Good News Monday #11: Wilderness, Delight, and Chai Tea.

COVID-19 hits close to home for me. Two family members tested positive. My niece, Sabrina, is in the hospital, while her husband stays home with their two small children.

There’s a lot of sad things to consider with COVID-19. For me, hospitalized people with no loved ones to visit, brings me to the brink of despair. Despair for the hospitalized, for their families and for the healthcare workers who depend on loved-ones to caress and whisper words of encouragement to their patients.

Yes, I’m feeling a little down it the dumps.

Yet, the good news came easily to me. Of course, there’s lots of news of people helping. I’ll start with a local story. A story about one of my friends.

Chai Tea Chats

Northwest Herald photograph. Click here for more

Loved-One and I enjoyed “Fiddler on the Roof” right before the gatherings of 10 or more were banned. We were among the lucky attendees of the free for senior citizens performances. It was the first and last performance. Kim Scherrer is the director of the local high school choir, and her husband Steve does the lighting. I know Kim because she directed the church choir when I started playing my flute there. She has the uncanny ability to coax near-perfection from every voice she coaches. But that’s only the beginning.

Kim understood that the most important thing the students miss during social distancing is each other. So she set up a way for them to visit virtually. Sure, they share musical performances based on prompts that Kim provides. But she’s gone beyond that to share ways to keep healthy; body, mind, and soul.

Thank you Kim.

Home Grown National Parks

Entomologist Douglas Tallamy began a movement to covert small gardens, yards, and even window boxes into natural habitats.

Douglas notice that the invasive plant species on his 20-acre farm had few caterpillars, which meant fewer moths and butterflies. That seems like a good thing, doesn’t it?

It turns out that insects form the basis of the food chain for other things, like birds, fish, frogs, snakes, and even small mammals. He says that 90% of insects develop and reproduce on plants that share an evolutionary history. Of course it doesn’t stop there. Hawks need small mammals and fish to survive. Fox need mice and squirrels. (Just this morning, Love-One and I saw a fox run across the yard with a squirrel in her mouth. I couldn’t help but think about happy kits waiting at home.) And on it goes up through the food chain.

At 68, Douglas found a larger passion: set the ecology right. It turns out that the insect variety is 45% less than pre-industrial times. Douglas’s idea is for each of us to do a little part, creating a patchwork of habitats without costing anyone very much. He wrote in Bringing Nature Home, “by untrained citizens with minimal expense and without any costly changes to infrastructure.” 

“I didn’t exactly plan it this way,” Tallamy says with a shrug. “In the musical chairs of life, the music stopped and I sat down in the ‘invasive plants’ chair. It’s a satisfying way to close out my career.”

Read more from the Smithsonia here.

Now that makes me smile.

Tending Joy

Maybe it’s the hope of spring. Maybe it’s because Ross Gay teaches in Bloomington, Indiana. (I do have a soft spot for Bloomington.) Maybe because I know how gardening brings me joy. At any rate, Sunday’s re-run of NPR’s “On Being” was just what the doctor ordered.

Ross started a Delight Book. Every day for a year he wrote an essay about something that brought him delight. This sounds a bit like a gratitude journal, yet it is different. Ross points out the the word essay is derived from the French, to try. Now, I ask you, doesn’t that make it easier to attempt an essay?

Ross says that he developed a sort of “delight muscle.” The more he looked for things, the easier he saw them. For instance, two people sharing the load carryinga grocery bag together. This very example brought up two memories that delight me. One is of me and my daughter trying to carry a jug of water up and down a half-mile path on a camping trip we shared. Another is a couple, each with a bad knee supporting each other in a sweet three-legged walk.

“Justice is love made perfect.” (Ross Gay)

Here’s a quote from one of Ross’s essays that really tickles me.

“Loitering” — “I’m sitting at a café in Detroit where in the door window is the sign with the commands NO SOLICITING / NO LOITERING stacked like an anvil. I have a fiscal relationship with this establishment, which I developed by buying a coffee and which makes me a patron. And so even though I subtly dozed in the late afternoon sun pouring in under the awning, the two bucks spent protects me, at least temporarily, from the designation of loiterer, though the dozing, if done long enough, or ostentatiously enough, or with enough delight, might transgress me over.

The Webster’s definition of loiter reads thus: ‘to stand or wait around idly without apparent purpose,’ and ‘to travel indolently with frequent pauses.’”

Among the synonyms for this behavior are linger, loaf, laze, lounge, lollygaggle, dawdle, amble, saunter, meander, putter, dillydally, and mosey. Any one of these words, in the wrong frame of mind, might be considered a critique or, when nouned, an epithet (‘Lollygagger!’ or ‘Loafer!’).

Indeed, lollygag was one of the words my mom would use to cajole us while jingling her keys when she was waiting on us, which, judging from the visceral response I had while writing that memory, must’ve been not quite infrequent. All of these words to me imply having a nice day. They imply having the best day. They also imply being unproductive. Which leads to being, even if only temporarily, nonconsumptive, and this is a crime in America, and more explicitly criminal depending upon any number of quickly apprehended visual cues.

For instance, the darker your skin, the more likely you are to be ‘loitering.’ Though a Patagonia jacket could do some work to disrupt that perception.

A Patagonia jacket, colorful pants, Tretorn sneakers with short socks, an Ivy League ball cap, and a thick book not the Bible, and you’re almost golden. Almost. (There is a Venn diagram someone might design, several of them, that will make visual our constant internal negotiation toward safety, and like the best comedy it will make us laugh hard before saying, ‘Lord.’)”

Click On Being for the Christa Tippett’s entire interview with Ross

I suppose my weekly focus on good news is a way to point my compass to things that delight me and bring joy to my life. It’s no coincidence that those things that bubble up involve the natural world, people practicing kindness, and examples of how love binds us into one human family.

What’s on your good news radar this week? The more the merrier. Help me exercise my delight muscle.