Teri Orr: Despite a pandemic disease, nature has a clock of her own
It was noon thirty-ish on Thursday and the governor had just issued his decree about Utah’s response to the coronavirus. The shutdown of events of more than 100 people. And the recommendation for people like me — over age 60 — to avoid groups of just 20 people. We knew something like this was coming and many of us had apparently decided to do midday shopping. Maybe it had to do with the Utah Jazz player testing positive and subsequently causing the shutdown of the entire NBA. And the news of a local resident who had traveled to Europe to ski and brought home something special with him — The Virus. There was sunshine and a strange sense of camaraderie at The Market. I didn’t see any hoarding of toilet paper or bulk buying of anything really — just stocking up — like something was coming and you needed to have the pantry full.
I ran into a good friend there. She looked at my cart. “I love you are buying flowers … today.” I smiled and before I could explain they are a kind of therapy and hope totem, she pointed out the Cornish game hens in her own cart. “Well, this is at least evidence we are not animals,” I said. We didn’t hug. We speak electronically and on phones a lot. The grocery hugs were virtual and authentic.
By the time I reached home the phone and emails were blowing up with friends from all over the country and outside this country … asking about our quarantine or shut down or the whole NBA thing and blaming (rightfully so) a Utah player for that.
My Italian friend wondered why we didn’t take a page from their book — early on they took things seriously — and with far more than a grain of risotto.
I had two dinners out this week in the same family restaurant on Main Street I have been frequenting since it opened. There are families who dine there often and together we have become our own kind of family. We discuss local politics and national ones. Books we have read and movies we had seen. It is safe there. The staff is friendly and remember some of our dining quirks. A wedding from one of the group is in the plans for summer and it involves international travelers to arrive here. There were conversations about that and how we wintered in our various lives. We spoke of each other’s children and grandchildren — who we know by face and name. There are still times when Park City can feel like a village. It will take all those emotions and ties to positively survive the days ahead.
I woke up the next morning grumpy because my personal clock and the sun time were completely out of sync. The shift to daylight saving time — which I do love with the longer sunlight days — is like learning to drive stick shift all over again for the first time. A series of stops and starts and all of them jerky. It seems we should just not change our clocks. Nature knows when the planet is rotating and what to do. We should just follow natural cycles — it would be so much better for children and people who do not like dark mornings.
I wish I could recognize more of the birdsongs I hear now. It is an embarrassment really — to think I have been on this planet long enough to be in the most endangered age bracket of humans for this deadly virus — and I haven’t learned the voices of the creatures who have been serenading me all my life. Of course — I know a few but this morning as the sun came up — eventually — the chorus began and I wanted to be a spotter. “There’s a meadowlark and a robin and the red-winged blackbird and a sparrow and a mockingbird.” But not all of those are even native here. … I realized how much I had missed bird songs and I also was aware how both comfortable and otherworldly their music felt right now. Little messengers really — reminders that despite what we humans do and don’t do, nature is hardwired to appear and reappear right on schedule. Its own.
When I pulled out of the driveway I noticed right in the tiny garden area — at the edge of my occasional lawn and under the shadow of the eventually flowering crabapple tree, there were bright, lime green shoots coming straight up out of the ground. There were several clumps of them. Thin, strong green straws, fighting for sunlight and oxygen. And I know all about Springtime in the Rockies — I have lived most my of my life enjoying my springs here. And so I whispered to the shoots, “Be strong, it is early still — there are storms to come before it is your time.” They are not yet the tulips or daffodils — those emerge later — maybe these are the baby grape hyacinths. Whichever they are — they have shot up after being under a mountain of heavy snow and they are seeking the light — it is what they are hardwired to do.
We are here now — both in a season that is hopeful and on a planet that is scary. For those who believe the universe is abundant and wise — it feels like a cosmic kind of reset. Climate change matters and sick and compromised lives matter and strong leadership matters. To those of you on the front lines here locally, working on a problem that is touching everyone globally, we are here — lightly quarantined — cheering each of you on in this unknown territory of keeping order along with health. Spring is arriving and with it so much colorful new growth. There will still be storms as there are each spring and yet — there will still fully be birdsongs and flowers and bees abuzz. And gatherings of people who love to see lovers find one another during times that test us all — random days of the week and Sundays in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde writes that other states forcing people who’ve been in Utah to quarantine could complicate ski season: “Come and enjoy a long holiday weekend in Utah, and, as an added bonus, you get to take an additional two weeks off work.”