Mr. Cubbington provides garden fertilizer during the pandemic

Sh*t as Fertilizer: Lessons from the Pandemic

We added to our family during the pandemic: we got a bunny. A Holland Lop to be exact. His name is Mr. Cubbington, an unusual name created by our teenage son. Mr. Cubbington is cute and irresistible with his big floppy ears, soft coat of hair and diminutive size. I wasn’t as taken with the idea of being responsible for another pet, but I was overruled. (Our family governance structure has turned into a democracy where my vote counts less over time.)

A key argument for adding Mr. Cubbington was that we could use his poop pellets to fertilize our vegetable garden. And he has complied. I challenge any bunny to poop as often as he does; no joke, every little hop seems to produce a pellet. Rabbit manure is packed with nitrogen, potassium, minerals and micronutrients, and has four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure. We are going to have one healthy garden.

It’s odd that we can take the excrements of an animal and use them to add nutrients to soil. I guess there are opportunities to turn things seemingly worthless into something valuable.

Garden nourished by Mr. Cubbington's fertilizer

A garden being nourished by the nutrients of Mr. Cubbington’s manure

The Pandemic has Changed the World, but How Will it Change You?

The negative impact of COVID-19 is almost incalculable. According to Johns Hopkins, we have lost more than 3 million lives to COVID-19 and are approaching nearly 600,000 pandemic-related deaths in the U.S. alone. Many of us have spent a year in lockdown with limited physical connection, creating pangs of social isolation and loneliness. Millions of students are “learning” remotely with concerns that many are not learning, but simply falling behind. Weaknesses in our country’s long-term care infrastructure have been exposed. Some of us have missed key moments in life: a graduation, wedding or final goodbye. According to an annual happiness study, our happiness levels at all ages have dropped. It’s been pretty crappy.

The pandemic has also barreled us into the future. Technology stocks have boomed as more of our world becomes digitized. Zoom is an accepted communication tool as an alternative to in-person meetings. Hybrid work structures will likely be more common. And telehealth proved its value. Products and services delivered to home became the default approach during the pandemic, and now the infrastructure has been built to make this more widely possible and cost-effective. These trends have accelerated the move away from high-cost, high-density areas such as San Francisco, New York and Boston.

Thankfully, with widespread vaccinations in effect, we can now see an end to the pandemic in our country. While the world around us has changed, an important question remains: how will the pandemic change you? For some, the level of trauma will take time to process. For others, the pandemic may be viewed as a crappy lost year to be forgotten. For those who had a tough year, but without significant personal trauma, it could be a moment that leads to a different, better you.

Sh*t as Fertilizer

A friend recently quipped that we have an opportunity to see this pandemic sh*t as fertilizer. He’s right. We can take note of how Mr. Cubbington uses his manure pellets to help a garden flourish. What would it look like to take the crap from the pandemic and make our lives better?

For one, it may mean being more intentional about spending time with people you care about. My parents are in their 70s and some of their closest friends are spread across the country. They started a weekly Zoom call on Sunday afternoons. Maybe this is a tradition that can hold post-pandemic. I’m sure it would enrich all of their lives. This is sh*t as fertilizer.

Maybe it’s being ruthless about prioritizing your time and energies in general, to make sure they align with what’s most important to you. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, makes a compelling case that when we say ‘yes’ to too many things, we’re implicitly signing ourselves up for mediocrity in everything. A friend was laid up in hospital for three days during the pandemic and used the time to create his post-pandemic list of priorities. He’s recovering with a renewed vigor for what’s next. That’s sh*t as fertilizer.

Zoom screen

Many of us faced “Zoom Fatigue” during the pandemic, but it will remain a valuable tool post-pandemic

The Case for Having a Plan for Successful Aging

There’s a broader opportunity here, too. The pandemic exposed how many of us are unprepared to age successfully during this time of extended of longevity. Are you really prepared to live to 100? Research tells us that healthy aging is more about our lifestyle than our DNA. Do you have purpose? Are you socially connected? Are you physically active? Are you in good financial shape? These and other lifestyle questions are good to ask in this moment.

Not to be overlooked is the role of place. The right place adds to our health and overall well-being just as the wrong place takes away from them. Did the pandemic reveal that you are in the right place for you? Keep in mind that place includes not just your built environment and physical dwelling, but region of the country, metropolitan area and neighborhood.

Don’t forget the role of community to contribute to and be supported by. Websites like Zillow can miss this element. Community is where we can find our A-team. For us, the pandemic has crystallized who we can lean on and who we can actively support. Our family has quasi-adopted an elder in the neighborhood – driving to errands, putting up holiday lights, sharing meals – to the benefit of everyone involved.

Turning a New Leaf

I’m not much of a green thumb. I have a history of killing plants. The most recent victim was in my office. I meekly swapped my dying Fiddle Leaf fig for a Pottery Barn special. This change has not gone unnoticed on Zoom.

Post-pandemic, I’m hopeful that I can turn a new leaf. I plan to use Mr. Cubbington’s pellets to grow peppers in our garden while, at the same time, to redouble efforts to become more rooted in my community. I hope to use sh*t as fertilizer on multiple accounts. Stay tuned.  


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