UNDER BRIGHT BLUE morning skies Abbey and Gus and I wandered to the west side of the hayfield where I watched a pair of soaring eagles while both dogs dug for gophers. By the time we returned to the Clubhouse the sky had changed. Billows of dark clouds rolled in from the north darkening the day, 20 mile-per-hour winds were bending the cedar trees, and the forecast predicted a spray of freezing rain or maybe even a snow shower.
Dramatic weather changes are commonplace in April in the North Country. Two days ago, the high temperature was 67. Last night’s low was 25. These soaring highs and plummeting lows match my mood swings, a series of peaks and valleys because we are in our sixth week of “social distancing” and “self-isolation” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I grumbled and turned up the heat in the Clubhouse. The dogs climbed onto the couch and went to sleep. They don’t read the news.
For the most part, self-isolation has not been difficult for me since I am a recluse by nature. On warm sunny days, there is plenty of outdoor work to do around the farm, and on cold rainy days I can sit in my easy chair, pull a velour blanket up to my chin, and read.
There has been much more reading than farm work these past six weeks.
Not that I’ve been a slacker. I replaced the snowblower with the bush hog mower head on the DR power unit (praying to the weather gods that this was not a mistake) and mowed a couple acres of buckbrush, brittle goldenrod, and thorny clumps of wild raspberry in hopes that bluegrass and brome will take over and provide some nesting for pheasants. We raked and gathered the winter’s blown-down tree branches and set fire to two huge piles. I clandestinely burned off a steep, brushy embankment and succeeded in containing the grass fire before it spread up to the piece of ground we call the goat pasture. Always exciting.
But when you are home 24/7 in March and April, you need an escape. Most folks, I imagine, watch movies and videos and chat with friends via Facetime and Zoom. My escape is a good book. So far in the course of this six weeks of isolation, I’ve read:
Niall Ferguson’s Civilization: The West and the Rest
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ mystery The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot
Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction – An Unnatural History
Romulus Hillsborough’s Samurai Tales: Courage, Fidelity and Revenge in the Final Years of the Shogun
Paul Kennedy’s Engineers of Victory – The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War
John Man’s Samurai – A History
Samuel Hynes’s The Unsubstantial Air – American Fliers in the First World War
Cynthia Barnett’s Rain – A Natural and Cultural History
Douglas Preston’s The Lost City of the Monkey God – A True Story
Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow
Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker’s The Deadliest Enemy – Our War Against Killer Germs
Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time
Admittedly, I made it only halfway through the Hawking book; quantum mechanics is way beyond my cognitive abilities.
Did I spend a small fortune on these books? No. Here is my source.:
Bridges the online ebook lending website: www.bridges.overdrive.com
I enter the number on my local library card and get access to more than 5,000 ebooks. About half are romance novels, action and thriller novels, and less-than-stellar murder mysteries, but many are non-fiction. History books are my primary interest, which you can see from my reading list, but there are several other genres available: biographies and autobiographies, classic literature, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and dozens more – everything you would find in a traditional library.
This has been a curative for my worries about family and friends and the prophecies of terrible times ahead. And I have gained a substantial amount of knowledge as a result.
Did you know, for example, that although Saigo Takamori (the “last samurai”) supported and abetted the overthrow of the Tokugawa Bakufu (Shogunate) and the restoration of the Meiji Emperor in 1868, he led a final and ill-fated rebellion of the Kagoshima military academy of young samurai students against the emperor’s central government in 1877 with the goal of…
Well, you may not have the same fascination with Japanese history as I, but there are several hundred other ebooks in your sphere of interest. Take a look at the Bridges website: www.bridges.overdrive.com
More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays, available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page