This pandemic has been long, sad, scary, dark — and limiting. But more than a few good things came out of it.
- Remote church. We’ve gone in person several times (masks and sanitizer required, no shaking hands for Peace), but I like the convenience of virtual Mass, streaming live on Facebook. No need for gas in the tank or shoes on the feet; it’s a blessing. On Easter, I saw the lilies and sang the hymns, my Rose Gold MacBook balanced on a mixing bowl. Yesterday, I sat on the sofa and caught every minute without distraction, from Father Marc walking up the aisle to that gentleman in the first pew on the left, the last person standing, shrugging on his jacket and slipping his scarf around his neck. Likewise, remote PTA meetings at our middle school have been far more popular than in-person ones— you don’t need a sitter, a ride, a coat — and on Zoom, we all seem to have an equal voice.
- Outdoor book club. We seven women are Covid-conscious. At first, we switched to Zoom, but have since gathered outside, in Karen’s beautiful garden, on lounge chairs placed 6 feet apart; on Kate’s pretty patio, again at social distance, where she plated warm, melty brownies; in my backyard, with baked Brie and Prosecco by the trampoline; and most recently, four of us on Julie’s deck with hot cocoa, coffee, frothy steamed milk, thickly whipped cream — and a splash of Baileys. My daughter, Annie, a biologist, reminds our family constantly that we are all “chauffeurs” for this deadly virus. I take that to heart. I donned my mask when not sipping at book group; I’ve read that laughing and loud chatter spread Covid.
- Eye on fashion. This month, everyone from the Anthropologie sales associate (I popped in before the latest Covid spike) to my dental hygienist, who talks about many things I wish I could respond to but can’t, since she is earnestly polishing my teeth*, has praised the power of new reading glasses with modern frames to lift the spirit. I spent about $35 for a coral pair at a cute boutique in town (Pink Bungalow, #shoplocal, #shopsmall). They’re so stylish, my husband, Dan, panicked and saw $$$$ on first glance. Check RS frames.
- Candle trick. Now more than ever, you need candlelight at home. The glow warms the heart like a prayer or a birthday wish. I like GoodLight plant-based tea lights, sold in 24-packs at Whole Foods. They last much longer and burn brighter, clearer and cleaner than the cheap baby-marshmallow ones my fellow (I’m still grateful) bought in a big bag at Walgreens.
- Better recycling. Most of us are ordering takeout and cleaning house (it’s also our office/school) more often. I try to boycott eateries that fill plastic containers and to choose restaurants that use boxes and aluminum (most Chinese and old-school Italian; skip the soup.) And while I love iced coffee in a clear, logoed cup — the ripple of cream looks so pretty — I now ask for cubes and cold brew in a paper cup instead, until I can bring my own cup back again. I‘ve gradually built up my pure three-glass-bottle system from Common Good, stocked locally at a beautiful garden store up the road. I bring the bottles in for refills—and resist the urge to buy hand soap, dish soap and cleaning spray in single-use plastic bottles at CVS. (I still have not switched to a bar of dry shampoo or Common Good laundry soap, but might one day.) Also: good, old powdered Cascade in a cardboard box; new Beautycycle — recycle beauty jars, bottles and tubes at Nordstrom; and upcycling secondhand men’s shirts with crystal buttons.
- Oil change. I’ve been cooking since high school, but it took until now to know I should heat up the oil before adding the food. You probably do, but I didn’t. I used to put the oil and the mushrooms in at once and ignite the gas. After so much slinging hash now — veggie burgers, stir-fries, The Pioneer Woman’s eggs-in-a-hole, grilled cheese — I now see that the hotter the oil, the better the sizzle and browning. This applies to steak in the skillet, too, and to EVOO, safflower and walnut oils. P.S. The skillet is the Covid kitchen workhorse. We have three in rotation at all times.
- A chance to bond better. This alternates with driving each other crazy at home. But I’ve caught up with my sister and cousin on Zoom, and with three blogger pals. I attend two weekly Zoom support groups (one for parents), and joined a Sniffapalooza fragrance lovers’ event. My sister (in Connecticut) and I (New Jersey) registered and received sample vials in the mail, then 50+ people sniffed on cue, detecting notes of jasmine and pink grapefruit that conjure up Positano, Italy. This week, my small family and sister will sit out back with blankets, far apart, to do an Italian wine-tasting fundraiser for Devereux (the bottles arrived). On November 23, I’m roping in our two young women — ages 13 and 25 — to cook indigenous Thanksgiving foods in the kitchen. A box of heirloom ingredients, including nettles, will arrive on our doorstep; one of the teachers is Ethnobotanist Linda Black Elk.
Until the light comes back on, let’s all hold fast.
*I hadn’t been to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup in nearly two years, partly due to Covid closing and reopening delays.
Alice Garbarini Hurley is a writer and editor who published her first articles in high school — one was a team report about the best pizza slices in and around Dumont, New Jersey. (Uncle Frank’s was tops.) She has blogged daily for more than 10 years at TRUTH AND BEAUTY.