Today was largely characterized by documenting my quarantine housemate Will making bread. The man has been producing homemade sourdough bread like a machine for a few weeks. Last night he asked if anyone wanted to join his adventure and study the art of bread making. I agreed. I started documenting it on my Lyd in the Veggie Life series on Instagram. It's a series that rejects the "serious instagram foodie" aesthetic and takes practical, instructional shots of how to make affordable vegetarian meals. I've been a vegetarian since I was about ten and like to share my perspective. I think maybe three people really enjoy that I do it. Four, if you count me. I woke up this morning to will knocking on my door at a ripe 11 am. It was time to make more bread. Throughout the day I would create an epic Instagram story comprised of 150+ ten second long videos.
Today in Michigan news, the Governor has ordered all "places of public accommodation," including bars and restaurants, to be closed. These places can still offer food as carry out or curb-side pick up. The Governor also prohibited gatherings of 50 or more people. She also expanded un-employment benefits. It is getting more real every day.
It is technically a teacher work day, although I still have until Wednesday before the official launch of this new world of teaching. Our district has decided to call it "Extended Learning" to unify what language we use when talking about this weird unknown time. I expect that it also was meant to deter people from using the sometimes inaccurate generalization of "Online Learning."
Social media is filled with teachers reaching out and offering support. A global community of teachers has come together in essentially a weekend to figure out how we can best pool our knowledge to offer the best education and emotional support to our students while it seems like the world is turning upside-down around us. Both my Facebook feed and email are flooded with teachers sharing educational resources that are now offering their services for free. Everyone is on one team here.
My district has sent out another email in anticipation of the workweek. There will be two meals a day available for students starting tomorrow. Anyone can pick them up, the meals are not limited to students in the district. There's a link for an article about trauma related to the recent school closings. It's a great thing to share and I am glad my district is thinking about the social-emotional well-being of our students, but it's hard to find solace in a link right now. There's a link for students to fill out if anyone is having technology issues. IEP meetings will happen by phone call/video conference. The buildings will be closed after 1 PM today. Students will be allowed into school to pick up belongings, but their entrances are going to be staggered by last name. Students are to grab essential things only, not clean out all of their belongings. Parents will not be allowed in. For the elementary schools, a staff member will escort the child in the building. I imagine a kindergartner, with little ability to understand the scope of what is going on, being dropped off at their school to find almost empty hallways, being escorted by someone they don't have a connection with. That is not to say parents should be let in. I think the district is right in limited visitors to the school in this public health emergency. But what is right is not comforting.
I did some prep work to make sure everything was ready to go. I uploaded all the videos Joe and I took on Friday and drafted a statement to the students and families. An FAQ sheet is being sent out by all the principals. It covers lots of potential concerns, and emphasizes that new material is not to be taught in this time. Although I agree with the logic that it would not be equitable to teach new material remotely, it is not fulfilling as a teacher to know we just will not get through the curriculum for the year. What is right is not comforting.
I wonder if other schools are giving free meals to kids of the community. I wonder what schools are doing where there is not technology available at home. Our school is working on getting WiFi to the families that need it. The meals are being delivered to the poorest apartment complexes. Are other schools able to do this? Did other teachers get a long weekend to prepare for a new world of teaching? At this point I am seeing snippets of teachers posting on Facebook and Instagram, but most of it is about how to best teach students, not complaints about any situation. I think I know the answers I seek, but I am not ready to seek them. I do not think I can handle every reality of the world at this moment.
One of the things I have been able to fall back on no matter what is happening in my life is playing cello, Through high school and college I practiced hours a day. The routine of diligently working at crafting one's art becomes therapeutic in an almost addicting way. In college I would feel off on a certain day and not figure out what was up until I realized I hadn't practiced. It's what I did on great days and days after break-ups and all the days in-between. I cut down my amount of practicing significantly once I started teaching, but I still try to get an hour in a few times a week, and I play music with other people at least once a week. I can tell when practicing is what I need and I know that playing with other people weekly is why I am happy where I am in life.
I decided that while I am staying with three highly skilled jazz musicians I should really learn some Jazz. The housemates decided that the Joe Henderson tune Black Narcissus would sound beautiful on cello. So I practiced my warm-ups and etudes then found a housemate approved chart of Black Narcissus, listened to a record of it, and started my work. It felt great.
It was just warm enough that I could sit out in the sun with a jacket and blanket and read. I was almost done with Their Eyes were Watching God, a recommendation from Max's mom. It was the climatic part of the book where (spoiler alert) the main characters escape a devastating hurricane by swimming through it. It is chaotic, dramatic, and tragic. I think about the world we are in now. Chaos, while I sit and read in the sun. I think of the hospital workers and grocery store cashiers on the front lines. They are the ones saving lives. Hospital workers are posting pictures telling people to stay home. So stay home I do. But what is right is not comforting.
Will joins me on my neighborhood walk. There are beautiful woods on the edge of the neighborhood with bare trees and trails where people frequently trodden over the fall leaves from many months or years ago. On our way to the woods we pass by siblings playing in the driveway, arguing about the rules of their basketball game, parents playing ball with their kids in the yard, and the happiest of doggos, prancing around with their humans who have all the attention in the world for them. Children race past us on bikes and scooters. The sidewalks are decorated in chalk. It feels like an illusion of a happy world.
The woods themselves are filled with people just like us, taking their walks to acquaint themselves with nature and escape the monotony of their homes. Every time we are about to cross paths with someone else on the narrow trail, we step off the path, giving them at least six feet clearance to pass us. Although most people are running (like Max is somewhere in the woods), walking with family, or walking a dog, we pass some people on phone calls and video chats. Will expresses what I am thinking, "It doesn't make sense to me that people could be looking at their phones when we could be looking at this," he says, gesturing at the trees. The birds are singing more than they have sung in months. Or maybe they always sing like this and I just have not been listening until now. We get to a small swampy body of water along the trail. We stop and look for awhile. We live in such a crazy world where it takes a pandemic to let people prioritize seeing the beauty of our world every day.
After a climatic cutting of the beautiful finished bread loafs, we settle down for bed. The primaries in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois are set to happen tomorrow. Ohio was set to happen too, but the governor postponed them. Or recommended they did. It was complicated, but long story short, they were postponed.
Max is not happy that there are sill primaries happening. In fact, it makes him furious. It is irresponsible for them to ask people to vote in public places when the CDC is begging people to stay home. There must be a political strategy that benefits some corporate politician if America is getting away with this. Max's anger grows to frustration at the DNC. Then it grows to the whole primary season and politics in America. We are both pretty worked up about it even though we are on the same team. After half an hour or maybe an hour of the most shouting or shouting like conversation we have ever had between us, we breath. Some people need to sob. Some people need to just be angry.
We haven't had time to process anything. There has been too much at once. Even in the day to day self-care activities like reading and practicing and walks, it feels like we are swimming through the hurricane, not processing that what we are swimming through is the wreckage of normalcy. Then the end of the day comes and we see the ruins start to pile up. There are more and more news alerts of new cases, deaths from cases, and inequity in who is getting treatment. It is far away but it is not. It only exists on our phones but it is just down the street.
What we did have was each other. And how comforting that was, to hold each other tight as we drifted into the night.