It’s a little unsettling to see fluffed-out robins in trees, but these are unsettling times.

These ground feeders are finding the last of the edible winter berries and, as the word spreads, are coming together to enjoy a meal. I envy them.

I was supposed to be breakfasting with friends of my own today and enjoying a program about butterflies afterward. That didn’t happen. Our meeting and program were canceled, due to the coronavirus and the fact that we are all at the “high risk” age. I am trying to take a lesson from the robins in the trees and finding an appropriate substitute.

The berry part is easy. I stocked up on groceries and supplies when family visited recently, so I don’t have to be concerned about empty shelves when I shop. It’s the social part that’s hardest for me.

I miss people when they aren’t around. As more gathering places and events close, I know that will be an issue. I won’t be traveling, so I need options here at home.

It’s not difficult to find ways to keep busy. Heaven knows that I could start the spring cleaning early. I would like to put away our heavy winter clothing and bring out the short sleeves but, darn it, it’s still cold. I can always do the routine household chores, adding the part about disinfecting surfaces that might harbor a threat. Still, that doesn’t take up the day. So what do I do while the government urges me to distance myself from others?

I read a lot, so that’s one probable activity. I know I want to avoid novels about contagion and plague and other pandemics. I just finished reading the new Rucker and Leonnig book, “A Very Stable Genius,” and it did give me some understanding about the reasons our president acts as he does. Now, I think I will turn to Mary Pipher’s “Women Rowing North.” It’s been touted as “an honest and calming” resource for “living deeply well into old age.” I like the “well” part, and I have been a Pipher fan since reading “Reviving Ophelia” many years ago.

I can always cook, both for myself and for others. I have a friend who bakes fresh bread for me. I have learned from her generosity just how sustaining a home-baked gift can be. It nourishes us, both physically and spiritually, and that is the sort of sharing we all need in these uncertain times.

I can pray for family, friends and our world, that this current health challenge will be overcome and that we learn from it how to prepare for other possible disasters. I can limit the time that I think about this threat and keep myself from getting anxious and/or upset.

If I do notice signs of impending anxiety, I can start stress-relieving breathing exercises, concentrating on controlling breathing until tension eases. I can breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. I can breathe in blessings and breathe out my prayers.

There is a lot that we can do by ourselves or in unison with others as we hope warmer weather and the promise of Easter will bring an end to this present threat. Then, when what was once our “normal living” has been restored, we can work together to prevent similar problems from occurring.

One thing is for sure. The current COVID-19 scare has taught us that we are all together in this world and that we need to work for the health and wellness of all peoples. Ignoring problems or succumbing to hysteria lead to consequences we do not want.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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