The time to be at home begins.
Some have stocked up on food and water and other essentials, some are less worried and go about their business. Some are working from home and many are not working at all, right now sitting at the kitchen table figuring out how to make the money last longer than they had planned just a few days ago, when things were already tight.
Many will try to learn something new or start a new hobby, like the lady at the library a few hours ago who learned to download books onto Kindle so she can catch up on her reading. I heard a man in the store yesterday say he was going to learn to cook. Many will binge-watch shows ad nauseam, all of them trying to avoid this invisible killer, this microscopic mess, and some of them will remember Plato said that courage is knowing what not to fear. An analyst on the radio today, when asked how difficult it is to catch this still relatively uncommon viral critter, compared a town of people to a book and the virus to a page—one leaf of paper, she said—but they’re all bound together. It isn’t easy to keep the pages away from each other, but it must be done. “Take your piece of paper and go home,” she said, her point well taken.
I’m fortunate in that my life won’t drastically change. I’ve moved my art seminars and writing classes online, and I’ll be home to walk, wander about the dock and mess about with boats, since there’s “nothing like messing about with boats” Kenneth Grahame tells us. I’ll get up for the sunrise at Stingray Point and follow it down across the duck pond and the western Rappahannock until the sky blends blue with something like a purple mist, and then deep reds, and then gone.
I’ll sit on the porch and listen to the spring peepers and dream of Spain, of the hot sun and the endless paths through eucalyptus forests and the open plains. I’ll imagine hot nights in the Siberian railroad dining car east of Irkutsk, Michael playing chess as five or six Russians take turns buying Baltika beer and laughing at the way my son keeps winning, noting how good he is, ignoring how drunk they are. I’ll look out through the woods here not far from the Chesapeake Bay and maybe hear an owl, most certainly a whippoorwill, and eventually I’ll head inside and upstairs to this desk and try and rub two sticks together on the keyboard. If nothing ignites, that’s alright; there’s time. I just need patience. They are the two most powerful warriors, Tolstoy reminds us—patience and time. And we’ve been told we’ll have plenty of time, maybe months.
It’s only Day One.
Each day I know I’ll walk to the river and note how predictable the herons can be, fishing the same spot where the water bends along the sand, as they always have, long before this, long before that. Nature has a way of reminding us to come out of the allusive moment, pick up our faces from the flood of current events and study the timeless presence of now, the motion of the tides. Isolation at home is a good time to go out, even if only to a small patch of grass in a park, to find some piece of sky and remember or plan. Some will push strollers, some walkers, and some will walk alone, slowly and against all warnings, preferring the fresh life of nature along a creek behind an apartment complex to the confines of a sterilized hallway. “I just want to go for a walk” someone might say, having never had to say that before.
Sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to take even the slightest of moments away. “Life is paper thin,” my friend Toni Wynn wrote. Yes.