The Numbers

This post resumes a now-occasional series on our experiences under COVID-19, inspired by the realization that “we are all field collectors” in the effort to someday tell the story of what happened in 2020. I welcome your submissions: find guidelines for guest writers here.


By Suzy Beal

“From the strain of binding opposites comes harmony.” 

– Heraclitus

I’m counting my newly sprouted seeds, when everyone else is counting the coronavirus numbers in their town. Fifty-eight little green shoots reaching for the sunlight. I know there will be too many zucchini with eight green and eight yellow plants.  Never too many cucumbers with sixteen plants and ten pumpkins, I plant extras in case some don’t survive the transfer to the garden. Sixteen Arugula lettuce and dozens of other lettuces not yet up will keep us in greens for the summer.

The virus cases continue to mount with 86 in our county as of today, May 11th 2020. 

It amazes me the difference I feel between counting sprouted seeds, which give me joy and hope versus counting the virus numbers that bring sadness and a sense of futility. 

Counting is the connection.  We count deaths, confirmed cases, negative cases after testing, and states numbers.  We count ventilators, hospital beds and gowns needed.  We count money by the billions needed.

We count the masks we’ve made and the ones still needed. I’ve completed thirty-two so far and counting. We count the feet between ourselves for self-distancing; we count the days since the last death in our area. We count the days since we spent time with our loved ones. We count the weeks since we went out to dinner.  Counting becomes an obsession and leaves us tired, grouchy, unhappy, and without satisfaction. 

Our calendars show no appointments, no engagements for entertainment, no movies, no meeting with friends for a beer.  We count the days since our last haircut, but find ways to accommodate new styles. We shop less often and save more money.  Our cars use little gasoline and we spend more time taking walks. We organized our grocery lists for hitting the aisles as quickly as possible, and we go at 7:00 in the morning when they open.

Now, five months later, we are counting the particles of smoke in the air. We are in the high 400s, which is hazardous to our health. We are counting the people lost in the awful fires burning in our state. We are counting the days to clear skies, which the weather person says are coming next week.

We are still counting the coronavirus cases, which have reached 728 in our county.  Our numbers are climbing, as is my anxiety. We only go out for food, gas, and to the post office, but as the numbers rise, I wonder what we can cut out. We are counting the days between shopping at the grocery store.  It was 10 days, now it’s twice a month.

I’m trying to be patient with those who choose to live differently without wearing masks or social distancing themselves, but in this case “binding opposites” is too hard. I don’t understand how a stance on protection for our health can become a political issue. We are more than just numbers.

The numbers continue, I’m 137 masks in and the votes are still being tabulated from our election.

I count… I wait for us to find our harmony.

© 2020 Suzy Beal

Writer and budding poet Suzy Beal spent twenty-five years helping seniors put their stories to paper and this year just finished her own memoir. A portion of Suzy’s memoir has been published on She writes personal essays and is currently studying poetry. Her work has appeared on truestorieswelltold. com, Story Circle Network, 101words, Central Oregon Writer’s Guild and recently an essay in  Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon. She lives and writes from Bend, Oregon.

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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4 Responses to The Numbers

  1. SoyBend says:

    Very astute observations related to our current situation, Suzy. I never noticed how big a role numbers play in so many aspects of our lives.


  2. suzy beal says:

    Thank you, SoyBend. This year in particular, has made numbers stand up and shout for me. It seemed a worthy subject to write about.


  3. csv says:

    Nice read, I enjoyed it!


  4. Suzy Beal says:

    Thank you csv. I appreciate your kind observations.


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