Dispatches from Lockdown

Well, hi there. Long time no write, right? Like most (all?) of you, my life during the past four months has been lived almost exclusively from the confines of my home.

It all happened rather suddenly: One weekend I was in Rhode Island with Steven, attending a baby shower for my brother-in-law and sister, the party guests laughingly trying to avoid hugs because we’d heard that the new coronavirus was making its way toward us. The next weekend, I was back in Maryland; on Sunday night (my 33rd birthday!), I received a work email telling everyone to stay home for the next two weeks.

You know how that story played out: Two weeks became a month, a month became two months, and here we are in July with no plans for the vast majority of our staff to return to the office. Looking back, my family feels so grateful nobody got sick at our little baby shower gathering. We were so naive! Given what we know now, it seems shocking we got together. Steven and I FLEW to Rhode Island, for crying out loud! In a PLANE! Via the AIRPORT! With all those PEOPLE! Phew.

The end of a raised garden bed, with a few green plants poking up. On the side of the wooden bed is a stainless steel colander; inside are freshly picked lettuce leaves and two bright pink radishes.

Freshly picked lettuce and salad rose radishes a few months back. My garden is much wilder now!

And here we are in lockdown. I’m lucky: I have a house and a partner and a garden and pets. My job is stable. Unlike many of my friends, I’m not stuck in an apartment with almost no outdoor access. My garden has never been so well-tended as it has been this year. My home office (previously used as a craft room/repository for random things with no other home) has never been such an official office-y office space. My pups have never received so much nonstop attention. Steven works from home normally, so having me here has been a bit of an adjustment for him. And me? I’m actually loving working from home. I can take breaks and go putter outside if my creative juices aren’t flowing (and, early on, they flowed like molasses, let me tell you). I can start dinner at 2:00 p.m. to save myself time later. I can wear ACTUAL SUMMER CLOTHES because I’m not sitting in a freezing icebox of an office building. In that regard, lockdown has had its silver linings. (Which is not to minimize the deadly gravity of the pandemic, of course, but I’ve got to take the good where I find it.)

A triangular desk wedged into the corner of a room between two windows. There's a laptop on it, along with some plants. Outside the windows are lots of flowering native plants!

My current office! Steven custom-built this desk so it fits right between the two living room windows.

Steven and I recently switched office spaces (he moved into the office room; I moved into his living room desk space) and now I have a great view of some of our wildlife garden. In the last week alone, I saw:

  • A rambunctious chipmunk chasing a very perturbed dove. 
  • A pair of American goldfinches chowing down on the seedheads of some bee balm, while a chipping sparrow waited her turn.
  • A hunched-over raccoon sloping through my front yard and into the back, perhaps in search of a cooling drink on a 90-degree day.
  • Multiple hummingbirds sipping nectar from the bee balm, flitting from one tubular petal to the other. Just this morning, a female ruby-throated hummingbird hovered by my window, seeming to stare at me as I looked back at her just as curiously. <3
  • Countless birds, bees, squirrels, and other wild friends just living their lives.

It’s distracting! But also lovely. 

Socially, my introverted self has been… just fine, to be honest. Weekly video chats with my college friends have sustained and cheered me; it’s been so nice to reconnect with them all as a group and to just be silly together. I connect with home-friends and here-friends; I talk with my family; I’m doing OK. I’m enjoying backyard picnics and getting into cocktails and supporting my local businesses by getting takeout every so often. 

I’m taking the bright sides and the silver linings wherever I find them, basically. 

A vine twines around a wooden fence; its leaves are covered in raindrops and one little mouth-like flower bud pokes up at the center.

Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle) in early spring after a rainstorm.

Of course, lockdown has also been stressful AF. There were times (early on, especially) where everything felt so dark and hopeless, especially as our ignorant turd of a president seemed determined to get us all killed. To see and hear scientists and epidemiologists provide recommendations, only to have them laughingly ignored by the president/various state officials/”BUT MUH FREEDOM!” people, is just… beyond infuriating. As a perhaps overly empathetic individual, I’ve had my heart broken over and over again during the past four months. And that was even before the latest spate of racist police violence spewed into our collective consciousness.

I protested. I broke our fairly strict quarantine to go to a nearby small city and join a BLM protest because I couldn’t not do it. I donated, because my stimulus check could be put to better use elsewhere. And when Steven and I drove to Rhode Island last month to meet our new nephew, born in May, I had heartfelt and scary and hopeful (socially distanced) conversations with resistant and confused family members.

The tenor and intensity of these conversations felt different. I felt empowered to speak with more passion, and I felt my family members listening with more open ears than they might’ve in the past. It was good. 

A top-down long-arm selfie of two young women, one middle-aged woman, two young kids, and a baby in a front pack.

My sister, me, my mom, and my nephews on an easy little hike in Rhode Island.

And about that trip home: That was good, too. Steven and I quarantined carefully beforehand and then drove up to RI with minimal stops, only pausing to get gas and let the dogs potty. With careful avoidance of liquids, we didn’t even need bio breaks for ourselves! One week of expanding our little quaranbubble to include my immediate family was just what we needed. Paddling in my parents’ pool with my nephews, drinking my dad’s home-brewed beer, playing games… it felt so normal. We even saw extended family, from a distance. The return back to real life was a bit rough, but so it goes.

So here we are, approaching the middle of July, as our national ability to exercise self-sacrifice and self-restraint has apparently reached its limits and we’ve just accepted a second wave of infections, worse than before, as the price of… well, what, exactly, I’m not sure. I, for one, am staying the eff home. I will confine myself to my books and my garden and my backyard and my video calls. I will wear my mask. I will indulge in our twice-monthly grocery store trips, and maybe an occasional visit to my beloved Saturday morning farmers market (but probably not, because people were crowding each other the last time I was there and it made me a little panicky). 

I hope you’re all as well as can be, under the circumstances. I’ve been reading, even if I haven’t been commenting, and I appreciate those of you who’ve been able to keep up with normal posts as the world disintegrates around us. I hope to be back soon, to share some of the meals Steven and I have made recently. We shall see. :) 

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