Margie Carter
Margie Carter

Breathing a bit easier now, those of us not living in dire straits are enjoying some expansive summer days. No doubt each of us is still adjusting, assessing what we learned from the upheaval of COVID, what we learned about ourselves, what we want to remember.

I discovered a thread of similar responses in myself when I’m told to prepare for possible danger — I seek out things for comfort, not necessarily practical. I wasn’t one who scrambled for toilet paper, or even wine, but rather, I made a beeline to the blooming plants section of the grocery store, followed by a quick dash to the library.

Something similar happened a decade or so ago when my partner and I went to the supermarket to get rations for the earthquake survival kit we had been slowly assembling. We had been dragging our feet in getting this task done, always finding something more pressing or fun to do during our limited free hours on the weekend. With a few minutes to spare en route to a Passover Seder, we challenged ourselves to get over this procrastination and pop in the store for 10 minutes to collect all the food we could carry. We agreed the packaging had to be rodent proof and the product a decent shelf life.

Jeanne dashed one way, I the other, and, in short order, we met at the checkout stand. I told the cashier to ring up our orders together because they were for an earthquake kit. An improv comedy routine unfolded.

Me: “Yuck, you got canned beans and corn? Disgusting!”

Her: “Artichoke hearts and coconut macaroons, are you kidding? How will that help us survive?”

The clerk watched each of us, back and forth, finally grinning, handing me my macaroons and saying, “I’m coming to your house!”

Indeed, recalling this amusing exchange, I’m aware that “surviving” conjures up different meaning for each of us. I need at least a touch of beauty and some fun treats to get through big challenges. Jeanne’s survival instincts circle around planning and practicalities. During the year and a half of COVID shutdown, we survived well because we had resources to put into both aspects. That, and the regular exchanges with family and friends where we shared creative adaptations and newly invented celebrations together.

These ruminations are on my mind as Sarah Armstrong and I get back in contact to revive our Madison Park Emergency Preparation volunteer work. We’re aware no one wants to give attention to this right now, surely not now as we try to retrieve the glory of summer days, snatching them from the worries of intense weather events, smoky air and travel frenzies. We, too, feel challenged to take up more disaster preparation work now. Our own musings and instincts suggest we need this work to have some FUN aspects, offer ways to unleash creativity and know our neighbors better.

The year before COVID, Sarah hosted a block party as part of emergency preparation organizing. Everyone was invited to bring a “show and tell,” something clever they’d come up with to include in their survival kits. Some of my favorites that she reported were:

Coconut oil packets from Trader Joe’s with antifungal and anti-bacterial properties, good for your skin and its fragrance in the absence of showers. Or you can cook with or eat it, regaining some of those pounds lost to eating only beef jerky and granola bars.

Sports recovery powder that you mix with water and shake. Tastes good and has a shelf life of two years.

Underwear liners to make up for water shortage and ability to do laundry.

Got any leftover anti-diarrheal antibiotics or over-the counter Pepto Bismol or Imodium lying around the house? Put it in your emergency kit in case you don’t sterilize your water properly.

How might you mobilize your own humor and creativity to take some preparation action within your household or as a neighborhood activity? Not everything has to be invented from scratch, but consider what will motivate you to get engaged with your neighbors in doing some advance thinking and organizing.

With an internet search, you can find any number of suggestions and planning tools for disaster preparation, perhaps starting with https://www.seattle.gov/emergency-management/prepare/prepare-yourself. This site also suggests using their Hello Neighbor cards, available in multiple languages, to leave with folks on your block with an offer to help with any needs they have.

It won’t be long before another unsettling event will call us into action. What will bring you comfort or reassurance? Do you have any ideas or resources to offer or something you need help thinking about? If you’d like to get involved in the helping the wider Madison Park neighborhood with our disaster response preparation, contact Sarah Armstrong, saraharmstrong215@gmail.com, or Margie Carter, margiecarter@comcast.net.