What I learned from ‘the mask argument.’

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

The mango lady taught me the most important lesson of the pandemic.

No, it wasn’t about the best masks to wear or the ideal hand sanitizer with the correct percentage of alcohol or how to Zoom with breakout rooms. It was something even more significant, something we all know but sometimes forget.

Entrance: The Supermarket

It was summertime and the supermarket scene was down pat: mask, wipes for the handle of the cart, alcohol spray for my hands, reusable and newly washed grocery bags, a safe distance from others. You get the drill.

I was on a quest for a mango. It had…


Looking back on twelve weeks with The 1619 Project.

Photo by Frances Gunn on Unsplash

I looked forward to finishing my coursework with The 1619 Project. I savored the sense of satisfaction with the completion of a goal and a noteworthy one at that. I also hoped to free up some additional reading and writing time. However, the end of this coursework became the beginning of what I will call real work. What do we do with this knowledge?

Some Background

What is The 1619 Project? The headnote from the online series reads:

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning…


The spaghetti squash incident and surviving the unexpected.

Photo by Linden72 on Pixabay

Hiss. The oven is sending out an SOS. I open the door to see the spaghetti squash, which I bake whole, dripping some liquid from its insides onto the bottom of the oven. This has never happened before. I must have overcooked it. Oh well. Lesson learned for future endeavors: always cook the squash in a pan.

I grab some oven mitts and slide the hot cylindrical mass off the rack and onto a plate. I’m going to have a mess to clean up when this oven cools, I think to myself as I shut the door and turn it…


Dangling a carrot in the time of Covid.

Photo by Hana Mara from Pexels

A special twenty-two-year-old college student, like a niece to me, shared her woes about distance learning online and some on-site learning but with Covid restrictions and not feeling in a groove nor motivated to “hit the books.”

This young lady was the speaker at her high school commencement, in the Honor Society, and a natural-born leader in so many ways. She gets things done! But she is struggling right now.

Well, we all struggle sometimes and this past year certainly added a few more layers of weight to lift in the everyday…


Rose of Sharon

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Pixabay

“Are you afraid to die?”

I was speaking to my dear friend of twenty-eight years.

She blinked her eyes for yes, which was her version of a head nod these days.

We were alone in her house in the dining room that had turned into a makeshift bedroom as even using the chairlift to get upstairs was too difficult now with how stiff she had become.

Sharon was diagnosed almost two years earlier with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s an illness without a cure that renders the afflicted increasingly helpless until paralysis causes death.


Learn to Live Your Best Life

Being the change we wish to see

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

What Renaissance friar Fra Giovanni Giocondo wrote back in 1513 is encouraging today in 2020 as we struggle with what happened in Minneapolis and how to make it right. We do so by making it right first within ourselves.

We know about putting on our own oxygen mask before helping another…


by doseofjasmin from Pixabay

I used to tell a simplified version of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to my English students. I’d start with a sketch on the blackboard. My artistic rendition always left much to be desired but it gave them a reference for the narrative.

These people are in a dark cave from birth and have been chained to face the back. There is a fire behind them and a roadway outside with people walking by in the bright sunlight casting shadows on the wall.

Their perception of the shadows is the prisoners’ only reality until one day when someone breaks free…


photo courtesy of Pixabay by JacLou DL

This year spring came early last month when we had a sunny 70-degree day, unusual this time of year in upstate New York. But these are unusual times.

Late fall before the first frost, I take my five potted geranium plants into the basement to hibernate for the winter. I put them on a shelf that is next to a west-facing window. Then I cease from watering or taking care of them in any way until spring. When the weather warms up, I clean off anything that died, cut back where necessary, start to water them regularly, and put them…

Debra Emerson

Educator and writer who loves nature, people, life, and making the world a better place. You can visit her at www.debraemerson.com.

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