Embrace Hope

Rural America Searches for Ways to Cope

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Tough times are weathered when we look for the beauty in what surrounds us. For John Kowalchuk, finding the 100-year old barn on his central Alberta farm bathed in sunlight is a sign of better days to come. (Photo courtesy of John Kowalchuk)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- I've never met John Kowalchuk. I'm ashamed to say that I've never even been to Alberta, the Canadian province where he farms.

I found him on the Internet. Twitter to be precise. But tweets about his farm and his efforts to bring more understanding to the world of agriculture leave me hopeful. This week when he posted a stunning photo of his 100-year-old barn bathed in sunlight, it hit me like a balm to offset the growing list of daily concerns.

This week has tested us. I'm not sure what next week will bring. As a journalist, I've read so much about the new coronavirus, COVID-19 that I've imagined the symptoms dozens of times.

This afternoon, Illinois residents will be ordered to "shelter in place" and other states are taking similar actions. It's enough to put even the most introverted on high alert because, let's face it, the world today has been pretty much wide open. Until now.

While ratcheting back activities is scary and inconvenient, I've also been inspired by the creativity I'm witnessing as community, friends and neighbors gather in new ways. Musically talented friends have sent invitations to join their virtual performances. I've been invited to a virtual happy hour. Board games and jigsaw puzzles are coming out of retirement. My sister has set up a home-school on the dining room table for her now at-home grandchildren. Teachers are finding new ways to ... well, teach. Churches are taking steps to live stream services. My favorite museum now has a virtual tour.

I don't want to make all happy. Virtual hugs and heart-shaped emojis hardly replace human contact. Isolation can be mentally exhausting. There has already been financial and personal hardship. Funerals, weddings, track meets, conferences, graduations, and livestock shows have all been disrupted and that's just speaking about my own family. Our grandchildren don't even have the promise of an outdoor park to play in.

But just today, the lilac leaves started springing forth. I have some daffodils blooming. Deep in the woods, where I'm still allowed to walk, the spring peepers are peeping. And, the dog trotting beside me keeps nuzzling my hand and looking up with unwavering hope.

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
Connect with Pamela: