The Planted Row: It won't always be this way

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

There are some signs that this spring is like most others. When the sun is out and the air is warm, people are out walking, jogging and biking — happy to leave the house after a cold winter, as they would be in any other year.

But they don’t pass each other as they usually would. With nods and strained smiles, they swerve to the side to keep at least 6 feet between themselves and others. Meeting someone else on the sidewalk is no longer as welcome as it used to be.

There are no more happy sounds of children playing at recess at the nearby school during the week. There are no kids wearing backpacks and carrying musical instruments walking home in the afternoons.

I haven’t seen my coworkers in person for weeks now. I haven’t met friends for dinner or drinks. I haven’t been to the movie theater. I haven’t taken my children to birthday parties or sleepovers. I am not keeping track of the specials at my favorite restaurants. I don’t know what’s on tap at my favorite watering hole. I can only hope they’ll still be in business when this is all over.

With all this isolation, we’re looking for new ways to connect.

My children are interacting with their friends online and I am, too. My high school classmates have started weekly video chats. I haven’t seen most of these people in almost 25 years, but in the face of this pandemic, we’ve found each other again and are swapping old stories and sharing laughs just like we did when we were young.

Even churches have moved their messages of hope and love online.

City fire departments are driving by the homes of children on their birthdays, blaring their sirens and sharing well-wishes via loudspeaker.

Paper hearts are filling windows of homes, schools and businesses across the country. Volunteers are sewing masks and finding ways to help others from a distance.

And of course, we’re all going outside as much as we can. On one walk this week, I allowed our path to carry us out of town and into the countryside. As I stood on the edge of a stubble field, I felt safer than I had in weeks. There, under a sunny sky, breathing the clean air of Farm Country, no virus was coming for my family and me.

For a moment, anyway. We couldn’t stay there, and even the people who live on isolated farms can’t stay there forever. Humans are social creatures. We need each other.

We’re forced to face the reality of this pandemic. Eventually, many of us will catch the novel coronavirus, but we don’t know when the virus will arrive in our homes or what our reaction to it will be.

That uncertainty is what makes it so hard to get a handle on life at the moment.

It helps me, at least, to remember that it’s not always going to be this way. There are signs that the social distancing measures taken by most of the country are starting to slow the spread of the virus. Doctors and scientists are racing to find potential treatments and develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus at a record pace.

We’re doing what humans do. We’re working the problem, and eventually we will solve it — as we have with so many other challenges in our history. Until then, keep your distance from your neighbors, stay as connected with your friends and family as you can online, and grab a breath of fresh air every chance you get.