miss my mom every single day. If she were still with us, it’s very possible my parents would be in quarantine with me or me with them. Like always, we would have enjoyed cooking and laughing together, and remembering the good old days. We would have taken care of each other. Those in quarantine with their aging parents are very fortunate indeed. Bless my parents.

It’s difficult to read the gruesome reports from across the country (mainly out of New York), of filled-to-capacity funeral homes and trailers-turned-morgues parked outside of hospitals. Those reports always bring up bad memories of the thousands of unnecessary deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, and that the true number of deaths may never be known.

From the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve felt such sadness for the patients who’ve died and are still dying. I cannot imagine the depth of immense grief and suffering of dying alone without a loved one to hold them, or experiencing the death of a loved one who has died alone. That would haunt me forever. My heart and prayers go out to those who’ve experienced that unimaginable reality.

I remember the dead in my own way by holding space for them. I do that because it feels right and necessary. But Holy God, I was not prepared for the report out of Brooklyn this morning shared by The Daily Beast. The title was bad enough, but the first accompanying photograph before the actual text was jaw-dropping and heartbreaking. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told The Daily Beast, “We have an emergency going on right now.” Right now? He added, “There is so much more we could do to better move this situation forward.” No kidding. As of yesterday, 23,616 people have died in New York and you have an emergency going on right now? He added, “There is so much more we could do to better move this situation forward.”

So…Adams is establishing a Bereavement Task Force that will begin meeting next week. Good God, why wasn’t this done before? “We’re going to bring people in the room in every aspect of this industry and sit down and hear directly from them what we should be doing to coordinate this operation.” No one anticipated this would be a problem before today, Mr. Adams? And to the responsible funeral director who carelessly, callously piled unclothed human bodies in the back room with no respect and human decency, I say shame on you. Shame on you.

May I never grow numb to the daily death count in this country and never forget those who died from the novel coronavirus, who were beloved by their families, friends, and communities. We may never know what they achieved in life or how they individually contributed to their families and communities, but we can honor and remember them by speaking of them, showing respect for every and every person who died or is dying at this moment.

This morning, I learned it is not considered ‘essential’ for priests or pastors to administer the last rites to dying COVID-19 patients. Despite Pope Francis urging priests to minister to the flock in any way they can, including people with coronavirus diagnoses, priests are afraid. Funeral directors say they’re afraid because cemeteries aren’t taking bodies fast enough and preparing them for funerals. It’s unthinkable to die alone but not to have access to last rites, a proper funeral, and a cemetery plot because the government or states didn’t plan for it is negligent and cruel. How would we feel if our loved one died? I know I would be raising holy hell.

A man who later died from coronavirus was given last rites by his pastor over the telephone. A compassionate nurse at the hospital, where the man had been cared for, organized the ceremony for the family who listened in from quarantine. How sad and beautiful.

My eternal thanks to the doctors, nurses, and health workers who’ve shown true compassion and deep empathy by holding dying patient’s hands; for praying with and for their patients; for giving warm hugs and offering soothing words; and for making a patient smile during their last hours.

This morning, I find comfort and hope in their love, compassion, and humanity.

Until next week, be safe and stay healthy.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and comfort.

On Victory Gardens and Finding Love in the Time of Coronavirus

April 27, 2020

I hope this post finds you well.

home gardening young rucola
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’m not sure if I’m suffering from ‘quarantine fatigue’ or if I’m sick of the constant rain, chilly temperatures, and blustery wind, it’s awful. This week’s weather forecast calls for rain, followed by partly sunny skies this weekend, and more rain next week, ugh. Fortunately, we’re mostly in the high 60s and I saw a few days next week in the 70s. I’ll take it.

