The Longest Short Winter Ever

It is three days shy of six months since I last posted, which is utterly ridiculous for a gardening blog. We are all in the same boat, and many people, including some of my students, have had it far worse than I did. Do.

The dumpster fire meme for 2020 is a fitting one. Students were quarantined, students were hospitalized, and students were attending funerals for people who should not have died. Almost everyone I normally see on Sunday mornings for coffee came down with COVID last fall. Thankfully, they recovered.

I have been teaching online in Zoom classrooms, and worse, asynchronously. Asynchronous learning is torture for students, but it’s torture for instructors, too. The role of instructor is devolved by most students to grader. Students and their families resent paying tuition for what is essentially a correspondence course in electronic clothing, and who can blame them? If that were all we were offering, their resentment would make sense.

Instructors do extra work for all online classes, but even more for asynchronous classes. My students get copious notes on every paper they turn in, telling them what they did well, what needs improvement, and how to improve certain areas of their writing. I have written a lot of blog posts in these lost months—last months—to my students. Most of the time, I am whistling into the wind. Since I am teaching three different courses, that writing adds up, even though only the asynchronous students hear from me at least weekly via emailed posts; the others attend regularly scheduled Zoom classes. Then there are my pen pals: the students who email questions, and occasionally even meet via Zoom.

The extra writing is uncompensated work—there really is no reasonable way to compensate us for it. Where would the money come from? Asynchronous learning is not the same as being in a classroom, but students who write or talk to their professors are going to have an experience beyond a correspondence course. It’s the best we can do with an airborne Russian roulette virus. We need to be thankful for small mercies: it is a comparatively delicate virus; plain soap and water destroys it, and it doesn’t last that long on surfaces.

My March eye surgery went perfectly, but there was one unavoidable side effect—eventually the eye that was operated on would develop a cataract. That fact was sort of soft-pedaled before the operation—and honestly, that’s a good thing. That surgery solved a problem that would have blinded me in that eye, but the prospect of having two eye surgeries within a year may have stopped me from having any surgery.

The cataract was starting to form when I saw my eye doctor in June, and by October, it was disruptive. I had another appointment with my eye doctor at the end of October, so I just gritted my teeth and prayed for a cancellation. Then I came down with pneumonia. It hit so hard and so fast I thought it was the flu, but it was so atypical that I was sent to a respiratory urgent care, terrified. Two COVID tests and an x-ray later, I was put on antibiotics for pneumonia. I’ve had one of the pneumonia shots. Sheesh. I slept, taught, and graded papers. I was spending a lot of time in front of my computer screen with one eye scrunched shut. At the end of October, my eye doctor referred me to a cataract surgeon.

I saw the surgeon the day before Thanksgiving and was told that it couldn’t wait. I needed surgery. Again. This time it was a straightforward cataract surgery, and it got done before the end of the year. The last snag was being bumped from the hospital where it was scheduled because the hospital was not latex free; they bumped me a couple of days before the surgery! They could not guarantee my safety. It was rescheduled for a few days later, at a hospital closer to home. It came in under the wire, before my deductible was set to an even more celestial level than it already occupied on January 1.

I got my colors back! Everything was so bright. I had new glasses by mid-January, and an appointment scheduled for the beginning of April when, presumably, my eye will be completely stabilized. I definitely will need a new prescription; this one is no longer working well, and my eyes are strained again. On the other hand, it’s been much worse.

Happily, the days are lengthening, I am starting to draw again, and the witch hazel has dragged me outdoors, as it does every winter. More on that very soon. It is in bloom.