Coronavirus shutdown gives Sonoma County residents time to learn new skills
A comment from her son launched Kathy Larsen on a crazed course of making crazy quilt tops, 14 of them to be exact.
“Gosh,” he mused, “someday people are going to ask us what we did during the coronavirus lockdown, and I don’t want to have to tell them I binge-watched on Netflix.”
That got Larsen, a retired principle of Penngrove School, pondering: which new challenge could she take on with all that time sequestered at home?
A devoted seamstress, she thought about all the leftover fabric she had been hoarding for years and it hit her. She could learn to make crazy quilt squares and turn them into “Pandemic Pillows” for friends and family. So she consulted some YouTube videos and set to work at her machine.
“I did not want to wake up when we are free again and think, ‘What did I do with all that time?’ ” the Sonoma woman said.
With stores and restaurants closed, all social gatherings and community cultural activities called off and entertainment attractions shut down, people around the world have been forced to find new ways to amuse themselves.
For many, like Larsen, the pandemic posed an opportunity to learn something new or hone a skill they tried or abandoned long ago.
History is full of such inspiration. William Shakespeare composed his tragedy “King Lear” when London theaters shut down due to the 1606 plague. Decades later, during a bubonic plague lockdown, Cambridge student Isaac Newton began cooking up his Theory of Relativity. And Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio fled an outbreak of the bubonic plague that killed his father and stepmother by hiding out in the Tuscan countryside. While there, he produced The Decameron, a series of novellas framed as stories a group of friends tell each other while quarantined from the plague.
While not quite in that league, North Bay residents with idle time have been busying themselves learning everything from spinning to watercolor painting, furniture design to needlepoint.
Larsen learned how to piece together a crazy quilt pattern.
“Crazy quilts are forgiving,” she said. “It doesn’t demand precision, which is fine with me. And once I got the hang of it, I got more creative.”
Other than mailing away for the pillows’ filling, she had all the material on hand: pieces from dresses she made for her daughter when she was little or remnants from special sewing projects over the years.
“They carry memories and you go through them and they remind you of different people and different events,” she said. Probably the most touching were the pillow tops she made from her late husband’s old ties. She plans to keep those. The rest, she said, will be Christmas gifts.
“I’m so used to hurrying, like I have to be somewhere,” she said. “So often now I think I don’t really need to be anywhere. It can be really freeing to think I can just focus on this and not worry about being late or missing something.”
Fruit, veggie animals
A couple of months ago Kim Alvarez of Rohnert Park was entertaining herself with some online quizzes that challenged her to identify animals carved out of food. She was fascinated and figured carving creatures out of fruits and vegetables was something she could learn to do, particularly with so much time on her hands. And there was a certain young son of a friend who she thought would be amused by it. She started with an eggplant penguin and the hobby snowballed into a menagerie. While she is a vegan, these are animals she has no problem eating.