Living sequestered has brought about some unusual changes in our household. Time is more fluid, beginnings and endings less defined. Some of the structure and the behaviors that held things together seem less important.
These days, there are no discreet individual projects; one seems to lead into the next. Replacing doorknobs and hinges leads to a new doorbell then leads somehow to my husband Alan creating a picture frame for that painting that I really like that has been hidden behind the door to the guest room. Various tools are left all over the house for the next project.
Breakfast leads to a discussion about lunch, most of which is spent discussing what we will make for dinner. At night I have long involved dreams about wandering through deserted cities in a blue paper, doctors-office gown, trying to reach someone on a phone that has no numbers, or seeing my deceased parents again. Sometimes I take notes about what I remember, in the morning.
There are potted plants and herbs on every surface in the kitchen and dining room. This year, with time on our hands, Alan and I decided to experiment with container gardening and began with two, 2’ x 4’ sized containers holding eight scrawny plants each. Both have exploded with foliage, flowers and fruit, and the container with tomatoes and squash is now, including leaves and stalks, the size of a small barge. At night, we bring the largest container inside because the tomatoes don’t like the 30-degree nights.
And in with the plants comes lots of loose dirt, which scatters across the floor where it is next spread throughout the downstairs of the house by the dog walking, of course, right through it. I realized it was pointless to continue vacuuming—what I vacuum today will be all over the floor tomorrow. So I don’t.
I have taken to wearing the same cloths most days and have stopped brushing my hair. It hasn’t been cut since January. Sometimes friends on a zoom call will point out this scruffy appearance, but honestly what about all those now-unrecognizable male friends and colleagues with their faces hidden under six inches of beard? At least I am (usually) not on a call while also in bed, in my nightgown.
Being stuck with not much to do is terrible and ideal for someone who writes for a living. I may have thought I wanted freedom, and options, and stimulation. But all that is a distraction. Confinement breeds creativity. The human mind needs to be stymied; it wants to find a way out. It needs a maze, a box, a blank wall, an empty sheet of paper. I have never done as much writing as I am now. (See: What to do with time saved from not vacuuming or putting anything away or brushing hair).
Which is not to say that when the opportunity for our first neighborhood wine-tasting event presented itself Alan and I didn’t jump at the chance to break out of our splendid isolation and see people.
Our winemaker friend Dave from Cedaredge was coming through town with his recently bottled 2017 vintage. We got to work organizing our backyard so that we had eleven spaced-out, individual seating areas. Neighbors arrived in masks, nervous and excited to see each other. All were more than ready to taste the selection of seven or eight varietals of wine, from Gewürztraminer through Petit Verdot. I outdid myself (and everyone else) in the going-back-for-seconds department.
Bleary eyed and exhausted the next morning, after our first social get together since March, I walked outside with my coffee. A chickadee dropped out of the tree above the porch and landed on my coffee cup rim, looking very much like a small dirty sock. Like he’d had a rough night, too. The adult chickadees are molting right now and appear a bit disheveled; I knew he’d soon have a sleek new set of feathers. The chickadee gang has become quite chummy in their interactions with us, since our confinement. Another plus.
When the caffeine kicked in, I’d go back to an article I was working on and when Alan woke up we’d begin the usual conversation about what to have for lunch and dinner. Alan would go for a bike ride and in the afternoon and I’d walk up into the woods with the dog. Clouds would mass above Peak One, maybe there would be thunder. And it would be another day. That simple.
This essay was published in The Summit Daily News, Monday August 3, 2020