“Blow up your TV. Throw away your paper.
Go to the country. Build you a home.
Plant a little garden. Eat a lotta peaches.
Try and find Jesus, on your own.” – John Prine, “Spanish Pipedream”
Well, it’s Holy Week, and here we are in the middle of the greatest pandemic of our lifetime. It becomes more real all the time. When I heard legendary singer/songwriter John Prine was put in intensive care after contracting Covid-19 I felt numb.
A man I consider the Kurt Vonnegut of country music, Prine has many songs that capture the beauty and absurdity, the wit and wonder life has to offer. I paid tribute to him last week on my weekly live stream by playing a few of his tunes, including “Spanish Pipedream.” It’s one of those songs that can make you laugh out loud. Prine has a lot of those: “Illegal Smile,” “It’s a Big Old Goofy World,” “In Spite of Ourselves” and “When I Get to Heaven,” to name a few). So when I saw the news on Instagram I stopped what I was doing and tried to process this alarming news. Prine passed April 7, joining country singer Joe Diffie, Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger and more than 10,000 others killed by the virus in the U.S. thus far.
Among those deceased is Lew Berry, a funny, tough (he held our school’s squatting record), larger-than-life character I graduated from high school with in Indiana.
Famous musicians are one thing, but when it starts taking 37-year-old buddies, it gets personal. There’s no ignoring this. We can’t pretend it’s not coming our way. We can’t pretend the stay-at-home directive doesn’t apply to us. Like Don Thomas wrote in a letter to the editor in last week’s Lewistown News-Argus, “Really, really wanting to believe something will not make it true. It may have worked for Peter Pan, but it will not alter the course of the current epidemic.”
With all this in mind, it’s natural to be scared or anxious, it’s understandable to go to a dark place, but try your best to stay positive. That’s what I’m going to do. It’s something my wife encourages and exemplifies. There is so much to take in. Sometimes I overload myself with news and constant phone calls. It’s good to be informed, yes, but balance is critical. We can’t make information an obsession.
Sharing music has helped me. So has laughter. The more we can make ourselves laugh the healthier we’ll feel. Motivational speaker Les Brown agrees with this philosophy. His live stream helped me out Monday morning with some jokes that brought levity to the situation: “If you get an email that says, ‘knock, knock,’ don’t answer – it’s a Jehovah’s Witness working from home.”
There is a lot of healing in laughter. This was evident while watching “The Croods” with my stepkids and “Raising Arizona” with my wife. There is also a lot of healing in positivity. Les Brown encourages us to have a “perpetual mindset and attitude that we will get through this.” Yes, there are going to be more deaths. People we know will die. It’s a harsh and uncertain reality, but we are in charge of how we respond to it.
I ask you to follow this advice and find something that makes you laugh. Share what brings you joy with your partner or your children. Use this time to your advantage and avoid panicking, even if you’ve lost your job or are suffering in other ways, be it loneliness, depression, fear or financial strain. Try your best to stay mindful, stay grounded and be purposeful in how you use this time. If you need help, reach out to a family member, a friend, a counselor or a crisis hotline.
One way to improve physical and mental health is by utilizing Lewistown’s walking trails. I can’t believe how many people were on them Sunday, enjoying the beautiful day with their families. We are lucky to have them in our backyard. Take advantage.
As bad as it is, there is still much for which to be grateful. Find those things in your life. Listen to some John Prine, too.
(a previous version of this was published in the Lewistown News-Argus)