Statue at Wildseed Farm, photo credit: Iris Gonzalez

Midnight in the Garden of COVID-19

Week 7 of Stay at Home in San Antonio, Texas

My teen is still awake at 11:50 p.m. on a school night.

“I don’t want to wake up tomorrow,” my son said, dejectedly hitting his head on his pillow. “It’s just going to be another day.”

His dread was of yet another day of Zoom school calls, filling out packets, then talking to friends online. After five weeks of this homebound routine, the “new normal” is anything but.

If you’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, one of the characters goes to a cemetery late at night to practice some rituals or “juju.”

Minerva explains, “One hour before midnight for doing good, one hour after midnight for evil.”

What the pandemic has done is rip the 'striking of midnight' from our daily lives. Share on X

We’ve lost the transitions from day to night, from work and school weekdays to fun-filled weekends. There’s no more time broken up by special days for holidays and long-anticipated events like graduations, festivals, and weddings.

All that is left is the drunk spinning of the clock hands you see in old movies that mark the rapid passing of time. That is our every minute now.

As a lifelong gardener, spring for me means visiting nurseries, planning new garden beds, and enjoying the explosion of wildflowers and blooming trees across south-central Texas.

Last weekend, I tried to visit my usual garden nurseries to get some hot-weather annuals.

At the first place, the parking lot was so busy, I wondered if something unusual was going on. As I started to enter the grounds, I saw a long line shaking around the small nursery, with many more people squeezing past to look at displays.

Nope. As I drove past another one, I decided to keep going when I saw people jockeying for a spot in the crowded lot.

At my third and final stop, I luckily found a parking spot and walked toward the largest nursery, thinking its extra acreage would ensure physical distancing.

Instead, I passed a uniformed police officer wearing a mask who was watching the entrance and shooing away large groups. Once I entered, I saw more people than I’ve ever seen in my 16 years of visiting local nurseries on a lovely spring weekend.

Shoppers asking for help (“Is this a zinnia, because I want the zinnias on sale?”) were standing close to those in the incredibly long line of folks waiting to check out. As people inched up to pay, a second masked police officer admonished people to stay six feet apart.

Not one, but two police officers managing crowds at a nursery on a Saturday.

Is this the good juju business owners can only dream of for a revenue-packed weekend, or is it the bad juju of people jammed together during a pandemic?

After my failed weekend attempts and seven weeks of physical distancing, I decided on a weekday drive alone to a garden nursery in the Hill Country. After an hour-long drive, I was relieved to arrive at their relatively empty parking lot.

Wearing a mask, I walked the grounds and began choosing plants.

As of May 1st, Texas had declared it is cautiously opening up some businesses at 25% capacity. The City of San Antonio is still recommending physical distancing and that people wear masks when out in public.

More than half the shoppers at the nursery were not wearing masks. Elderly couples, entire families … unmasked.

On an impossibly gorgeous spring day, I cannot help but ask myself, is this good juju or bad?

With no more midnight, we are all reduced to wandering in the garden of COVID-19 unsure what time it even is.

Featured image is of a statue at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. Photo credit: Iris Gonzalez.

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