Plague Diary IV

I get dressed when I get up in the morning. I brush my teeth, wash my face, do my Tai Chi forms, and check my email (just to delete the dross). Then, while I fix breakfast, I watch “Leave it to Beaver.” This is a recent activity as I no longer feel comfortable spreading the newspaper out in order to scan the contents while I eat. In fact, we’ve discontinued newspaper delivery in favor of a digital subscription but I have deep fears about the possible effects of dripping egg and toast crumbs on my computer. So I tune into the “Beav.”

I marvel at June Cleaver’s ensembles, the clothes she wears for housework: clever day dresses and pearls, heels. I’m awestruck by the engineering feat of her perfectly coiffed hair. She stores her groceries directly into kitchen cabinets. and refrigerator. There are no masks, no gloves involved and food remains in their original containers. (She does don a frivolous half-apron in which to cook.) Life is easy at the Cleaver’s, and the show drowns out the sound of ambulances.

Having grown up in similar circumstances, I never aspired to such a life. I wanted adventure, noise, grit. So I’ve enjoyed my life in the city. I may be a “small fish in a big pond,” but I’ve had the opportunity to know some of the best and brightest, to see some of the world. I’ve failed many things but never regretted taking the risk.

Still, during this time of quarantine, one thing I didn’t think I’d long for is the subway. But I miss the ride. I miss the drummers and the Mariachi band, and the pole dancers who high-five an old lady. I miss watching fellow travelers, the comradely of a late train. I miss losing myself in a playlist of my own devising while traveling to other neighborhoods.

My playlists are now motivation for yoga (warier stances to “Country Joe and the Fish”), which I do in lieu of climbing up and down subway stairs, and walking…Short walks in the neighborhood are divided between views of spring blossoms and the stand of National Guard at the community center; tulips and daffodils versos frightened people in masks and rubber gloves.

I spend a pleasant half hour in Beaumont with the Cleavers then turn them off. Time slips by while I go nowhere, but there are still adventures to be had, in books and imagination, with friends that are more than virtual; with the memory of a young woman who can apply makeup perfectly on a moving train, a boy who can woo a girl in the presence of a crowd of strangers.

Plague Diary III


We turn the sound of the TV up so we can’t hear the noise of ambulance sirens and we reflect on places we’ve seen: Cairo, Venice; Morgantown, West Virginia. The Red Sea, the Potala Palace, the Winchester Mystery House. The Trolly in Lisbon, elephants in the Bronx, the Southern Cross. And places we’ve seen only in our minds: the streets of Timbuktu, the Carpathian Mountains, Macondo.
We read books we haven’t had time for and reread ones we love. We see friends virtually, knowing they’re anything but “virtual friends.”
We long for family.
We long for an old normal.
We try to normalize a new order.
We hold the ones we love the most…at length, closely.
We’re alone together, together alone.
We find freedom in our minds even though we’re trapped in them.

I’ve seen heroes and terrorists. I’ve seen seven continents.
I raised children who do good in the world.
I am a student of Tai Chi Ch’uan, daughter of a magician, and decedent of a miner who left a mystic isle to dig black coomb in tunnels he couldn’t stand in. I do not fear enclosure.
I’m Amelia Earhart, Patti Smith, Alice in Wonderland.
I’m made of the “stuff“ of stars, and we do not fall easily.

Plague Diary II

I am trying to lead an ordinary inside life, on my own schedule that is filled but not quite loose. I dress according to my mood: frivolous or grunge. I get up, do my tai chi forms, eat breakfast, attend to household chores, email, haver about the web, consider writing/editing old stories, loose concentration. Eat lunch. After this, I might take a walk with my husband if the weather is ok, or read a bit. Afternoons are for ironing on random days, or I might take a nap—something I very rarely did before, despite life-long insomnia, but recent stress related incidents…

Then a little yoga, 20 min, 45 min (mostly 20). My Spanish lesson: “Yo soy abuela.” Ok, the vocabulary is coming slowly. (I still have to look up English words when I read, for heaven’s sake!) And grammar is years away. “Mi camisita es rojo.” Why does “T-shirt” sound so much like Kama Sutra? 

I check-up on friends by phone, which is as much for me as for them.

Then back to the internet, a quick scan of social media (until my heart starts to pound). Is it six yet? Close enough. A glass of wine, two lately, generous pours. My husband insists on watching, at the least, local news. I practice avoidance by clanking pots and dishes, supper preparation. (I also avoid the orange villain and his horde holding their daily rallies to pronounce untrue prevarication, antipathy, and ugliness.)

After supper, clean up, shower, TV, reading, lights out. There is some roaming in the the night, some reading, snacking, Ambien.

Outside, the city (New York City) is eerily silent and clear. We normally have to go to the Planetarium to see stars, some are visible now without the admission cost.

Does it sound peaceful? 

Actually we live anxiety attack to anxiety attack, nightmare to nightmare. Heart pounding, eye burning, hypochondriac blips, wondering if I should write that last letter to my husband, children, grandchildren. (I love you, LOVE you, proud to have been your wife, mother, grandnan…)

For all of you out there who are getting work done and children home-schooled, I’m awed by you. You have my enduring respect. For those of you who are going out and doing your jobs: medical, police, delivery, garbage, mail, grocery workers, truck drivers, firemen..for all of you, 10,000 blessings. And 10,000 more.

Virtual hugs to everyone. Namaste. Peace. Power. Whatever that Star Trek thing is, “Wakanda forever,” military salute, high-five/fist bump mime, air kiss…

Plague Diary

I’ve never had a problem being alone. As a shy “only” child I found plenty ways to entertain myself. My anxiety emerged when I had to be among people. It isn’t that I dislike people nor am I bored by them, but they tend to confuse me. I suppose I was out of the loop so much as a kid and young adult, that I never grasped the art of social grace. I was always worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, offending someone. Happily, I’ve reached an age where this no longer matters—or maybe it does, but women of a certain age can get away with anything (largely due to our invisibility which has its plusses and minuses).
Staying at home is not a great stretch for me. I’m neither sick nor unhealthy enough to worry inordinately about this virus, but my usual “haunts” are closed or at risk—the yoga studios, museums, restaurants…and the subway, well, that was a risk I was always willing to take but where would I go now? I don’t feel entirely alone—I do have a husband who’s recklessly careening about the apartment as a result of the stock market, and friends I can call. I read, write, do tai chi and yoga, watch TV. I even cleaned my oven!
I can shop on the internet, but it’s much more interesting to go out to the market and track what people are stowing away. The rice shelf is empty and there are very few beans. There’s precious few frozen veggies and a hole in the frozen fish freezer, go figure. Much of the chocolate is gone, but not my favorite (which I’m not sharing the name of for obvious reasons). Not much choice in the ice cream department either. Wine comes into the building by the case, some to my apartment. Alcohol kills germs after all.
And what’s with the toilet paper obsession?
The weather’s been great so we can get out for a walk, that is if I can find time away from my current project which is patching my worn bedspread. Writing…a bit, but it’s hard to “work” when things are cozy.
Given the current state of affairs (politics, elections, environmental catastrophes, extremist agendas and the reemergence of intolerance), I think it is time to kick back and take a breath. It’s unfortunate that it took a health crisis to compel us to slow down and examine what’s really important.
Stay well, people.