The lettuce, kale, and spinach plants in my Victory garden are still small but happy; they love cooler weather. I check them each morning and offer encouraging words and good energy like I did my children because I love these little guys. After a freeze warning last week, I’m vigilant with the vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings now living in larger pots on the kitchen porch. In the past, I bought established plants to get a headstart in the garden and since that wasn’t possible this year, I really need these seed babies to grow! It was fun to start from scratch with heirloom varieties, but for every seed that germinated and wilted, my heart sank. I suppose it’s survival of the fittest when it comes to starting with seeds. I’m doing my best to help them along.

The other day, a new age guru, or was he a scientist? I don’t remember, but he described the novel coronavirus pandemic as a ‘thinning the herd’ event. He didn’t explain, which would have been interesting, but his comment rubbed me the wrong way. He went on to say if we’re still here, there’s a reason for it. Again no explanation. Buddy, the reason I’m still here is that I don’t leave my house and I live alone. How long that remains feasible and healthy for me and others is anyone’s guess.

Today I paid my real estate taxes, and the water and electric bills online. I buy groceries online. I bank online. Tomorrow, I’ll be video chatting with my endocrinologist. When I’m down, I say the rosary with the priests at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. I’m taking an online course on ancestral medicine and signed up for five free courses with The Monroe Institute and set up Zoom chats with my family, friends, and my The Artist Group participants. It all works…for now, but I don’t know how I feel about that being our new, not-normal future. I miss hugs and hello kisses. I miss hugging my tribe.

The rest of this post is kind of tongue in cheek. I need a bit of humor today.

adult blur bokeh bright
Photo by Jasmine Wallace Carter on Pexels.com

Love in the Time of Coronavirus. I’m claiming that as the perfect title for my memoir.

After a long hiatus of dating, and in light of this quarantine lasting until the end of summer, (maybe winter?) will I return to dating? Online dating? What will dating look like in the time of Coronavirus? Will we return to finding love like in Jane Austen’s novels, when women and men wooed and seduced each other with romantic notes and love letters written on crisp stationery and envelopes sealed with burnt crimson wax seals? I actually have one of those thingies and several sticks of crimson wax, I would love that.

In the past, I was never okay with online dating messages that read, “Hey”, or “wassup”. I always thought those lazy men were alone for good reason. Write me a sonnet, Mister! Or a poem about my limpid, grey-green eyes and the way the moonlight hits my pale, dewy skin on a soft summer eve. Pale because I don’t get out much, but write it anyway. Send me nosegays of fragrant Spring flowers. Mark my words, gentlemen, you’ll go far.

Single women on social media are joking that couples who were more than iffy in the relationship department and other couples who were legally separated before COVID-19 and now forced to stay together during this pandemic for financial reasons. Some may have secretly given a divorce lawyer a retainer or found a good moving company. What they were getting at is there will more available women and men in the dating pool than before the pandemic. As a single woman, that got my attention as the dating pool of eligible good men always looked more like a puddle to me. But it also made me sad. I say if a couple (especially with kids at home) can survive this pandemic and remain stronger than before, more power to them. Be good to each other.

So, if you’re an available man, anywhere in the world, and you’re thinking of writing me a sonnet, I’ll contemplate reserving a post office box. Of course, we must show multiple, negative COVID-19 tests and proof of antibodies.

We can’t lose our sense of humor, people. Some days, it’s all we have and it’s good for us.

Still no stimulus check…

Be safe, stay healthy.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which gives her a lot of pride and allows her to write full time.

In Solo Quarantine: Hanging In There

person holding white flower in her hands
Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

April 3, 2020

I realize my blog posts are all over the place, but my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m amazed I can write at all. So, good morning. I hope you are well.

This global pandemic is highlighting (and forcing) the need for change in the world. That’s a heavy statement, I know. The list is long: global warming; protecting the environment, our oceans, rivers, animals, and our precious resources, which include protecting the most vulnerable people in our societies. In light of covid-19, however, the most pressing and vital change needs to be our nation’s lack of preparedness for future pandemics and other global catastrophes. The United States failed Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 2017 after Hurricane Maria and it is failing now. I could talk your ear off, rant, and complain about why the US is in the pathetic state of preparedness, readiness, we’re in, but I won’t go there on Palm Sunday. I will say that I would feel a whole helluva lot better if New Orleans native General Russell L. Honore and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo were running this country today.

