Staying in Place Where no Pizza Restaurant Will Deliver
By Kate Morgan

Arugula germinates in five days. Honeybees fly in temperatures warmer than 50 degrees. Great horned owls make a clacking sound to warn you away from their nests, and a hungry cat will eat anything you offer it.

These are things I’m sure of – simple facts about the natural world that I’m clinging to in these weird, long, worrisome days.

There are plenty of things I’m not sure of, too: I don’t know what things will look like on the other side of an unprecedented global “pause.” I don’t know whether the people I love, who work in schools and coffee shops, dental offices and emergency rooms, will be ok. It’s unclear what this will mean for the weddings I’ve RSVP’d to this summer, or for the country’s economy, or for basic human connection.

But I can’t answer any of that, so I’m growing arugula.

Five years ago, when I moved from South Jersey with my boyfriend to a rural corner of Berks County, Pa, I couldn’t imagine I would ever get used to the quiet. It drove me crazy that the nearest Target was 35 minutes away, and the pizza place wouldn’t deliver. Now I’ve never been happier to live where I do, the way I do. I’m accustomed to social isolation, and to rarely leaving the house. It’s not like there’s anywhere to go. I’ve been working from home for years, so no awkward transition there, and there’s more than enough going on around here to keep me busy.

I’m usually traveling this time of year, but a lot of joy has come from staying put, voluntarily or not, for the spring. We added five new chicks to our backyard flock, which means that, for now, there’s constant peeping coming from my laundry room. We put in a big garden, where I’ve got cold crops – peas, broccoli, greens – growing happily, and the kitchen’s full of tiny tomato and pepper plants, just waiting for warmer weather. The two beehives are furious with activity, and there’s no better way to waste an hour than watching those laborers come home one at a time, loaded down with pollen.

We spend long afternoons outside with the dogs, and at the beginning of April a skinny young calico cat showed up and invited herself in. That same week, walking in the woods next to the house, we found two great horned owl chicks fallen from a collapsed nest. Under the watchful eyes of their very intimidating parents, we got them safely settled into a basket in another tree.

I’m feeling a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, and being hours away from South Jersey and my family is incredibly difficult. Like many other people, in the face of this crisis I feel simultaneously totally helpless and desperate to help. But I’m not sure I’ll remember this as a season of fear and confusion. Instead, the simple pleasures of this spring – the fresh air, the budding trees, the chickens, the garden and its pollinators, domestic critters and wild ones – are keeping me focused on hardiness, growth, resilience and renewal. It comes, as it always does, with a promise of better days ahead. Spring comes with hope.

April 24, 2020
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