In a State of Siege: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Days 21 & 22

Is there really a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?

That’s not the question in my mind these days. What is on my mind is just what’s going to happen when I can finally get out and about again without cringing every time I get near another living, breathing human being.

There are no answers. The uncertainty is what keeps me awake at night. And I’m not alone. A lot of people seem to be having trouble sleeping these days. Odd dreams. Scary dreams. Or no dreams.

Usually, I can count on reading to put me into sleep mode. But, as I’ve said before,  what I never banked on was not being able to read. At least not in the deep, focused way that’s always lifted me up out of my mundane world and into another, whether it be the figment of some author’s imagination or a recreation of the past flowing from the pen [sic] of a skilled storyteller wrestling with the complexities of history.

So I grab onto what has become my security blanket: the internet.

A thought suddenly occurred to me as I scrolled through page after page of news and came across a video of Queen Elizabeth II speaking to the British people about COVID-19 in that calm, unflappable, stiff-upper-lip kind of way.


The thought?

Right now, we all want our mommies. Or at least someone to smooth our hair back from our foreheads and plant a big kiss there, telling us everything is going to be fine and dandy. Someone we can trust to lead us out of the abyss.

I’ll admit it. I cried while I listened to the Queen. Maybe it’s all just fiction. But I desperately want to believe otherwise.

Day 21:

It was raining when I woke up. Splatter, splatter on the roof. It’s been so dry here, I swear I could just see the palms in my front yard unfurl their leaves as the moisture soaked into the ground.

Undulating gray clouds in the sky matched my mood.

I checked on my Instacart order, due to arrive between 5 and 7 p.m. The people who shop for people like me deserve medals and plush tips. And so do all the others out there, putting their lives on the line, keeping going a semblance of real life.

All I felt like doing all day was streaming “NCIS: New Orleans” on Amazon. Guilt clawed at me. “You should be doing this, doing that.” I manged to quickly inventory my freezer, saying a short prayer that the electricity keep flowing for a while longer as I closed the door.

The ghost of productivity future – apologies to Charles Dickens – leaned over my shoulder most of the day. Its breath rasping in my ear, “Bad, bad, you are bad,” I Googled “pandemic” and “productivity” and this came up:

Because individual circumstances differ and people process difficult experiences in a variety of ways, psychotherapist Dana Dorfman says, “there’s no ‘right way’ [to get through this] other than allowing yourself to be your own way.” You are not obligated to accept every live-stream yoga or virtual happy hour invitation. If you’re carrying any guilt about not producing your best work, writing a screenplay, learning to quilt or putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle, you have permission to let that go. Dorfman says if you “respect the range of coping styles and view people’s behavior as their way to manage their anxiety, you can feel less judgmental” — of yourself and others.

I roused myself later in the day.

Because I had some batter leftover from the previous night’s fried fish, and I spied four HUGE sweet onions rolling around in my crisper, I decided on onion rings for a side dish for dinner. Why not? I saved the oil, straining it first. But given that I will not be “shopping” again for a while, I knew I needed to conserve the used oil.

One thing that will happen, I suspect – once the world moves toward more of an equilibrium – is this: the small things will become dearer, cherished. Hopefully.


Onion rings (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

Day 22:

While you might have a surge of creative inspiration to complete a Pinterest project and cook a gourmet meal today, don’t be surprised if you feel differently tomorrow. “You’re going to vary. This is a one-day-at-a-time kind of experience,” Dorfman says. “There are going to be days when you’re less focused and more overwhelmed. And that is okay. This is a very stressful time and you shouldn’t be operating on all four cylinders all the time.”

Dana Dorfman’s wise comment held true for me on Day 22. Two walks – short, but still, two!

And I spent – happily – quite a bit of time reading A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression, by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe, a book that’s not at all depressing. No, instead it’s an award-winning saga about American food after WWI and the flu epidemic of 1918. The ways in which people began to adapt to the social and economic changes proves to be very inspiring, giving voice to the ingenuity of the human spirit to rise above adversity.  As you can probably guess, I’m not done reading it, but so far it’s been an eye-opener. Stay tuned. This is what the book’s blurb says:

Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, the tension between local traditions and culinary science has defined our national cuisine, a battle that continues today. A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then, and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

So there was nothing else to do, but tie on the apron like my foremothers and charge into the kitchen. That sad-looking cauliflower in the crisper needed some celebration, so I cut it into florets and blanched it. Risotto with cauliflower and chicken cutlets with pesto I’d made and froze last week, that was what was for dinner.

Then it was back to NCIS, my brain and body unable to manage much of anything else.

I’ll look for more rainbows tomorrow.

Stay safe. Stay well. And stay home, if you can.


Risotto (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)