Making changes in society and in the world, often requires personal changes in attitudes and behavior first, attitude adjustments, if you will. Today, however, most of us are having to reach deep to hang onto any semblance of normalcy and balance in our personal lives and in the lives of those whose care we are responsible for like our elderly family members and children still living at home. I’m surviving this pandemic as a single person, which is tough. I chose to live alone ten years ago, but a mandatory stay-at-home order is another beast altogether. There is no one to run to the grocery store for me and should I fall ill, I’m on my own. My neighbors have already agreed to take Sophie (my dog) if anything happens to me. It’s the first thing I thought of when things started to get ugly.

Anyone experiencing this horror alone has my respect. All healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and anyone on the frontline of keeping this country running have my heart and eternal gratitude.

The most important thing I’m doing is trying new methods of coping with and working through negative thoughts and uncertainty and incorporating new ways to balance my life under tremendous pressure and strain. A few years ago, I would have told you that going organizing a household move with two teenagers from Europe to the United States after a marital separation was the most difficult thing I’d ever faced. That was a cakewalk compared to living through this virus. You know, I bet I could write a comedy skit about the comparisons, but that’s for later…much later. God knows it’s okay to laugh, cry, and laugh some more, though. Humor keeps me sane along with my garden and staying in good touch with my kids, family members, and good friends.

I don’t know about you, but my brain has worked overtime these past weeks, in good ways and in some not-so-good ways. At times, my fight or flight reflex has also worked overtime, which I know can’t be sustained without causing damage to my healthy body and mind. It feels like we’re living in a Ground Hog Day/science fiction film–a never-ending epic of iffy, should we, shouldn’t we? outings to forage for food and supplies; quarantining at home with others or alone; and being mindful to wipe down each item our hands come into contact with, including disinfecting our shoes in a tray of bleach before entering our homes and doing the same for our car keys and credit cards. Nothing seems familiar. For most of us, daily routines have changed, unless you live in the eight states with no stay-at-home order, which is insane…I can’t imagine. The incredible part to me is that each person on this planet is dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and fear, and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have or don’t have. Yet, people still go out and congregate, even in states with stay-at-home orders. It boggles the mind.

A few days ago, my daughter emailed a useful and informative link to the website of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, which I was grateful to receive and happy to pass along to you. Bessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist, author, and educator, who specializes in trauma and stress. He offers webcasts, resources, and tips on how to cope and manage stress in traumatic situations. I highly encourage you to check him out and give him a listen.

https://www.besselvanderkolk.com

His videos did me a world of good. I felt more in control of my life, my body, and my mental health, which I know how to do in theory, but I needed to hear it again. I needed the reminder. I took the good doctor’s advice about moving my body, and after being too sedentary this past winter, I worked in the garden today. I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, aired out the damp gardening shed, and pulled weeds from the vegetable and herb garden and the flower beds. The sun’s warmth on my body felt amazing and my mood improved. I certainly felt more positive than earlier in the week. Weather permitting, I’ll be out in the yard tomorrow.

My most heartfelt prayers are with those who’ve lost precious loved ones to this horrific virus. My heart is with everyone fighting for their lives. Please hang on and fight, we need you.

Be safe. Be strong. Stay home, if not for yourself, then for others who are at high risk.

Eleanor x

***

April 4, 2020

As I sit on my kitchen porch admiring the beauty around me, I realize you’d never guess anything is wrong in the world, nothing seems amiss. It’s a beautiful Spring morning and like every year, the plants, bushes, and trees are doing what they do this time of year–they blossom, thrive, and begin to crowd each other for precious sunlight. The only thing that’s different on my street and in my city is there is very little traffic, no foot traffic, and the constant whine of ambulances often drowns out the birdsong. I’ve learned to focus harder and to practice patience–the birdsong always returns.

