Day 95: Monday, June 15
“Your friend the fox is sleeping on the train tracks,” Eric says. He’s striding down Uncle Luther’s tractor path after a mid-day hike into the woods. “You digging up that thistle?” he continues. I’m carrying a shovel and elbow length gloves.
“Mmm hmmm,” I say.
“Well you’re a real sweetheart.” The thistle is almost as tall as I am and when I get around to digging it my gloves are useless. The spines and prickers poke right through. But first I lay down those gloves and shovel and try to find my friend the fox sleeping on the railroad tracks as promised, but by the time I get there he’s already gone. I can hear the crows chasing after him.
My mom comes by to pick up bushels of herbs, peppermint and oregano, to strip for me. We wander around in masks in the sun. She points at peonies and coos at coreopsis. When Eric comes outside he calls me a bandit because of my mask and the cowboy hat I wear to keep the sun out of my eyes.
We talk about the states that are seeing an increase in cases. We talk about trying to do things that feel normal. Having a Father’s Day dinner outside. We wonder about needing to use the bathroom. We’ve all been quarantined since early March, we think it might be ok to finally hug. We talk about my brother’s wedding that was supposed to be big and grand this summer with over 200 people. Instead we’ll host a small wedding in the gardens of The Kirk Estate with just our immediate families: 12 adults and 4 kids. Eric, being an ordained minister, will officiate. I think it’s the best back-up wedding you could ask for. I wonder if we should all get tested before the wedding so we don’t have to all wear masks.
“The pictures will be unforgettable.”
On our nightly walk we begin to realize just how comfortable we’ve become living like this, and just how much life has changed. We see the same people every night. Clark Kent and Lois Lane each walking their tiny dogs. The guy who’s taken a new affection for watering his foundation plantings. The lady who carries the pink 5 lb weights but doesn’t swing her arms. Our friend who stands on the sidewalk outside his home at the Adults with Disabilities Center, wearing his mask under his nose and who we wave to every night.
“How are you?” he always asks.
“Beautiful day!” Eric always responds.
Last night, and again tonight, he points at us and says: “You guys are my buddies!”
“Yeah!” We say, smiling back.
An older gentleman shouts “hello!” to us, from his porch, even though we hadn’t seen him as we passed. “Hello!” we shout back, and make small talk about the weather.
“Life is so different,” Eric notes. “People are actually sitting on their porches.”
We pass by house after house with people working in their yards, watering their flowers, mulching their trees, weeding their vegetables.
“People are growing gardens,” I say. “I hope that part doesn’t change.”
Day 96: Tuesday, June 16
I get the tomato stakes in the ground before the heat of the rest of the week takes hold. I watch robins and catbirds dip down into the strawberry patch and fly off with pink berries. Two chipmunks have been thieving too. When it’s this dry the animals are desperate. They typically leave the strawberries alone, but this is all they’ve got for water. The creek is bone dry.
Eric takes his lunch break to prep the site for our new tractor shed by limbing up the black spruce while I bundle the branches. It’s times like this when I wish we had a still. The branches are feathery and fragrant green. I daydream about our own spruce oil.
On our nightly walk a man scrapes intricate Victorian paint off the posts of his porch. Spindles in elaborate alternating creams, blues and greens. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe we had less going on back then. Maybe we have less going on again now. Either way, I don’t envy the painter.
“Lookin’ good!” Eric calls.
The man laughs genuinely “It’s infinite!”
And we laugh because we know.
These old houses are a blessing and a curse. I am aware of how fortunate and privileged I am to live in one. And they become your entire life.
Day 97: Wednesday, June 17
“Have you thought about what we should do for dinner?”
“We have an avocado, we could make sandwiches…”
“Oh, yeah, tacos! Taco Tuesday! Wait. Is it Tuesday? It’s Wednesday. Taco Wednesday…it’s June right?”
Day 98: Thursday, June 18
Today, while tearing down plaster and lathe in the entryway to the basement I find a mummified rat in the wall.
Day 99: Friday, June 19
It is officially firefly season.
Day 100: Saturday, June 20, The Summer Solstice
On day 100 of quarantine we celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.
The passionflower that Eric once got me on my birthday and always manages to flower on special occasions doesn’t disappoint us today. We receive the gift of our first blossom since last summer. In the four years we’ve cared for it it has flowered on each of our birthdays, Valentine’s Day, multiple anniversaries and days of remembrance for us. I feel a connection to this plant and it makes me feel as though I’ve cared for it so lovingly that it rewards me with serendipitous flowers.
When we get up we put on our work clothes, but then we self-impose that we shouldn’t be working. Yet we’re not sure what to do, so we get in the car and drive. I haven’t driven for this long since early March. It feels like time has stood still, but I witness the change in this small town since I’ve cocooned. First as we pass through the country: the suddenly blooming catalpas. The corn fields that will never be knee high in two weeks unless we get rain. The deep green of the soybean fields. And then later, as we get closer to the city: a new car wash. An upgrade in sidewalks. The new facade on the strip mall. We order take-out for the first time. It feels like a loosening.
Day 101: Sunday, June 21
Aside from Eric, I haven’t hugged anyone since March 15th.
Today, I get to hug my Mom, and my Dad.
And I cry.