These words probably will be of no interest to anyone but me. But if they are, that’s wonderful.
With the appearance of this novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the world as I know it has turn upside down. Maybe even backwards. My freezer and refrigerator stand at the ready to feed me and mine for at least a month, provided I conjure up some serious cooking skills and keyword searches for recipes on Google. Not to mention thumbing through the several hundred cookbooks I still own, scattered around my house on whatever bookcase dares show a little leg, or room, so to speak.
Day 1 of self isolation demanded a quick trip to the grocery store, dodging dozens of people, digging into the stacks of frozen pizzas still in the freezer aisle, marveling that our favorite brand was still there. (Trader Joe’s, it turns out, found itself left with dozens of Hawaiian pizzas, topped with ham and pineapple. I get it.) The only thing on my list I couldn’t buy turned out to be butternut squash. At the cash register, I spotted cauliflower, broccoli, and microwavable green beans in another person’s cart. I raced back to the produce section and grabbed all three, despite my not liking any of these vegetables much. But I knew I’d be glad for them in the coming days.
Once home, my time dissolved into my usual schedule, for writing at home means a lot of self isolating even on the busiest days. But there’s something different about this isolation now. That I cannot – because of my age and my recent back surgery – galavant about as I am used to doing sits heavy on my soul.
The internet blazed with warnings and distressing links to even more distressing articles about the terrible state of the world, from China to Italy to Spain And the naysayers among many younger people distressed me even more than the flagrant indifference of people of my own generation, living it up in their little gated community not quite 65 miles south of me. That these people are disregarding the warnings about the trajectory of COVID-19 stuns me.
Day 2 brought about a rather glum morning, after waking every two hours in the dark, checking my phone, its light blasting into my eyes. Gray skies gave way to sunshine and a blue sky the color of an Italian travel poster featuring Portofino. Of course, that reminded me of the virus-related trauma going on it in Italy. But we still register very few cases in the USA, because of the paucity of testing. I logged onto Facebook and saw a scathing comment from a family member, accusing me of speaking nastily to another family member in a post. Complete misunderstanding, as my comments were really directed to the author of the article I’d posted a link to. After a fiery exchange of written words, the person in question unfriended me. OK. I chalk it up to the stress everyone feels here, facing a completely unknown outcome, a pandemic utterly mysterious. And what’s more, probably few, if any, people now living with memory of the 1918 flu pandemic. It occurred to me then that the reason I like history so much is that I know what the end is, as long as I’m looking at the past. The story is over and open to interpretation. A nice feeling of finality, cut and dried, no uncertainty. (Until revisionism sets in or new documents or data come into focus.)
You know what I mean, I am sure.
Looking at the present seems an impossible task, as there’s no perspective. And since last I heard crystal balls don’t work, how can I know what the future will bring?
So for the rest of Day 2, I fiddled around with the outline for my new book and made another run to the grocery store, where empty dairy cases greeted me and I couldn’t buy any dried beans except for large dried limas, close in size to fava beans. I guess everyone knows these limas turn to mush when cooked. But with a bit of kielbasa – which I did find – and chicken broth – which I made from scratch today from some chicken parts I’ve been saving in my freezer – I have the makings for a nice hearty soup. Cabin fever set in again around 2 p.m. and off I went to an outdoor plant nursery, seeking azaleas, camellias, and something colorful for my yard, to make up for Florida’s infernal summer heat awaiting me just around the corner. I interacted with no one, nothing but the fresh air and sunshine.
Hopefully, in the next few days, my ability to focus on the so-called normal things of life will kick in once again, and I will be able to read some of the books in that seemingly infinite pile next to my bed. It’s going to demand a great deal of effort from me to do that, focus, but I’ve done it before in bad times.
But, wait a minute.
As my mother said to me earlier today, “I’ve never experienced anything like this, curfew, movements curtailed. We had rationing in the war (WWII), but we could still go out, have fun, be with other people.”
Yes. But not now.
Stay home if you can. Watch this video if you still are wondering why you should bother with all these precautions.