Day 32: Monday, April 13
I stress eat popcorn. I remind myself that my mind is not to be believed. I remind myself that this is stressful. I remind myself that my mind deals with stress in curious ways. I count down the days.
Day 33: Tuesday, April 14
It’s cold and windy and with the clouds it feels like winter still. I put on my winter hat and direct-seed beets in the garden. I should plant carrots too but instead I look for the toad I found on Sunday, hiding in the mint. I can’t find him.
Eric goes to the co-op and for the first time I’m not nervous. This paranoid routine is starting to feel normal. We spend an hour disinfecting the groceries when he gets home even though I just read an article saying you don’t need to. I can’t give it up yet. It helps me feel safer somehow.
At night, in bed, watching shows I flinch whenever people hug.
Day 34: Wednesday, April 15
It flurries on and off all day. It’s cold and windy again.
My brother said it last week (or was it two weeks ago?) It feels like Groundhog’s Day “except I’m stepping in that pothole every single time.”
The skies are quiet except for sometimes a helicopter. Every time one chuffs by I wonder if it’s a covid patient from the city being transported upstate. Whoever it is, I send positivity up to the sky. I don’t know how far I can reach, but I try.
Something cracks in my mind halfway through the day and I feel cleaner. The noise of the past few days has quieted. The winds of my brain have slowed. The clouds have cleared and allowed the sun to peek through. I don’t know how long it will last, but that’s not the point anymore is it? We are living one moment at a time now.
Day 35: Thursday, April 16 + Day 36: Friday, April 17
Some days blend together.
Some days presence is hard to find.
Day 37: Saturday, April 18
Today is the 21 year anniversary of the first time we kissed.
Eric sets up his easel in the space we still call Grandma + Grandpa’s room.
I pull out Grandma’s sewing machine in the space we still call the Sewing Room.
Eric paints a turkey vulture in oil paint on a canvas that my Grandmother once sketched a village scene on in pencil. I sew face masks using my Grandmother’s old fabric.
It snowed several inches last night and the daffodils and hyacinths pop out of the white. The buds on the trees and the leafy rhododendrons hang heavy under the blanket.
On a Zoom call with a half dozen of my childhood friends and their spouses someone asks if I’ve been keeping a journal of this time.
“Yes,” I nod, “but it’s mostly about panic.”
My friend Jimmy laughs weakly. “If I were writing one it would go like this: 2am: still can’t sleep. 3am: pacing in the hallway and taking my temperature for the fifth time today.” His wife chimes in “4am: tells me to call the ambulance.”
Jimmy works for the State Budget Office. Last week the Board of Health called and told him he may have had exposure to someone with covid. When they called again after his test, he expected the results. Instead they told him that while he was being tested he was exposed to another infected person. This system seems inherently flawed.
“Is it me, or am I the oldest looking person on this Zoom call?” he asks when he first appears on the screen. Our friends observe that it’s probably just the Jeff Van Gundy bags under his eyes.
Day 38: Sunday, April 19
After breakfast we pull out our plumbing tools and snake. The kitchen sink is backed up again.
Last night we had a half an hour after dinner before Zoom cocktail hour with my family.
“Let’s do the sink!” Eric suggests. He’s so optimistic.
“We have a half an hour.”
He looks at me blank faced. “Yeah. That’s enough time.”
“I love you. We’re not doing the sink.”
This morning it takes two hours, two different pipe dismantlings, and three different snake points of entry to unclog the drain.
The two of us shiver in the cellar, wedged between the big old oil tank and the damp stone wall. Halfway through I have to change the batteries in our headlamps. I feel like a coal miner, but this physical discomfort is an exciting change of pace. I’m manning a bucket, collecting slop water and shining my light through the pipe while Eric pokes and scrapes at a packed solid, sludgy plug with a coathanger. Something finally gives way and splatters Eric in the face. He starts dry heaving. I dislodge myself from the wall and the oil tank, he lurches past me and turns on the internal spigot that runs into the sump pump. He’s splashing his face, spitting and heaving into a pile of rubble and shale.
Emerging from work like this feels like being born. The sun has never felt so bright. The air has never felt so clean.
We hike into the woods and sit on the edge of the falls. I meditate on patience but I have trouble focusing. My meditation morphs into finding patience with myself. My eyes are open. They latch onto a pair of turkey vultures catching the thermal updrafts of the waterfall. I watch them circle until they’re specks. Across the gorge I see a family of turkeys run through the woods. They look like ostriches or dinosaurs.
When I get home I look up turkey and turkey vulture in my animal totem reference book. Both refer to patience in their symbolic descriptions.