Patricia Eastwood

Today’s post is brought to you by poet Margaret Widdemer (1884-1978), my friend Mary Jo Shankle, my friend Patricia Eastwood, and the local trees.

Have you ever heard of Margaret Widdemer?

Me either. She shared what is now the Pulitzer with Carl Sandburg in 1918; he was recognized for “Cornhuskers” and she for “The Old Road to Paradise.” I’m going to try to get my hands on both collections.

Just two weeks ago on the Mountain near Sewanee – with darker skies and chilly evenings – Mary Jo Shankle was reminded of this poem by Margaret Widdemer…

Winter Branches

When winter-time grows weary, I lift my eyes on high
And see the black trees standing, stripped clear against the sky;

They stand there very silent, with the cold flushed sky behind,
The little twigs flare beautiful and restful and kind;

Clear-cut and certain they rise, with summer past,
For all that trees can ever learn they know now, at last;

Slim and black and wonderful, with all unrest gone by,
The stripped tree-boughs comfort me, drawn clear against the sky.

“I now feel quite keenly that it has been a false spring, don’t you? Will the summer sun ever return to bake us clean and when it does will we complain? Surely we will. We are fickle creatures with quick judgments yet short memories and all we feel is transient.  Be it a month, a fortnight, a year, or more often, a single day.” (from Mary Jo)

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The trees in Nashville keep their Spring promises this week and last, in soaking rains…


Yoshino cherry


Yoshino cherry in bloom


One of the few saucer magnolia blooms this year (most buds were nipped)


Elizabeth magnolia


Earliest dogwood

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Today’s it’s supposed to reach 80 degrees in Nashville. Shall we get out our swimsuits? This is ridiculous.

Instead, let’s spend some time with Patricia Eastwood, a reader of poetry coping in the Time of Corona.

How worried are you about the coronavirus? What’s your best coping strategy so far?

I admit that I am worried about the illness. I spend some time every day in prayer around the issues. Lately, my worries have been growing around a lack of professional journalism on which to rely for information. I cope with this by researching. So, I spent the better part of Spring Break gathering data about the virus and possible ways to outsmart it. Now that I am back from vacation, I am trying to keep up in the evenings.  My research leaves me extremely confident in the ability of science and industry to find reliable and more effective treatments, tests and preventatives. 

Favorite comfort food or beverage?

Strawberry Pop Tarts (no frosting). I ate a whole box in two days and have cut myself off. 

The observatory they built (Patricia and Larry)…

How many times a day do you check the CDC website? What’s your preferred source of Corona news?

 I grew up in a CDC neighborhood near Emory and have always been a CDC junkie and check it often even when there is no viral threat.  There’s great information on the site about all kinds of issues such as how deep to build a pool and why you should never modify safety features on your wood chipper. Favorite sources of Corona news these days are first hand accounts – friends on the front lines in medicine, research and social impacts, Reddit threads and scientists on Twitter.

What does “Safer at Home” mean to you? Have you left home since the order came down on Sunday? What would you leave home for?

I have left home only to get food (which is hard, because I really need replacement HVAC filters and it’s driving me crazy!). When I have gone out, I have an entire protocol for how I handle this kind of risk. It involves mask wearing, wipes, hand sanitizer and placing dog food bags behind my cart at checkout, so other shoppers have a visual about the 6 feet distance required for a more safely shared space. I am pretty sure some people think I am really over the top. But, keeping it safe for my family is my #1 priority.  At this point, we are not planning on leaving home again in the near future. If my mother gets ill, however, I will be going to her immediately to assist. She lives across town from us.

Is it – too much? (Safer at Home). Is it reasonable? How long can you go without a haircut? 

I am a supporter of science and a great believer in the power of government to work for the people. At this point, social distancing seems necessary and well thought out as a strategy, when considered along with the scientific evidence. My most recent hair services were well timed for a quarantine, so I won’t start to feel desperate for a few more weeks. The ponytail was obviously invented for such a time.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve bought at the grocery in the Time of Corona? I have found myself making stretch choices given limited options…

This question cracked me up! Our closest grocery is pretty small (which is safer, I think) and, for weeks, has not had a lot of meat available. During a visit where the pickings were slim, I bought chicken livers to fry and got pretty excited about introducing my family to this delicacy which I ate often as a child. They were not amused at the suggestion. After I fried them up, everyone was curious and, eventually, ate them up and confessed they were pretty tasty. But, I was teased a lot during the whole chicken liver caper.

Would you say you’re getting used to the new normal?

All four of us in the family are back at work and school in full force. We live in the country and, while the internet is slow, we do have plenty of food, drink and each other. We have a condo in the city that has fast internet if we really get in a crunch or someone needs to take a test online. But, so far, we have all elected to hang together with the slower internet speeds and support each other up close.

How has the virus affected your workplace?

My workplace has moved to a remote work environment and it’s working well.  As an attorney, my department must still retrieve the mail and sort it and ensure that pleadings and licensing requests etc. make their way to the appropriate person in a digital format.  There’s no high tech remote solution for this basic activity and someone has to do this work. Similarly, signing documents to be used in supporting financial transactions in over 40 countries in the world presents an interesting intersection between old school ways and the digital age. There are still a lot of legal documents that require a real signature or signature in front of a notary. We are creating new processes for these old school tasks and using basic teamwork to get it all done. I am really proud of my company’s abilities to support the business under current circumstances.

What essential supply are you stocked up on?

Coffee and coffee filters

What essential supply are you not stocked up on? 

I realize that I am a little short on paper towels and there are now none in the stores.

How many rolls of toilet paper do you have in your house?

I have no idea – but, it occurs to me that disclosing that information in this environment could create risk. 

Presuming that most of us will be spending more time at home, how do you think you’ll use that time?

I have a lot of laundry showing up with the entire family in town.  I’ll be folding and sorting in the evenings after work. The lack of a long commute will facilitate the effort.

If you watch more TV, which shows will you watch? What shows have you watched in the last year or so that you would highly recommend?

We are not watching more TV. For one thing, we can’t really stream with our slower internet speeds in the country and there’s not much on TV without sports. But, I am listening to more audible books.

Driveway at Patricia’s house

What are you reading right now? What have you read in the last year or so that you would highly recommend? 

I just started The Great Influenza by John Barry. For a light read, I recommend When Life Gives you Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan. The author is married to comedian Jim Gaffigan with whom she has a bunch of children. While she excels as a comedic writer, she surprises in this book by exploring how the discovery of a pear sized tumor in her brain upended her life and solidified her faith. It’s all very humorously presented and, in the end, a celebration of family, friends and the power of laughter and a good marriage.

How are your daughters dealing with/thinking about the virus? What’s their school status?

Both daughters are attending school online for the foreseeable future. My 16 year old is class president this year and, as a junior, has a great deal of responsibility in planning the Prom events to honor the senior class (which is a big deal at her school). She’s very concerned about all things school related and super glad that she has already taken the ACT before the recent testing dates were so disrupted. My college upperclassman is missing her friends and the lab in which she has been working this semester. She’s hoping her summer internship at a bank in North Carolina goes forward as planned.

Patricia and her daughters

What’s your advice for friends trying to stay mentally healthy in this trying time?

My advice is to keep playing and laughing.  We are playing a lot of Hall Ball at our house. This is a game Larry invented that involves a hall and a ball and soccer-like skills, albeit with extra restraint required, because the ball cannot leave the ground. It can be played day or night, lasts about 15 minutes, takes no athleticism and our family can divide into two teams of two and battle to win.  We love competition and it’s a nice change from board games.