We are now into our second month abiding by New York City’s stay-at-home orders due to Covid-19. Early adopters of social distancing practices, we cancelled outings in order to quarantine at home after learning of our direct exposure to the virus. We received a text from our former neighbor – an Italian currently living in Italy – who rapidly texted to us the dire state of his country’s situation. You may recall, the U.S. watched as Italy fell prey to the virus before it reared its ugly head in a similar manner in New York. “Be prepared to stay inside. People over 60 should not go out for any reason, no physical contact with the outside world. Please warn your friends and family.” As the week went on, and more and more people were getting a grasp of what was happening, I called my parents to beg them to stay home. They, too, had been watching the news and, thankfully, cancelled a trip they had planned out of town. We felt confident that our decision to quarantine early was the right one – we heard from friends who had contracted the virus and from others working in hard-hit hospitals. This was unlike anything we had seen before.
In the beginning, it was easy to stay focused and remain vigilant – our living situation was better than so many others in New York. Early on, we felt strongly, and still do, that it was our duty to stay home to protect not only ourselves, but also those who might not be able to fight the virus should they be exposed. But now, with no end in site, no strategy on how to re-engage, and no real idea of what this virus is, or what it can do, doubts have begun to creep in. Our small savings are dwindling – the local flower shop where I was working has closed and my PR projects have ended – my husband is feeling pressure to go back to his “non-essential” job, and there are people all around us completely dis-regarding the social distancing requirements. And with the repercussions of this pandemic at one moment seeming completely real, and the next contradicting that, the questions keep going through my mind: what is the difference between now and one month from now; why should I wear a mask when so many of my neighbors are not; are we the only ones taking this seriously – should we be; would it be better to just expose myself rather than constantly wonder if I’ve been exposed; when will I be able to see my sister, my parents, my friends? The rest of the country seems to be experiencing less of an impact, and there seems to be an attitude that New York is an anomaly. It feels really lonely.
I have to remind myself that, at the time of this writing, over 80,000 people in the U.S. have lost their lives to Covid-19, and the number continues to grow. Thankfully, and so far, all of my immediate family members and friends are still healthy. Now that I’m no longer working my two other jobs, I’ve been able to focus predominantly on my flower farming, not to mention the creation of this website. While my spring harvest was essentially lost from a financial aspect – I didn’t want to risk potentially exposing anyone to Covid – I took detailed counts of how many flowers bloomed, and when, which has enabled me to better plan for next year’s spring season. I can determine how many flower subscriptions to offer, how many more flowers I might need to plant in the fall in order to supplement, and what to plant to ensure I have a crop for Mother’s Day next year. I have one area of a yard where I farm that gets shade beginning mid-spring, so I’ve been thinking about what might be a good supplement to my tulips and daffodils. My mind keeps turning to hellebores – there are so many varieties that I’ve come across recently, and I’m excited to learn more about them. I’ve also had the time, this year, to research the many types of chrysanthemums, a flower that, growing up, I never appreciated (in fact I hated them). However, after eyeing tall, bright, spider-like yellow chrysanthemums growing in someone’s front yard in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, I was hooked, and this year I was able to order somewhat unusual varieties from Bluestone Perennials – a family run greenhouse based in Ohio. With names such as Chrysanthemum Cheerleader, Red Carousel, Ivory Pinwheel, and Fred Stone, I’m hoping to have quite a spectacular selection. I’ve read that, due to uncertainty of the flower market, there is a chrysanthemum scarcity this year, so I feel especially lucky to have been able to find these. (I’d love to hear from others on where they might be sourcing their chrysanthemum plugs).
The next several weeks, if not months, are going to be difficult. I have to struggle to find the silver lining during this pandemic, but when I look, I find I have many. Some days seem completely normal, others surreal. In the meantime, I’ll continue to take it day by day and hope that we can all come out of this together and with a stronger perspective on what truly matters in life.