Murphy-Pettee: Celebrating the lighter moments |

Murphy-Pettee: Celebrating the lighter moments

Cookie Murphy-Pettee
Valley Voices

The COVID-19 pandemic carries with it a constant undercurrent of vulnerability and sadness — so many people dying; not just in our county or state or country, but throughout the world. This quiet pall over nearly everything is reminiscent of the AIDS epidemic — still not fully eradicated — only this evil that we have brought upon ourselves is even broader and deeper.

At the same time, I am pleased at the moments of sheer joy that I encounter: those of human connection; and of the perseverance of nature to follow its rhythms, brilliantly displayed this spring. We all can celebrate these lighter moments. Here are some of mine.

Last week, at a “senior hour” at Costco, I was heading toward the checkout area when I noticed a man looking past me. “Have you lost your wife?” I asked, intending humor.

“Yes, are you available?” he replied, with a smile in his eyes.

At home a lot, I have created time to try a few new recipes. We have a freezer full of local, grass-fed beef and lamb. One day I took out a “shoulder roast,” aka a pot roast. I hadn’t cooked a roast of any kind for at least two years, usually opting for simpler, faster-to-prepare meals. I found a slow-cooker recipe, made sure I had all, or most, of the ingredients, let the roast thaw for two days and cook for six hours.

Support Local Journalism

Voila! It came out tender and flavorful! I enjoyed eating the fall-off-your-fork beef with veggies, and the planning and successful preparation helped me to feel like a healthy, thriving human.

A few days later, with several over-ripe bananas, I dug out my 1966 copy of “A World of Breads” by Dolores Casella and made a scrumptious banana-walnut-chocolate-chip loaf. It has likely been three years since I’ve followed this recipe.

Busier than ever, yet at home more, I am enjoying cooking dishes that take more effort and attention. Noticing the dearth of flour at the health food and grocery stores, I’d guess that Stephen Colbert and I are not the only folks finding comfort and satisfaction in baking again.

Perhaps these efforts are tied to finding success and achievement in the midst of feeling helpless to aid in the eradication of this invisible threat (other than following all the prescribed restrictions). We can choose to make healthful, pleasurable food — while staying home to help stop the spread of the virus — and enjoy the results.

I generally notice small pleasures, but they seem needed more now than ever. And when those sometimes surprising moments occur, I experience them more intensely against the frustrations of the pandemic. The weather has warmed and my dog and I are taking more walks: almost daily and mostly in our neighborhood. He is loving it, I am exchanging greetings with more neighbors, and I hope it’s helping me not gain beyond the three additional pounds.

I call friends far away fairly often; now I am especially checking in with folks that I haven’t seen or spoken with for a while. Who knows how long travel will be unsafe or restricted? And, yes, while talking about the effects of the pandemic does get “old,” learning about other aspects of their lives — relationships, books they are reading — can be almost as good as getting a hug and sharing a glass of wine. Almost.

Other signs of this splendid spring: the osprey and the red-winged blackbirds and all of their fellow migrators are back. At this very moment, I am sitting in my office/guest room listening to the symphony of birds outside. I have two feeders, a birdbath and some very large and protective trees. Red-winged blackbirds have been calling and singing for weeks, but this week — in the largest numbers I’ve ever seen — they have been joined by a flock of house finches and, for the first time ever, a bright Bullock’s oriole. Everyone is singing and, I hope, nesting in the big pine tree.

The osprey are two nesting pairs: one on a light standard at Eagle Valley High School and the other on a power pole on Highway 6, between Gypsum and Eagle. Even during this pandemic, I travel back and forth to Eagle — groceries, safe walks with friends. When it is safe, I slow down to peek at these couples. These black-and-cream-colored fisher-hunters are quite regal as they watch over their domains. And in a few weeks, fledgling heads might pop over the edges of their magnificently-structured nests.

Most of all, going from hoping they will return — the red-winged blackbirds, the hummingbirds, the bats, the swallows and the osprey — to actually seeing them, gives me hope that we humans may yet figure out how to triumph over COVID-19 and how to live in closer harmony with nature, without bringing so much death and devastation to ourselves.

These birds made it — maybe we will too.

Cookie Murphy-Pettee lives in Gypsum and, in addition to wearing a mask in public, she writes and proudly serves on the board of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, among other community activities. She can be reached at

Support Local Journalism