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The view from the home front

Even in a time of pandemic, life goes on. Here are stories and a poem from a community sheltered in place.

Plymouth the persistent

The first I heard of him was Friday midafternoon, when my wife Cary texted me a photo of a turkey in front of our house on Still River Road. A little unusual perhaps, but stressful times. And this wasn’t his first stop—he’d earlier appeared at the house across the road, scaring the dickens out of the 6-month-old there.

Plymouth. (Courtesy photo)

But I got home, kissed my wife, greeted the turkey, and went in for supper. Shortly thereafter, he made his way to our back door and stood looking in. It was a nice evening for a walk, and I went outside to check on him. He seemed to like me and began to follow me down Still River Road, and then down Depot Road. I figured I’d lead him to the river, and that would be that. We were becoming buddies, and so I named him, Plymouth (after all, every turkey in Washington has a name; why not this one?). But halfway down, my neighbor Steve Peisch came out to take photos, and allegiance was immediately transferred. Plymouth went no farther, and spent the night on this new doorstep. Great; not my problem anymore.

Until early Saturday morning, when my phone rang. “Nick, can you help me get rid of this turkey at my door?” How could I say no to such an invitation? The two of us (plus onlookers) chased him around for a while, and finally herded him down the road, propelled by a length of wire garden fencing held between us. A call to the animal control officer resulted in the two of us being deputized to take whatever action we deemed necessary, short of his ending up on the dinner table. Darn! So on down the road, and we got him into the brush just before the tank bridge, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.

It wasn’t to last. Not 100 yards back up the road, we turned around and there he was, matching us step for step. We didn’t have a clue what to do with him, so we encircled him with the fencing and left him there. We’d mull it over and a solution would come to us, and besides, Steve’s fence, Steve’s problem, worked for me. Until we got back to his house, and turned around, and there was this turkey again!

Our patience was starting to wear thin, and so I got the dog crate out of the car, and more chasing ensued. At one point we thought we had him cornered, but he crawled under the car and on to freedom, knowing that a 6-foot distance between humans leaves a lot of space for a bird. But we finally threw some plastic sheeting over him and caught him, and stuffed him into the crate. Just like any dog, he calmed right down, and is now a resident of Lancaster.

But the story remains bittersweet. The day after, I chanced to drive past the clearing where I’d first left him at the edge of the woods. And he was still there, waiting, looking, for I don’t know what. I hear turkeys are territorial, and pretty unpleasant, but still…

—Nick Browse, Still River Road

Forsythia Quarantine

My plan when I planted this forsythia hedge

was to scribe a border, a natural edge

fencing the neighborhood’s strolling street

from my front yard flowers, that would not compete

with a walker’s eye view of the playful tease

’tween my English garden and my Japanese.

My faux-French parterre transformed the lawn

into an adventure of paths, while Paradise reborn

hailed a cacophony of color for my morning java stroll

to retrieve the news shrouded in its plastic scroll.

Now my forsythia hedge, this Golden Crescent of Spring,

protects six feet of separation for safe conversing

with fresh-air walkers who, having slipped quarantine,

pause to gossip through my forsythia screen.

—Suzan Osborn, Park Lane

Homebound with a killer

Our cat killed a mouse last night. That might not seem like breaking news, but it’s the second mouse he’s killed this week. We’ve had Mr. Kitty for nearly seven years, and a mouse problem much longer than that, but he has never considered it his responsibility to address that problem. Once in a while he’ll chase a mouse, and sometimes catch it, but he never seems to know what to do next. Sometimes he’ll drop it, and the two of them will just stand there looking at each other, trying to work out the next step. The mouse almost always has a better exit strategy, but Mr. Kitty is not one to hold a grudge.

Customarily, he spends his days curled up in the sun on the bed, or in my favorite chair, rousing himself roughly a half-hour before mealtimes so he can lobby for early service. But this week, as we’re all cooped up together in an increasingly small house, he seems to have concluded that he needs to pitch in a little. He’s clearly devoted to us, but a spirit of cooperation has never been evident before now.

Maybe it’s just that he’s dimly aware that this virus could interfere with the food service he so enjoys. What if we run out of cat food and can’t get out to shop for more? Like everyone else, Mr. Kitty is coming up with a plan. And like all of our plans, it will take some getting used to—especially for the mice.

— Connie Larrabee, Under Pin Hill Road

At the Harvard post office

I  had walked to the post office to see if their hours had changed. A man at the counter was finishing up the process of mailing a package. He volunteered that he was mailing toilet paper to his friend in Boston who is immuno-compromised, living alone, and can’t go out.

And no, the hours haven’t changed.

—Margaret Kusner, South Shaker Road

Sailing in heavy weather

The signs were all there. A dark horizon. Five- to 7-foot swells. Wind gusts to 40 knots. And as Gayle reefed the mainsail, the sun darkened behind the massive thunderhead coming in from the west. We had prepared. All lockers and equipment were stowed and secured. Rachel, David, and Geoffrey were wearing their lifejackets and their tethering lines. Of course, Gayle and I, already in our foul-weather gear, were tethered to the helm. All hatches secured. The marine radio buzzed with heavy weather warnings.

Now our experience and skill would be tested. And this was no dream. There was no escape, no turning around or control-alt-delete. Our lives depended upon our ability to weather the storm; to bring to bear all that our parents, our teachers, our friends, colleagues, and training had taught us. And I knew we were going to do this. I knew we were up to it. The risk was real and immediate. But so was our focus, devotion, and diligence.

To those with courage and sensitivity, nature teaches many lessons. We can draw upon such lessons during this difficult time. Preparation, teamwork, letting go of some things and holding on to others.

Many have seen troubled times before. However, most of us have been spared a global catastrophe that in the past threatened the survival of previous generations. Our current culture has had the luxury of complacency. We have lived throughout our lives without the shadow of a real global threat, confident in the predictability of good as well as bad times. And then we get hit with a global disaster. And it is our turn.

We have grown accustomed to easy access to quality medical care. We assume we will always have access to modern conveniences and services. “Surely there won’t be any real threat to my getting emergency care…”

But, yes, now there will be. While my colleagues in health care work to sustain access and an acceptable standard of care, their resources falter and drain. What should be understood is that, as beds fill with victims of COVID-19, the ability to treat other urgencies and emergencies will decline and potentially be exhausted. Think about acute trauma, acute heart attacks, acute breathing trouble, gastrointestinal bleeding, and all other acute medical emergencies that will now compete for medical services.

For our part, our family has heeded the warnings, doing all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19. We have adopted the CDC recommendations and now venture beyond our neighborhood only if absolutely needed. We are blessed to live in a community such as Harvard where we needn’t go very far to enjoy the natural beauty. And has the air been any fresher? Has the sky been any clearer? Although we continue to entertain ourselves with online communications and entertainment, there has been no better time to enjoy simply being outside..

Yet I am reminded of sailing through the storm. We need to prepare. We need to work together. We need to keep a proper perspective and keep safe those we cherish.

The heavy weather is upon us. But we can get through this.

—Bob Coit, Old Littleton Road

Editor's Note: How are you coping with these unprecedented times?  The Press wants to know. We’ll take care of the news; but we need your help to tell the human side of this crisis. Send us a photo with a caption or an anecdote (up to 250 words) about how you are getting through your days. What is bringing you comfort? What insights have you gained? What have been your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them? Your photos and stories, antidotes to isolation, will help bring us closer together in this time of social distancing. Send to
editor@harvardpress.com with subject “stories” and include your name and address.

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