Being a Good Citizen

The CDC seems to be recommending mask-wearing if/when we open schools again in the fall. I will wear a mask if that is the recommendation by scientists and health care workers. I will do whatever I can to keep my students and their families a little safer. I’m exploring scarf-mask fashion. I have a couple elastic headbands, and I can fold a scarf around my neck, pull the headband down around that, fold the scarf down over that again, and I have six or eight layers of cotton fabric that I can pull up over my nose. I just need to get it tucked in around my neck. I’ll make some fitted masks in different patterns, too, just to make it fun. Maybe I’ll try to make some with funny faces.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate wearing masks. I’m a claustrophobe, and that extends to extended mask-wearing. I don’t like the suffocating feel of a mask. I also hate that we can’t see each other’s full expressions when we’re wearing masks. I actually can’t quite imagine how I am going to teach a full day of classes through one of these things. I might have to start trying out hijab styles and see if I can make that work more comfortably. But if mask-wearing to teach is the recommendation for safety and mitigation, I will do it.

I don’t wear my mask when I am walking on our road. That’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. If I lived in a busy urban area where I couldn’t move at least six feet away from passers by, I would wear it. Maybe I would want even more distance, since I pant when I walk fast, and so do the joggers on city streets, and that spreads more droplets. If I was walking down a quiet city street, I might carry my mask with me in case I met an unavoidable situation, but I wouldn’t wear it unless I felt it was necessary to normalize mask-wearing in that context.

Any time I enter a building that is not my home, no matter how few people are there, I think I will wear a mask. When I was cleaning out my classroom last month, I wore my mask in the building, but I was so overheated while I was packing up books in my classroom that I took it off while it was only me or my family in the room. It was probably okay to do that, but really–I should have worn it. It sounds like there’s much less chance of contracting the virus from touching something that’s been breathed on by an infected person; still, it would have been respectful of me to try harder.

So no. I am not suggesting we be unreasonable. I just think that mask-wearing shouldn’t be a source of tantrums and uncivilized behavior. Perhaps the media is latching onto a few isolated cases of immature tantrum-throwers and most people are being mature and community-minded. However, I see people out in close public situations without masks when I make one of my rare forays off the farm. I see people minimizing and scorning mask-wearing on social media. I hear friends’ stories of walking out of places where they went for essentials because so few people were wearing masks and they didn’t feel safe.

Have you heard of the Shopping Cart Test? There is no law that says you must return your shopping cart to a designated place. You can leave your cart in the middle of the driving lane of a parking lot with little likelihood of a consequence. But the vast majority of people know the system and work within it to make it go more smoothly for everyone. Most people are Good Shopping Cart Citizens. Some people suggest that one’s shopping cart etiquette might be a good indicator of their sense of citizenship and civic-mindedness.

Even though it is a governor’s mandate to wear a mask in public places, it appears that there’s not real consequence if you don’t. Most of the stories I have heard suggest that people are not throwing non-mask-wearers out of stores. You can probably get away with it. It’s kind of like choosing to leave your shopping cart behind someone’s car.

If you are resisting the public mask-wearing guidelines, I encourage you to carefully read some CDC literature about how face masks slow the transmission of the disease. I encourage you to look at your motivations for wearing/not wearing. Think about the kind of community you want to live in. Imagine that you might possibly be an asymptomatic carrier and that elderly woman you whose space you’re encroaching on in the line at Lowe’s is your grandmother. Slip a little “do-unto-others” into your pocket. And put on your mask when you go into public places. Let’s be good citizens.

(If you refuse a mask because you just want to “stick it to the Man,” I think you’re woefully misdirecting your rebellion. If you really want to start a Revolution, let’s talk. I’ve got some good ideas. But I’ll only meet you if we can do it outdoors, and we both wear masks.)


Gratitude:
Blue. Blue is always on my intrinsic gratitude list. Yesterday, a blue grosbeak sat on the feeder for a few minutes, his deep indigo drawing all surrounding color into himself. Then a bunting flashed by, and his feathers both absorbed and reflected the surrounding light. Moments later, a blue jay rowed through, showing off the lighter blue at the base of his tail feathers, and the way the black accents on his wings accentuate the deeper blue there. Bluebirds on the wire really do, as Thoreau said, “carry the sky” on their backs. Even on a grey and rainy day, the sky holds the blue that is behind the veil of rain.

If you ask me my favorite color, I would be quick to tell you that it is orange. Orange wakes me up and makes me happy. It encourages my fire and fierceness. But blue is always there. Always behind it all. With sudden flashings out when the birds fly by.

May we walk in Beauty!


