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Toward Life after a Pandemic

Aerobically composted chicken manure granules for garden fertilizer.

It rained overnight. The driveway was damp as I stepped outside to look at the sky. Clouds were clearing and the big dipper stood out, pointing to the North Star. We are not lost.

It’s a good day to live.

As of yesterday the official number of deaths from COVID-19 was 21,050. By official, I mean those submitted to the National Center for Health Statistics and recorded based on death certificates. There is a lag in the data as the coronavirus reaches exponential spread in the United States. It takes a while to prepare and submit death certificates.

Iowa is in dire shape. We’ve slowed growth of the bell curve yet a surprising number of cases in meat packing plants and care facilities drives the number of cases upward. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “After June 26, 2020, relaxing social distancing may be possible (in Iowa) with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size.” June 26 is two months away. We’re not out of the woods, and we can’t see the edge of the forest.

I donned protective garb and went out. On Tuesday I went to the wholesale club to provision up on dairy, fruit and vegetables, and a few pantry items. Grocery shopping is my least favorite thing during the pandemic, so I got enough to make it another two weeks.

Yesterday I drove to Monticello to pick up two 50-pound bags of aerobically composted chicken manure crumbles for the garden. I followed their limited contact pickup procedure which was writing the check at home and turning it in after I backed up to the loading door. The warehouse worker loaded my trunk while I returned to the driver’s seat. I also stopped at the public library to pick up supplies for the volunteer project on which my spouse is working. No contact social distancing all around.

In a certain sense, we just crashed into the isolation that is social distancing. A couple of things clarified. I’m not sure I will return to work at the home, farm and auto supply store after my 30-day leave of absence. If I do resign, I doubt I’ll reapply any time soon. It also seems clear our pensions will pay our basic bills with something left over. We’ll continue to pay down debt, although likely at a slower pace.

My daily life remains an educated mishmash. My schedule from 3 a.m. until sunrise is pretty good. It’s the rest of the day that seems to have little planning. What holds me back is besides gardening and a few household maintenance items, I don’t know what will be my main direction after the pandemic recedes.

There is no going back to a life lived prior to the pandemic. These days are good preparation for living more with less resources. Maybe I will be able to retire from paid work. If retired, I’ll still need productive work. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic it’s hard to determine what that is. Defining post-pandemic life will take deliberate planning. If I approach it with considered hesitancy, it’s because I know what’s at stake.