As I pen this column Friday morning, my mind swirls with the drastic change that has happened within the course of just one week.
Last Saturday, my mom joined me on a road trip to a needlework shop in northeast Iowa for some retail therapy amid specialty threads, fabrics and patterns not available locally. The trip was a reward to myself for finishing some special writing assignments a whole day before deadline. Spotting three bald eagles on our journey made the trip all the more enjoyable.
I made the journey despite the messaging to self-distance and stay home, at the time feeling the kind of safety I’d assume we all felt, back when life seemed somewhat normal.
Then, after seeing the small gathering at church on Sunday, and spending way too much time watching the news and Facebook feed on an extra day off Monday, the anxiety started to build. Since that day, the 24-hour news channel hasn’t been on in my house. And I’m so sick of seeing toilet paper memes and claims the “media” has blown COVID-19 way out of proportion that Facebook time is spent on my needlework pages and seeking out Mocha Moments and any pictures of cats, dogs and baby animals.
So, let me tell you about my Wednesday.
It started out with a special Nobles County board meeting, in which commissioners declared a state of emergency and ordered most county buildings closed to the public (exceptions at the Prairie Justice Center). Cases of COVID-19 were right across the border in South Dakota, and by the end of the day, two cases were announced in Martin County, roughly an hour east of Worthington.
I left the government center that morning with an eerie feeling. No longer was life as I knew it normal. I would guess most of us know someone whose life has been impacted by the temporary closure of government offices, restaurants, bars and other businesses. My anxiety began to build as I wrote the story and posted it online before noon.
I made the mistake of checking Facebook over lunch, where I watched a video someone shared about the Class of 2020 and all this batch of seniors are missing out on. I thought of my nephew Blake and the springtime graduation we plan to celebrate. Not only did the tears begin to fall, but I downright bawled. Why? That building anxiety needed an outlet.
My Wednesday afternoon schedule included two visits to cattle farms in Rock County — another special work project in advance of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Summer Tour in Rock and Nobles counties this July. Little did I know when I scheduled the interviews on Tuesday that this was exactly the kind of afternoon I needed.
I met with two different farmers, avoiding handshakes and maintaining the kind of social distance that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. The first farm featured cattle lots with cattle who were as wary of me as I was of them. The second farm, though, offered some special surprises — a 7-year-old boy named Jason, his two-month-old puppy named Brutus and a trio of beef calves, ranging from two weeks to one month in age.
I’ll tell you that nothing clears up a case of anxiety faster than a puppy, baby calves and a little boy who, while wearing a John Deere sweatshirt, thinks my favorite — the International — isn’t all that bad.
The adorable baby calves — bottle-fed by Jason and therefore eager to greet anyone who came to visit their calf huts — mooed and stretched out their tongues in greeting the hands that tried to pat their head. I giggled and reminisced over the times we had bottle calves on our own farm. I even commented about the calf creep in their feeders — the same calf creep we used 40 years ago on our farm. So much in farming has changed, but tending to baby calves hasn’t.
By the time I left the Van De Berg farm an hour later, my pant leg was covered in dusty and dirty smudged paw prints from Brutus, but I didn’t mind. Seems he just wanted some extra love and attention, and I was more than willing to oblige with pats to his head and scratches behind his ears.
For an afternoon, COVID-19 was out of my mind, and what a delightful afternoon that was.
If only every day could be filled with the unconditional love of a puppy and the adorableness of baby calves, the anxiety over this spreading pandemic might make all of us feel just a little better.