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Even before the pandemic we were online shoppers–it’s usually easier to find exactly what you want when you want it and we have better things to do than go into stores where there are other people. Oh wait, that second one was true before but is truer still today. And you can order something online in mere seconds. I recognize the danger in this. The allure of convenience is strong. Impulse buying is no longer just about candy bars. Is it instant or delayed gratification, when you know you have found what you were seeking, but you must wait for it to arrive? Does it matter? No, it does not matter. This is simply the state we’re living in, and we have (mostly) come to terms with it.

Here are some of the items we have bought online in the past couple months. You can guess who these were for.

  • Green Gobbler drain cleaner (worked great on our bathroom sinks!)
  • Snacks for high school teachers (the PTA is putting together goody bags–will these delicious snacks address the extreme mental and physical stress that educators are facing? Only time will tell)
  • A new recording of Mozart’s Requiem
  • A sample vial of the perfume that Hailee Steinfeld wears
  • Brightly colored extra large women’s underwear (they’re not granny panties if they’re not plain white, right?)
  • KN95 masks for kids and adults (hopefully the legit kind and not the counterfeit kind)
  • Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza card game (theoretically this was for Niki but I really love it. The whole family plays)
  • Iron supplements (who needs anemia? We don’t!)
  • Beethoven piano sonatas
  • Stainless steel cups and insulated tumblers with lids and straws because all four of us seem to break a lot of glasses and spill a lot of drinks. What is wrong with us?
  • Three angled plastic measuring cups (1 cup, 2 cups, and holy cow 4 cups! because see above we broke all our glass measuring cups)
  • Mozart symphonies 39, 40, and 41
  • A set of new Pyrex dishes with lids primarily because I was trying to make cornbread recently and realized our 8×8 pyrex was missing and remembered that we had broken it (seriously, why can’t we hold onto a piece of glassware?) and it turns out if you’re ordering a new 8×8 Pyrex it’s only slightly more expensive to order a set of 20. And this way we can phase out the plastic containers that you can never find the lids to and that crack and get stained and sometimes warp. The lids to the glass containers always stick around. They seem to be more loyal.
  • Subscriptions to Jenny Lawson’s Nowhere Bookshop Fantastic Strangelings and Happy Endings book clubs where you receive a new book each month (Fantastic Strangelings=a variety of weird stuff, Happy Endings=romance) because you know, I definitely don’t own enough books. But I do read them. And I love them. And they sustain me during dark times, which are currently all the times.
  • Tarot cards–I have a deck that a friend gave me when I said I wanted to learn to read them, but I realized that I don’t love the images on the deck and that has kept me from studying, so I started reading some books–still using that deck as a reference–but I found a couple decks online that look absolutely amazing and feel right to me. And Zoe ordered a deck because she wants to learn as well. I gave my first ever reading to her the other night (only using six cards from the Major Arcana, and completely relying on my notes) but she said it was amazingly accurate and made her think about her question in a new way. I’m excited for the new decks to arrive.
  • Venetian music from 700-1797 which comes with a very pretty book of paintings of Venice
  • Of course groceries.
  • And dinners.
  • And COVID tests.

So what does this say about our family? We are hungry and thirsty and clumsy. We love music and books and games. We are trying not to succumb to Omicron, but who knows if we will succeed. In the meantime, we will shop.

Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn, and Juno sporting a chicken hat.

Tonight Randy, Zeke, and I watched Dar Williams perform one of the free, live-streamed living room concerts that have become a highlight of the past three months of quasi-quarantine for our family. When you watch one of these concerts on Facebook Live–the platform through which most of them are delivered–you can also read a steady stream of gratitude, requests, and memories, from other folks who are watching from all over the world. The comments can be a little distracting, but they also serve as a small reminder of the sense of community you feel when you see an artist perform live.

Dar said her set list tonight was put together by her manager Patty, who was celebrating her birthday. So I don’t know if it was Patty or Dar or both of them who were in a particularly contemplative mood when they decided on the songs. With one exception, what Dar played were among her most somber songs. I get it. We’re living in a serious moment. But it was a little surprising because the other live-from-home concerts we’ve seen have been a bit more buoyant and reminiscent of a regular live show in terms of the variety of music. Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn‘s Friday night Banjo House Lockdown tends to be particularly joyful and lighthearted as their sons–seven-year-old Juno and two-year-old Theo are often participants. Last week Juno jumped in front of the camera and began to dance, wearing a chicken hat, during one of the songs. Some of the Indigo Girls‘ shows from home were performances of entire albums. Similarly, Brandi Carlile is doing a series with her band where they perform each of her albums (tune in June 14 @ 9pm for Firewatcher’s Daughter).

During one of their livestreams, the Indigo Girls raised more than $200,000 for Honor the Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to Indigenous environmental issues. Brandi raised $100,000 for racial justice organizations in her first concert. She and her band have always been activists, and have their own foundation that supports people and communities. And Béla and Abigail have invited viewers to donate to a few different causes during their shows. So I was surprised when during Dar’s show tonight, a banner came across the screen that said something like, “Enjoying the show? Tips are appreciated,” and included a PayPal link. Dar also mentioned that a portion of the proceeds from the show would be given to vote.org. Dar is a good activist too. But it made me think that she must be struggling. She’s certainly a successful singer-songwriter, but not a household name. I don’t know much about what it takes for musicians to earn their livings. I definitely support them with ticket sales, buying merchandise, and buying and downloading albums, but my dollars aren’t going to pay anyone’s mortgage.

Going to hear live music has always been one of Randy’s and my favorite things to do, and we’ve missed the experience since the pandemic canceled everything. I’ve read how singing is a particularly effective way to spread Covid-19, so I have no idea what has to happen before we will be able to go to concerts again. But we have loved the intimate feeling of seeing musicians we love perform from their houses–seeing their dogs walk by and their kids dart through and just hearing what they have to say, knowing that they’re experiencing some of the same things we are. And hearing more of Dar’s sad and serious songs and knowing that she appreciates tips made me think the uncertainty of this time may be hitting her hard too.

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