March was like waiting for a birth. The quarantine was inevitable but the exact date remained a surprise. And who would it resemble?
When it arrived on March 13, claustrophobia bit us big-time. That first day we took off for the back woods to trace a route through a maze of logging roads where we didn’t see a single vehicle in hours. Packed a cooler with crusty buns, cheese and salami, mustard and horseradish, a couple of beers and a chocolate bar.
The next day we noticed the birds. With the absence of trucks on the Interstate, whining pickups on the county road or chainsaws from our neighbors’ woods, the chirping of birds seemed exponentially robust. Coyotes howled earlier in the evening, apparently confused by the silence. Long walks with our Labs revealed only tree squirrels, strutting turkeys and early spring wildflowers.
Day and night, every window had a TV screen reflecting off the shades. Norah O’Donnell seemed moved to tears by what she was reporting. Media playbooks rewritten, broadcasters' backdrops moved from studio to kitchen to artfully arranged background walls. A feeling of watching the world as a work-in-progress. Thanks to Youtube, I attended Mass in cathedrals around the world.
As time went on we dined like the upstairs folks on Downton Abbey, savoring each forkful without conversation. We planned our meals with such enthusiasm. Two weeks in, I made my first visit to the grocery when my milk and eggs ran out. We used up our flour on potato bread and homemade pizza. Afterwards, Kate Hepburn’s flourless brownies, and peanut butter cookies that called for simply a cup of sugar, a cup of peanut butter and an egg. Our freezer held grass-fed beef that my son had raised, the remains of two venison hunts, and a half-pig cut into chops, sausage and bacon. Self-sufficiency turned us into 21st-Century cavemen, surviving on barbecue meat and wine.
My husband joined me for meaningful conversations on the porch swing after we spent days setting fenceposts and stringing pigwire on the west property line. We cut up downed trees and hauled firewood. Framed a woodshed. Later we finished a massive spring weed-eating and pruning project while a friend's cattle grazed out the pastures.
So it’s mid June. We're out and about to some degree, but I already miss the silence. Closets are neat. Books revisited. The family saga that needed writing is finished, a bucket list project checked off. In June I planted a garden in raised beds we built together out of scrap redwood boards, complete with a drip system. Cherries ripen on our two trees, enough to give to elderly neighbors. Neighbor children build a tree house in the sturdy pine that straddles our property line. Time passes in a sweet continuum of working together, sharing thoughts, phone calls and videos with children, self-reflection.
What I loved about the quarantine was shedding the layer of stress I didn’t know I was carrying—gone the day the shutdown was announced. I lost weight. Trimmed my mental load and my bucket list. Best, I met my mortality. We became friends.