Anne Horrigan Geary: Survival skills for the sheltered in place

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How do I cope with being cooped up and penned in by the pandemic?

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I am doing it "to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach."

I am alternately as depressed as Sylvia Plath, and as silly as Edward Lear. There are two cats here, and a gaggle of birds at the window; but we haven't made any progress in going out to sea in our pea green boat like "The Owl and the Pussycat" did.

There once was a woman from Dalton

Who fell into a sea they called Salton

She swam and she swam

Till she tripped on a clam

And woke up in a store owned by Walton.

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Limericks are easy and fun, and I have always been a terrible poet. Desperate times like these call for desperate measures, and I am way beyond desperate this week. The other day I took a four-hour nap! I am trying my best to get up before noon, get dressed and accomplish something useful before the sun goes down; but some days it's touch and go.

Each and every day I have found solace and surprise by looking out the window, watching the world green up, and communing with the avian visitors. I don't know what the collective noun is for a whole lot of goldfinches. I am appropriating the term "gaggle," usually reserved for geese, because this gang is definitely gaggling. They show up at the feeders, fill every post, form a waiting line in the crabapple branches, and suck up thistle seed like they are at an all-you-can-eat buffet, then swan over to the sunflower seed for dessert.

Purple finches occasionally muscle in for a meal, or a chickadee drops in for a quick bite, but the goldfinches rule this birdyard. The robins practice social distancing extremely well, as they stay at least 10 feet away, hopping across the grass and stopping to listen for worms. My new favorites of the flock are a pair of downy woodpeckers who routinely visit the suet, suspended in a cage in the crabapple. Rarely does the red-bellied woodpecker appear, but his appearance is always noted because of his bright red plumage (not on his belly).

My second, and oldest, form of entertainment is reading. I'm a read-aholic. I often read a book a day, and that makes for some late nights. In addition to my new favorite poet, Nikita Gill, I am reading all sorts of American and British mystery writers. Because I'm always looking for bargains, I read lots of the e-books on my husband's Kindle when they are free or 99 cents. I do have a box of actual books in the mail from Barnes & Noble because I only get the Kindle during daylight hours.

In a solid third place in my sanity survival kit is music, but in a different form than my usual CD listening experience. I have latched on to YouTube performances from individuals and groups around the world. Now, choirs and orchestras are playing remotely, joining together by the modern miracle of technology to perform in my dining room anytime I choose. Yesterday, I heard a British youth orchestra and a choir from Notre Dame in Paris.

For Easter, I attended virtual Mass at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston and listened to the friars sing the special resurrection music I love so well. Easter was my favorite time singing in St. Charles' Grammar School choir, and those holy tunes — with booming organ accompaniment — still give me chills.

Today, I watched the performance of a young cellist, who was playing earnestly while a gray and white cat was perched on his shoulder and occasionally rubbed its face on the artist's beard. Music and cats together — a double delight. I liked it so much I might write a poem about it. Stay tuned!

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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