Let’s start with the Before.
We were in Vancouver for a few days during Daughter’s spring break. We saw many beautiful, educational things, at at the Naam twice (she fell in love with their vegan Caesar salad) and got some glorious outdoor time. And we were very aware of what was happening around us. We stayed away from people and they stayed away from us. There were event cancellation notices in the hotel lobby, and sold-out hand sanitizer (we lucked into a last package–had planned to make some, but then we left home a day early).
And now, the Transition.
We got back to the Island on Friday night. We had planned to stay in Vancouver for the weekend, but our hosts weren’t well. Normally we would wave this off and visit anyways. We chose to be responsible: things now aren’t normal.
Those days away, the ferry ride, the first days back, we were feeling out the seriousness of the new now and what “social distancing” really means. Basics like how far away do you stand. What can you touch when you go shopping. Should you go shopping? What people you can spend time with. Should you spend time with anyone? We’re still working through these questions.
We were so glad to be home. First thing back was cleaning. Washing the clothes we wore, especially the jackets. Organizing the pantry/laundry room. Cleaning out the house. I’m grateful we did that: M took a big load of recyclables, clutter, garbage away and we had room to breathe again.
Then: stocking up. What is the difference between stocking up and hoarding? When I shop, I normally go big. I don’t like running out, I don’t like making frequent store trips, and it is soothing to have an extra few jars of peanut butter (organic, smooth, in glass jars if possible not for snobby reasons but because plastic increasingly creeps me out) available, given how quickly we go through it. I did buy more than usual, though I did not clear the shelves. If we’re also trying to avoid frequent trips to stores, this seems to me to be a smart idea.
Things were interesting in the neighbourhood. A friend came over to play with Alya. I didn’t think it was the best idea, but didn’t feel clear enough to say no yet, until I did.
Daughter and I were able to go for a glorious walk with friends on Sunday. Chilly but sunny; trees, river, birds, sword ferns, Oregon grape. Talk and play and connection, but no hugs. However, keeping kids 6 feet apart is easier said than done. We stopped by the organic grocery store after that; ran into a friend (not literally! We didn’t even hug, which sucked); and “stocked up” in a non-obsessive way.
And through the weekend, as our reading and feedback from other friends and observations and check-ins began to cohere into a clear understanding, we knew that it was time to self-isolate.
Our Confinement: Week One
Monday: Taxes. Why in the world would I do my taxes when the world is ending?
I was tricked into it. I had to find a receipt which ended up in the tax papers; once they were all over the floor I figured I might as well sort them; once they were sorted, I figured I might as well connect with the accountant, who arranged to pick them up; and then I realized I had a WHOLE PILE of additional information to get together before she came by. Daughter was amazing, keeping busy with an Usborne book on computers, worksheets on binary numbers, and piano composition.
Tuesday’s main event was a family walk through the woods behind our house. We’d never explored this trail before and it was lovely, in spite of the evidences of past logging.
Wednesday: Who knows?? I was working (at home). Daughter was doing stuff … including a bunch of crafts from a “Seasonal Crafts” book and finishing off reading “Heaven to Betsy.”
And Thursday. Yesterday. Another day of work-at-home, with daughter figuring out things to keep busy. More crafts, more books. My mind a lot on what is happening, what we need to be doing, and why we are not doing more to help others. I wish we were more connected with our neighbours so that there was some context for connecting.
And then we had to head into town to pick up some food I’d ordered before it got shipped back to the supplier. I called ahead to figure out pick-up protocols and they assured me I could knock on the door and they would come and check my ID there; that no signature was required; and they could bring the boxes to me on a dolly. None of these things happened. I went in; the person working tried to grab my ID to check it (I pulled it back; and I feel for him, because those address stickers are ridiculously tiny!); they took forever to find the boxes; and I carried them out myself, one by one, to the jeep.
We also stopped to get some diatomaceous earth from a garden store because we have ANTS. One nearby house had ants as well and M and I just saw the horrendous damage they did: part of the frame are completely destroyed. I’m amazed the house is still standing! So anyway, we need to deal with this NOW. I called in the morning to verify the same: do they have it; and how do I get it. Then called from the parking lot. The person answering seemed surprised that I would ask her to bring a bag to the till, and put out when I asked her to bring up a second bag. But regardless, the transaction went smoothly.
M and I are getting clear about how we feel we need to respond right now. I’ve never felt more clear on the boundaries we are setting as individuals and a family, even while those continue to shift. I’m getting better at asking uncomfortable questions: are you sanitized? will you do this for me? will you spend time with me? Practicing clear statements: I would appreciate you doing that. We are not going out right now. No guests in our house. I hope this lesson of unapologetic personal choices lingers.
*Think Sense & Sensibility.
Thanks to Anne Bromley for this article from UVA.