Week Eight of the Pandemic and not a lot has changed. Except 80,000 people have died in the two months since they began tracking the virus.
Here, thirty-five miles southwest of Philadelphia, we’ve stayed at home, worked hard to flatten the curve, according to cell phone tracking data reported yesterday in a national newspaper. We’re in lockdown until June 4.
With nicer weather, people are starting to move around. They clamor for beaches and parks. A local state park four miles away was “mobbed” over a sunny weekend, my friend told me. People sunbathed without masks. A balancing act. I haven’t gone to a park yet and I don’t live near a beach, but I plan to meet up with a couple friends at a nearby park this weekend. Bring your binoculars, my friend, an avid bird watcher, said. We should also bring two pages about something we’ve written these last two months, I said. Stories are what hold us together. Now more than ever. Keeps us sane in an insane world.
As I keep this pandemic journal, I think about the importance of community, of face-to-face interaction. I miss our Women’s Writing Circle read arounds. I miss those summer writing conferences I attended, all of which are canceled for 2020 and the foreseeable future. Women are stronger together.
I miss driving to the Brandywine River Museum, or Longwood Gardens, stopping afterwards at Hank’s for a cup of coffee and slice of apple pie, the iconic diner near Chadds Ford that Helga and the great American painter Andrew Wyeth frequented. These places reside in the mists of memory, of walking tulip-lined paths and sun-dappled conservatories, of savoring a strong cup of coffee I didn’t make myself.
Part of it was just getting out. Doing something. And then looking forward to coming back home and relaxing on the couch, reading.
We do what we can. We meet in twos or threes in the park and social distance at a park bench as we read our stories. We invite our family over for dinner, or, in my case, welcome my sons who cooked dinner on Mother’s Day. They barbecued chicken, steamed corn … I made deviled eggs. The sun shone and we eased the restrictions. We talked. We shared. We hugged. We watched the dogs cavorting through the backyard. We played "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf on the wireless streaming device because I wanted to remember when I was young and they were gracious enough to put up with me. We acknowledged we are incredibly saddened; we feel our choices are limited.
I meet somewhere in the middle. I won’t be shamed for saying this isn’t working for me; that gratitude, while present, is not always my mantra, or that with Zoom and cell phones, what's the purpose of people anymore?
I will celebrate every extraordinary moment in every ordinary day. Like the friend and fellow author I hadn't heard from since we were both in high school who reached out late one night through Facebook. I will acknowledge the pain and the despair. I won’t blame others for a lack of perfectionism when it comes to social distancing and restrictions. I won’t feel guilt because I have a beautiful home and food on the table.
I learned years ago the value of slowing down. I learned the value of staying busy and motivated. I’m lucky because I don’t have to work. I’m unlucky, I suppose, because I’m a woman alone, who has to do her own grocery shopping, rake the yard, clean her own house, make the hours profitable, not desolate.
As always, writing saves me. As always, reaching out by sharing my story saves me. As always, making a connection with you saves me. I hear my voice echoing in the chamber of my own quiet space. Trust my intuition. Trust that the narrative is mine to create. Keep writing through the Covid blues.