A recent segment on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” featured the concept of “cooking fatigue.” Not surprisingly, the wave of intense cooking and baking that was seen at the beginning of the pandemic — leading to shortages of such items as flour, beans and rice — is beginning to wane.

As the sole cook in my house, I tired of constantly preparing meals by June. I didn’t fling myself into bread baking or pie making. Instead, I have found solace in preparing the same things on the same days of the week. This also helps me spend less time in the supermarket.

Still, even though I am heartily sick of cooking and eating at home, I would not say that everything that’s happened in this pandemic is negative. I do see some bright spots.

The crazy anti-maskers notwithstanding, most of us have risen to the task of doing what needs to be done. I sometimes have a moment in the supermarket when I suddenly remember I am wearing a mask. I’m waiting on a red line for a staffer to tell me to proceed to a checkout aisle, where I will wait on another red line.

If you had told me a year ago that this is the way we would be living now, I would not have believed it. But we just put one foot in front of the other and adapted. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible in a country that had elected Donald Trump.

Of course, we would be doing a lot better at this point if the president had actually led the country through this thing. I am angry, too, at the people who insist on having unsafe gatherings that have led to widespread community transmission in Maine.

And yet, at the same time, I see a positive shift in our culture that I think will last. People are spending more time at home, with their families. Apparently, according to our arborist, they look outside more now, and realize a tree should be cut down or pruned. My husband, Paul, and I are having a hard time getting our handyman over to fix a dryer vent because he’s so busy. We had to wait a month for electricians to come in the summer.

Not only is this good news for tradespeople, it shows a return to healthy values. We may be streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime Video more, but we’re also doing jigsaw puzzles, knitting and gardening. Last year, families sat in restaurants and stared at their phones. Now they’re playing Monopoly on their own dining room table.

As a school librarian, I’ve worked with middle school students for 30 years. I did not think school could work in a pandemic. But school is safe. The masks stay on. Students are reminded constantly to sanitize their hands. They eat lunch at individual tables three feet apart.

The school experience demonstrates that the virus can be contained if people follow the rules. Certainly there are students who have to be reminded to pull their masks back up over their noses. Yes, we have virus cases in my district. We will be remote the week after Thanksgiving, in hopes of stemming post-holiday spread. But at the outset of the current school year, many of us thought we’d have to go fully remote much sooner.

Social distancing, alas, comes at a price. It is uncomfortable to wear a mask for hours. Adults in particular are socially isolated. School is so quiet that we can keep the library doors open — and we are off the food court. In the past, we could hear the lunchtime roar through the glass.

Those were the days.

One of my friends, who is also a teacher, said to me, “I miss everyone and everything.”

Yes.

And yet … while I miss going out to eat and to the movies, Paul and I have discovered new places to hike and have picnic lunches. I thought I knew all about the beauty of Maine, then we’d find yet another exquisite spot. A couple of weekends ago, we found ourselves on an isolated gravel beach. A dog ran toward us; its owner was a speck in the distance. Then they were gone. We had the beach to ourselves on a perfect Indian summer day. Then another couple showed up and sat quietly on a bench. It felt too good to be true.

It is possible to forget there’s a pandemic going on, in moments like that. I am grateful for every one of them.

Yes, I am sad and scared about the way things are going in Maine. Winter will be hard enough to endure with short, cold days and limited indoor activities. If we have shutdowns and restrictions again, it will be twice as hard. Add to that the increased fear of catching the virus and the next few months look nothing but bleak.

And yet, I have a long list of books to read and woodstove fires to look forward to. I bought new snowshoes.

I still expect the worst, but I’m hoping for OK. And, every day, striving to see the silver linings.

 

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].

 


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