RICHMOND — Even with daylight shrinking quickly over the weekend, the days seem to have so many more hours than they once did.
No meandering through shops, no quick trips to the grocery store, fewer haircuts, no popping into the library, no changing clothes for dinner out, no trips out of town to ballgames or to visit grandchildren or old friends. No movies.
The virus, for anyone taking care, has put its stamp on so many things, and time seems to be one of them. Years ago, an Eagle columnist named Cynthia Seton wrote something dear to the heart of all young mothers — some days, she said, it seems like 3 o’clock in the afternoon forever. Those were the days of being really tired just as the kids’ naps ended, of wishing the other adult would arrive earlier than usual, of yearning for conversation.
Now, the to-do list of the day is full of cross-outs before lunch, and taking a walk, cooking something or opening a new jigsaw puzzle rank high among the options for dealing with the clock. On the plus side, virus-earned time means the plastic mulch is gone from the tomatoes, the stones that held paper mulch in place have been piled up so they won’t clog the rototiller, dozens of plants are entering dormancy in a beheaded state, and several of the rhizomes of a pale blue iris have been dug, trimmed and replanted after years of neglect.
And the biggie: blueberry nets removed, cleaned of grass and leaves and stored.
And then came the snow. Ordinarily, the first snowfall makes people smile. It’s beautiful, it covers up a lot of brown stuff, it heralds the coming of favorite November and December holidays, and it’s attached to snowmen, warm fires and sleds.
But, not when the calendar still says October. Not when the maple trees are still throwing a blanket of leaves on the lawn, a little thick for the usual process of crunching them into mulch by mowing instead of raking. Stuff that has to be put away is neatly stacked at the edge of the garden, covered (still covered on Saturday in this part of town) with snow.
It seemed like a bit much on top of the two V’s that haunt us this year: virus and voting. And it seemed even worse when a quick trip to West Stockbridge, not exactly the Sun Belt, revealed that all the snow had melted there. Altitude changed attitude at a time when reports on the pandemic were stressful enough. It would have been a good day to have a snowball fight.
Part of the stress here comes from watching Berkshire County wear masks and party little, while people in other parts of the country flout the recommendations of public health officials, apparently thinking what they do has no link to rapidly rising rates of infection — or the death toll.
It’s matter of both wonder and disgust that so many seem to have a cavalier attitude about nearly a thousand coronavirus deaths a day. Compare that to 128 a day across the U.S. from overdosing on opioids, 102 from auto accidents, 132 from suicide.
We all spend untold hours of time trying to prevent these deaths with money and laws and education — and shed tears when one of the victims is one of ours. Compared to rehab, crashes and depression, wearing a mask seems simple.
But, once again, the garden proved a stress reliever. My mother always said that when you were upset about something, you should pull weeds. With no weeding left to do, I took an old broom and beat the snow off 7-foot stalks of ornamental grasses, grounded by the sticky snow, until they slowly began to get up. By the next day, they were fluffy and swaying again.
It may be 3 o’clock in the afternoon forever, but we, too, have to get up, find a mask and take a walk. By the way, it’ll be dark in an hour.