“If you are planning for 1 year, plant rice.
If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees.
If you are planning for 100 years, teach your children.” —Proverb


“Life is wonderful and strange, and it’s also absolutely mundane and tiresome. It’s hilarious and it’s deadening. It’s a big, screwed-up morass of beauty and change and fear and all our lives we oscillate between awe and tedium. I think stories are the place to explore that inherent weirdness; that movement from the fantastic to the prosaic that is life.” —Anthony Doerr


“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ―Marcel Proust


Audre Lorde: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”


“Want what you already have.” —My mother says that my Great-Aunt Mary Ann used to say this.


“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ―Paulo Coelho


“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston

Just Wear It

Just wear it.

At first, the scientists and healthcare folks were saying they didn’t know how much good it did. They suggested that it might not matter. But as more people began to study this thing, it became clear that, yes, wearing masks–while not providing absolute protection–can actually provide a medically significant barrier to the droplets which are the main point of infection. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, singing, talking, breathing–these activities spread the droplets that carry the virus. Wear a cloth mask, and you reduce the chances that you are infecting someone else. If you’re both wearing them, the chances are doubly reduced.

Health care workers have been wearing masks to work for decades. Even with asthma. Even with respiratory issues. Cloth masks don’t filter out the fresh oxygen. They don’t hold in the carbon dioxide. They’re not meant to do that. They’re meant to filter droplets. They don’t always do that in a 100% foolproof way, but they reduce the transmission of droplets. They do that enough that the country’s top medical professionals and scientists seem to agree that we should all be wearing them in public places these days.

I’m not a scientist or a healthcare professional. But I would rather listen to their wisdom on this issue than the politicos and the screamers in the agora.

Look. If you call yourself pro-life, you have to wear the mask. It’s the real choice for protecting life. If you call yourself pro-justice, you have to wear the mask. It helps to equalize our chances of survival. If you call yourself a reasonable person, just wear it. Wear it like you wear your seatbelt. Wear it like you wear your bike helmet. Wear it like you wear a jacket to protect yourself from the cold.

This isn’t a conspiracy meant to take away your freedom. It’s not an illuminati cabal meant to mark you as belonging to the beast. It’s not a liberal hoax meant to take down the president and destroy the power of white men. It’s not a fear tactic meant to take away your faith in a God who will protect you.

It’s just a piece of cloth that will help to hinder the droplets that could cause one person to infect another. It’s just basic good citizenship.

Just wear it. Please.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird is back. Yesterday she spent a long time drinking from the mini-petunias, then gazed in the window at me.
2. My bridges. My anchors-with-wings. My voices in the storm. My clear-eyed gazers. I am blessed in friends who keep me from flying off in the gales–unless flying is what is best for me, of course. Friends who remind me who I am. Friends who keep me woven within the narrative.
3. The yellow iris. I know they’re invasive and weedy. I know we have to cut them back or they’ll choke the pond. I also now that they’re beautiful and resilient. You cut one stalk, bring it inside, put it in water, and one flower blooms. That one dies and another blooms below it. Then another and another. This one is on its fifth or sixth bloom. And they’re the fiercest sort of yellow.

May we walk in Beauty!


“In ancient Africa, in the Celtic lands, storytellers were magicians. They were initiates. They understood the underlying nature of reality, its hidden forces. The old Celtic bards could bring out welts on the body with a string of syllables. They could heal sickness with a tale. They could breathe life into a dying civilization with the magic of a story.” —Ben Okri


“I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply inside.” —Rosa Parks


“The historian deals with the past, but the true storyteller works with the future. You can tell the strength of an age by the imaginative truth-grasping vigour of its storytellers. Stories are matrices of thought. They are patterns formed in the mind. They weave their effect on the future. To be a storyteller is to work with, to weave with, the material of time itself.” —Ben Okri


“Storytellers are the singing conscious of the land, the unacknowledged guides. Reclaim your power to help our age become wise again.” —Ben Okri


“If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.” —Rev. Michael Curry


“I just want to celebrate you as you are, instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.” ―Rachel Macy Stafford


“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories. . .water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” ―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“Do you have an unconscious belief that the forces of evil are loud, vigorous, and strong, while good is quiet, gentle, and passive? Gather evidence that contradicts this irrational prejudice.

“Are you secretly suspicious of joy because you think it’s inevitably rooted in wishful thinking and a willful ignorance about the true nature of reality? Expose these suspicions as superstitions that aren’t grounded in any objective data you can actually prove.

“Do you fear that when you’re in the presence of love and beauty you tend to become softheaded, whereas you’re likely to feel smart and powerful when you’re sneering at the ugliness around you? As an antidote, for a given amount of time, say a week or a month or a year, act as if the following hypothesis were true: that you’re more likely to grow smarter when you’re in the presence of love and beauty.” ―Rob Brezsny


“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz


Mary Oliver:
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.”


“If someone asks, ‘What does perfect beauty look like?’
Show him your own face and say, like this.” —Rumi