Last night, my son and his girlfriend set up a family video chat. We logged in from four US states and from Thailand. It was nice to see their smiling faces as we sipped our drink of choice and checked in for the first, two-family hangout since covid-19 reared its ugly head.

This morning, I joined a conference call with my sister, my stepmom, and the woman who cares for my 89-year-old father in a VA-sponsored home in South Florida. We are understandably worried about my father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. We, his family, needed to hear him and we wanted to let his caregiver know we are here for them. It’s more important than ever to connect with our friends and loved ones. We are planning on a video call soon.

A funny aside—my dad was enjoying his breakfast when we called, which we were hoping to avoid because he seems able to only focus on one thing at a time. So after telling us he was fine and at his caregiver’s gentle nudging, he told us he loved us, he added, “Bye! Now get the hell outta here!” We cracked up and kept repeating, “Bye, Daddy!”. He laughed with us until the little game got old for him (not for us, we love and miss that surly, comical side of his), he sent us all to hell one last time. We showered my Dad with a chorus of how much we love him and hung up. I immediately cried because although I’ve known it’s possible for me to miss being by my father’s side when he passes because he lives in Florida, it’s now a reality that I may never see him again or hear his voice if he dies before a vaccine is found.

My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones during this time. No one should die alone. Yet, here we are, it’s horrific.

We need the man occupying the White House to order a nationwide stay-at-home order, immediately make nationwide testing happen for all Americans, and we desperately need a vaccine soon. Why the hell Trump isn’t supplying federal help to all state Governors is beyond comprehension, it’s reprehensible. I don’t understand.

I’ll end this blog post with something from Maria Popova’s amazing newsletter called Brain Pickings, which I’ve followed for years. The essay is called Stillness as a Form of Action: Tocqueville on Cataclysm as an Antidote to Cultural Complacency and a Catalyst for Growth.

“Even when nothing is happening, something is happening. This is a difficult fact for the human animal to fathom – especially for us modern sapiens, who so ardently worship at the altar of productivity and so readily mistake busyness for effectiveness, for propulsion toward progress. Silence is a form of speech, Susan Sontag wrote: “and an element in a dialogue.” Stillness is a form of action and an element in advancement, in evolution, in all forward movement.”

Beautiful.

As we head toward what the Surgeon General calls, “…the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”, I wish you and yours a safe and healthy Sunday. Please wear your masks and gloves when you venture outside, and if you’re not in desperate need of food or supplies, stay home.

And for the Governors of the eight states who have yet to enact stay-home-orders, you will have blood on your hands. My prayers for the residents of those states.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. She is the mother of two adult children, who are in the world doing wonderful things.

 

 

 

Working From Home: Quarantine and Gardening

March 24, 2020

Morning thoughts.

variety of vegetables
Photo by Ella Olsson

How can the president possibly consider relaxing safety precautions that could save hundreds of thousands of lives in this country? Lunacy. Greed.

An uncontrolled pandemic will help no one and certainly, not our economy. We must pass an economic stimulus package that works for everyone, not just big business. But Trump needs to enact the Defense Production Act now. The Federal government must act now to protect our doctors, nurses, and health care workers.

As of last night, the number of confirmed cases and deaths in China, South Korea, and Italy appeared to be going down. God willing, the reports are true, and the numbers continue to drop. The numbers in the US, however, are increasing dramatically in many states, 25,000 confirmed virus cases in New York and 210 deaths.

Hang tight, please stay home. We might have a long wait ahead (some health experts say five or six weeks could dramatically reduce the spread), we will worry, and we will continue to grieve for those who’ve died around the world.

One day, this will end. Never lose hope and do your part–stay home, it will save lives. I pray you can stay home and that you practice social distancing (and wear a mask) if you must go out. Prayers for the world.

And to bat-shit crazy Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who suggested he and all grandparents would be willing to die for our economy—speak for yourself, loony tunes. What are these Republicans on? Our vulnerable and senior Americans are not expendable in the context of the economy!

