Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Self-Isolation: A Writer's Life

Saying hello to the two maple trees back in the woods.  

The other day, someone on Twitter reminded us we should start a "Covid-19" diary, apparently like many people did after the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001, so that we remember the details of what this global pandemic experience was like.
That's a great idea; I know from experience that we don't remember details like we think we will, that the further away from an event we get, the less we remember it clearly and precisely.
(I need to write down my experience with Dwayne's stroke in August 2018 before all those details fall away; now that I'm not talking about that first night and day as much, I know my sense of fear and urgency are fading.)

But for me, self-isolation is a way of life! I don't know how long it will be before I really feel the impact of this pandemic shutdown. Mondays are always church service day, and I have an interview to transcribe and an article due April 1. I have to write a message for church this Sunday, and there are little things to write up for my Facebook page.
Yes, we're still meeting for church this Sunday; it's a big sanctuary and there will be 20 people or less there. What has always bugged me -- how spread out people are in that huge space -- is now a bonus! We've been "social distancing" for years.
Perhaps when we move online for church, it will feel different, but since I intend to present those services from the empty sanctuary in town, I will have a "normal" Sunday routine.
I intend to carry on with message on the Alphabet of Faith, posting it on Facebook, regardless of whether we hold worship or not. I expect people will "attend" online; doing a Facebook group for our church will be a new way of creating and maintaining community.

Once the article is written and submitted, I start another round of editing on my memoir about my father, the funeral director. My "early version reader" liked it, and didn't suggest any major revisions, so I can take my time with the work and really make sure I'm saying exactly what I need to say.
Who knows what's happening to publishing? Who knows where we will be in two months or six months? Everything is slowing down. There is stress -- watching the news creates anxiety and fears about the future -- but I can turn that off and return to my work.

And of course, I'll walk in the woods with the dog for companionship, as always. Nothing different there either. What has always been my space for peace and quiet and contemplation is even more essential now.
"Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone," as Mary Oliver started her poem, How I Go Into the Woods.
Of course, spring is coming, our wet and muddy season here in this river valley, so I must order a new pair of boots online -- my current ones have worn through with holes.

The only contact I'm craving is the city in its shutdown.
When I see reporters standing on empty sidewalks alongside empty downtowns in cities, I think, "How lovely. And only the dog walkers will appreciate that."
I wonder if people realize they can still go outside, can still walk their dogs all over, can still walk on sidewalks and through parks?
And it makes me remember my first Christmas in Vancouver, in 1996. It was early Christmas Day and I took my dog, Maggie, for a walk, alone, as I always did first thing in the morning. But it was my first experience with a holiday morning, with empty city streets, with only the occasional cab driving by. My memory seems to think it was snowy, but memory can be faulty so I won't say that it was.
It was just cool and dark and quiet. It was wonderful. It's a feeling -- of expansiveness in the midst of the quiet and aloneness -- that I have never forgotten. I even crave it, that special time in the city before it wakes up, before it gets noisy and crowded, when it feels like it belongs only to you.
I hope the dog walkers, at the very least, in every city gets the chance to explore their city in its emptiness, in its social isolation.

A chance to breathe, a chance to be curious, a chance to hope, a chance to believe things will get busy again.

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