In the past few days, I experienced two events worth marking in time; I had my first haircut in over two months (sorry, photographic evidence will not be forthcoming) and I had my first sit-down coffee, a double espresso machiatto, in a proper glass cup in a new local coffee shop, one that will probably become my new home on Denman Street.
These were memorable occasions, worthy of marking, forever memorializing their significance. It reminded me to document this time; recognizing my capacity for hyperbole and my sometimes comic desire to make myths out of ordinary events in the near past, I should try to get the facts straight. I can thus preserve a more honest recollection of events and the lessons I have learned of my experiences adhering to Bonny Henry’s rules of safe conduct in the time of Covid – 19.
On March 14, I arrived home from a weekend in Edmonton celebrating my brother’s birthday. Within days, the idea of being in an airport, flying on an airplane, hanging out in a restaurant seemed bizarre and otherworldly. We are in the BC/AC times, before coronavirus, after coronavirus.
What did you do in that dark time when the restrictions descended on you, people will ask.
To be honest, even though we are only through phase one of what may be a long process, it hasn’t been that tough. So Far…
I walked a lot, sometimes with a friend, mostly alone. While the physical aspect of the walk was much needed, freeing me for a few hours from the safety of my sanctuary, the metaphysical was far more valuable. I witnessed spring! For two months, I watched plants grow and flower, trees bloom, the forest turn innumerable shades of green. I watched tulips blossom, reach their peak of springtime beauty and then fall into the soil again, a daily reminder that the wonders of nature have been around me forever, they just require patient observation.
I saw birds and beasts, a coyote, a woodpecker, a river otter, eagles, rabbits – all enjoying the quiet desolation resulting from our retreat from their habitat. Slowing down and mindfully observing has its benefits.
I participated in the great tribal ritual of celebrating life by barking at the moon; in this case I joined my neighbours every night at 7 PM to clap in appreciation of the helpers, the health care workers, the checkout staff, the first responders, the garbage truck drivers and the barristas that risked their lives – yes their lives – to serve us. We were inspired and led occasionally by a lone piper whose solemn piping sometimes brought me to tears.
I worked on jigsaw puzzles when I got to restless, unable to sit still anymore. It kept me from the Television and the train wreck south of the border that was so mesmerizing yet so demoralizing. Putting one piece in place gave me a sense of accomplishment, instant gratification and power in a new world where I had little of any of those feelings.
I talked on the phone. My first Koodo bill after lockdown recorded 1300 minutes of talk time; an astounding increase over my normal 50 minute average. People were home when I called them; I was home when people called me. We had time to chat, the chats became conversations, free ranging, sometimes surprising, always enriching.
I sat in my favourite chair and watched the great Blue Herons return to their nesting ground, conveniently at eye height stationed just outside my window. I saw sunrises and sunsets I know I would have missed had I not been committed to sitting still.
I read. I read a lot. I managed to finish my GLS course – the last five classes were on Zoom; not the best but better than expected. After months of disciplined close-reading, I consumed thrillers and whodunnits, historical biographies and sci-fi novels, wallowing in their lightness and diversity.
I missed parts of my life and allowed myself to grieve them. My adventure calendar is a vast desert of nothingness, Japan, Finland, France, all gone – pre-covid dreams of the before times.
I missed travel to see Blair, my post-covid travel opportunities of the after times need to be re-imagined and carefully built on a new risk reward profile. I was joyful to have Kristen and Chris close by and I’ll sort out the whens and hows of seeing Blair soon.
Likewise for many friends spread outside my immediate neighbourhood, not forgotten and certainly not lost for anything more than the temporariness of the current construct.
Serendipitously, my research focus for my GLS course was the Stoicism of ancient Rome. it’s hard to whine when I read what Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius learned to endure; more of value, they learned to turn that endurance into a sense of purpose. I learned from them, philosophy is for all of us, for the here and now – not a bad lesson to be learned. Some things we control, somethings we don’t.
I was also struck by the many small acts of kindness shown by one person to another. In a time of stress, a time of uncertainty, a time of fear, these small acts of kindness, tender mercies I call them, stand out. The after-times show we have not all lost our humanity or our basic goodness.
There are no profound Ah-ha moments in all this, yet there are a few blinding flashes of the obvious; be safe, listen to the experts, appreciate the helpers, celebrate beauty, be optimistic, recognize that all trouble is temporary, don’t be driven by boredom and restlessness to take unnecessary risks, persevere, have some fun, smile – even if it has to be at your own expense – all good lessons. Let’s see if any or all of these take hold, they’re seeds right now, they may grow into permanent habits.
By the way, I spent some time with another woman these last few months. She wants to make me a better person, one of many in my life who have had that goal and taken me on as a project, a fixer-upper – promising but needing a bit of work.
I knew I would need help back in March, so I actually reached out to her.
She came prepared, she had a plan. All I had to do was follow her every dictum every day. She gave me a sheet of instructions, I did what I was told… well mostly.
She’s been reasonably successful; where others have failed in making me the better person they knew I could be, she has somehow managed to persevere. If I have any lasting memory of my life in the time of Covid, my guess is that it will be of her and her contribution to my time in isolation.
Her name is Jenny Craig.