I’m hanging in there. A little jittery this morning after watching Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conference (he’s doing an amazing job!), and definitely stressed after the Coronavirus task force briefing. Ugh. He wants to open our country by Easter on April 12? Insanity. It’s no surprise I’m grinding my teeth at night; it actually woke me up. I must find my mouthguard…

I felt immensely better when the truck from Lowe’s pulled up to deliver seven large bags of soil and my new three-tier, wood planter that joins the 8×8 garden plot. Later in the day, I received my 30 seed packets in the mail. Yes, I received my shipment and mail wearing a mask and gloves. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’ll be writing and will begin getting my hands dirty, I mean my gloves dirty Thursday morning. Can’t wait to begin.

Take good care of yourself, your family, and those you come into contact with during this pandemic. Be safe. Be kind. Be grateful. Be merciful.

 

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

How’s Your Feng Shui Doing? – Comedy in Gardening

beautiful rainbow at the river May 2014On Sunday, the weather was perfect at the river. I enjoyed the gorgeous breeze, sunny skies and an impossible array of green. Subtle greens, fluorescent yellow-green, deep emerald, all beautiful. The forsythia bushes have dropped their yellow blooms and bright yellow-green leaves are budding on the stems. The lilac seedlings I transplanted last summer are doing well; the shock of moving away from the mother lilac bush has eased. I hope they continue to thrive. Summer is quite a show at the river.

As I waited for my river co-owner to drive up from Virginia, I sat outside thumbing through a local magazine. The monthly magazine features local businesses, restaurants, inns, shops and farmer’s markets, and an article on the art of Feng Shui caught my eye. Now, I know very little about feng shui and can’t give you the history of the ancient art, but I do know the positioning of items in home, office, or property is key to achieving balance and good “chi” which means, energy.  The author of the article, a Feng Shui business owner, wrote, ‘In feng shui, heaven, earth and humans work together to be in sync with the natural order of things.’ I am a Reiki practitioner, so I understand ‘chi’. I would describe good energy as a feeling of balance, happiness and tranquility. A place with good energy is where you feel good, are creative, at peace, and productive. My home and garden have good feng shui, except sometimes in the area of finances and my love life…maybe I should move my bed.

I read about planning a garden while respecting and honoring ‘the lay of the land’ and working with what’s there – the wind, the sun’s path and the presence of water. I agreed with the author about collecting rain water in a barrel, having a compost pile, installing bird feeders, and using no chemicals in the garden. Our river property supplies food, shelter and water to birds, bees, river critters, and feral cats that usually tear through our garbage bags if we leave them out.

‘Of the five elements used in feng shui, water, wood, and earth are abundant. I looked around me. Gurgling, moving river, check. Fire pit, check. I’m a Virgo, an earth sign. Earth, yep I’m on the earth, check. Well, it’s no wonder I love it at the river – we have PERFECT feng shui there.

I am excited to begin planting by the waning and waxing moon because it sounds cool and I love anything to do with the moon. I will try to garden naked as the Feng Shui suggested…yeah, that might not happen. So, when my river co-owner finally arrived, I was excited to tell her about the article.  She immediately laughed. ‘Fung shuee, what?’ I corrected her pronunciation and proceeded to tell her about all the great energy we have at the river and how we should wait for the waning moon to plant certain flowering bushes.

She listened patiently, lit a cigarette, and when I finished, she said in her throaty accountant voice from Cape Cod, “Get the hell outta here! That’s pure horse crap!” So much for feng shui!

We laughed until our sides hurt and I was again reminded of how different we are. I’m the creative, spiritual one and my good friend deals with facts and figures every day. Our feng shui, energy and personalities are pretty different, but we share a fierce love of gardening. I told her that in regard to our river garden – I have enough feng shui for both of us!

I will miss D when she moves back to Cape Cod and our river property sells this year. We’ve enjoyed a great four-year river adventure with lots of memories to share when we’re old and gray. I mean really, really old and gray.

And you’d best believe I moved my bed for a better feng shui position.