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Coronicles - 1
Stories from the Great Pandemic
by Art MacDonald

 

So, while Art usually writes in the first person, he is finding the need to socially distance himself and will therefore write this piece in the third person - third minus first: there's your two meters social distance right there.

Coronicles are COVID-related stories that Art has heard or read and that he thinks are worth repeating.

The Chicken Stories

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you're self-isolating?

"Let's get some chickens!"

You wouldn't think so but Art has first-hand evidence - even way back in March the chick supply chain in Quebec and Ontario was sold out. It turns out you can get day-old chicks mailed to you from as far away as London, Ontario, or you could if they had any to spare. By April the only chicks you could get were a random selection of left-over chicks if more hatched than expected.

Hen in a laying box

 

The thing about a random selection is, it includes roosters. By the law of averages, if you get a dozen chicks, you're likely to have six roosters. It's not easy to tell a rooster from a hen until either the rooster starts crowing or the hen starts laying eggs. If you got chicks in the spring, this will be happening just about now. Because roosters typically crow from sunrise, they'll have to become dinner or be given away.

But now another issue surfaces. Chickens are a delicacy for various predators. Predators like raccoons, foxes, hawks, and fishers detect a chicken smell from miles away. The chickens have to come inside a secure coop for the night or you're likely to find only a few feathers the next morning.

So yeah, the mortality rate is high. Don't name them - the kids will be traumatized. Ask people about their chickens and you get stories like, "Yeah, we had four and the dog ate them." "We had chickens and something got into the coop and killed them all." " A raccoon got them one by one." Etc.

Yes, Corona chickens. If you have managed to raise them until they lay eggs, it is just in time for the second wave. You, know, the one where the IGA runs out of eggs again and you can supply the neighbours, trading for flour, yeast and toilet paper. And frozen spinach - who knew chopped frozen spinach was an essential vegetable that was out of stock for months.

The Vegetable Garden Stories

If you're not going to raise chickens, you can grow vegetables. Unfortunately, there are a lot of parallels. At least the vegetables don't poop everywhere, run around, escape the coop and crow at 4:30 in the morning but they do get eaten. As a matter of fact, Art thinks the vegetable failure rate exceeds the chicken failure rate. At least, if caterpillars eat your kale, you can still salvage some leaves while a dead chicken is pretty much a dead end.

But there are challenges. Arts Hudson columnist James Parry has written about how some Hudson families grew vegetables during the lockdown but Art has stories of seeds not sprouting, young plants not growing, snails and caterpillars eating plants and chipmunks making of with all the cherry tomatoes. And that was before the moose showed up. A moose going through your vegetable garden is pretty much it for that season.

The Mask Stories

Covering your nose and mouth with a mask has been the one unifying symbol of the Covid-19 pandemic, signifying that you care for your fellow humans and that you will stand shoulder to shoulder with at risk people to keep everyone safe.

Maybe in another reality, not this one. Why has wearing or not wearing a mask become divisive? Art calls them the "WE" people and the "I" people. The "WE" people say, "We need to wear masks to keep others safe in case we are asymptomatic carriers." The "I" people say, "I'm not part of your 'we' and I think masks are useless so I don't see the point of wearing one."

Then the "WE" people say, "Even if masks make only a small difference, they become a symbol of solidarity with the essential workers who are most at risk. That's why we wear them in stores and wherever social distancing is not possible." The "I" people then say that the small risk is so tiny as to be almost non-existent. According to them, there are only a few asymptomatic carriers in all of Hudson. "I'm extremely unlikely to be an asymptomatic carrier," they say, "so I don't need to wear a mask."

Then the "I" people roll out, "We'll just have to agree to disagree," but the "WE" people don't accept that. "There is no disagreement," they say. "The masks have an effect. It might be small or it might be larger - we don't know. It's just irresponsible to not wear one." Things go downhill from there. Typically the "WE" people accuse the "I" people of killing their own or someone else's grandmother. "It's selfish not to wear a mask," they say. "We're all in this together."

The "We're All in this Together" Stories

Art didn't come up with this point of view but he thinks it is a very valid one. We're not all in this together - we're all together in a big storm but we're not all in the same boat. Art is lucky that his boat, while quite small, is at least sea-worthy. He looks out over the huge waves and sees that there are lots of people whose boats leak or are over-crowded. Of course there are also some big boats, oversized yachts and even cruise ships in the storm. Hello Amazon. You'd think the Amazon workers would benefit when the company does well during a pandemic, but you'd be wrong. Except for a bit of hazard pay for a few months, Amazon workers are right back doing the same job for the same low pay while occasionally catching COVID. If you're in a leaky boat and work for a company like Amazon, maybe your company will lend you a bucket for bailing, but probably not.

Lots of other stories from the pandemic and our kids will be telling them to their grandchildren. "Grandma, can you tell me again how you weren't allowed to see your grandparents during the Great Pandemic and how you sneaked into their backyard for a visit, staying six feet apart?"

Stay tuned - Art is working on Coronicles - 2, which will be called "Surfing the Second Wave." They say laughter is the best medicine - hope it works on COVID.