Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 4, 2020 - Saturday Dispatches SIP

I fuss around the side yard today, creating a Kitchen Garden. I want herbs, tomatoes, basil, pomegranates.  I listen to Gavin Newsom's press conference as I shift rocks and look for worms in the drizzle; I find it impossible to listen or watch the ones from the White House, so full of misinformation and lies; the bad behavior like a five-year-old bully. A bully who has endangered the lives of all Americans.

I'm so proud of our Governor Newsom. He installed the lock-down hard and early (March 17) and saved lives; he's even strengthened the orders, as the weeks have gone by, not even promising an end date for them, preferring to gauge the release of SIP on the actual health of the state. Though for sure we're on SIP through April. And into May.  Newsom has shared accurate knowledge even if it doesn't reflect well on him and today owned the lack of accurate and fast testing. Though I have to say, testing is something the Federal Government should have been doing right away, early and often.  

Newsom is acting more like a President than the one who's in the White House right now.

Monday, April 6, 2020

April 3, 2020 - Dispatches from SIP - an evening's walk.

Such light. 

Now write.

April 2, 2020 - Thursday, Dipatches from the SIP: Paper Rock Scissors

Writing Prompt: Paper Rock Scissors

You  never know about chicken;  they hide, for one thing. Locking up my neighbor's chicken coop for the night while they are away, I count to be sure they are all inside - first there are 11 and then 13 and then maybe 12?  Should be an even dozen of the tawny, red-wattled hens. But they get all bamboozled up, Scissors, as I call one of them, over Rock and Paper behind Scissors and then when I look away, one flutters down from a higher perch and they are cooing and moving their necks and watching my finger as I try to count them and now Paper is over Scissors and Rock has moved behind Eight Ball. Finally, I see how they are all layered and in place and accounted for.  Whew. I check the wooden nest-boxes for eggs. I don't want to leave any behind overnight.

So I've been handling unwashed eggs, still warm from the  chicken, but salmonella seems like small potatoes now. I know how to deal with it - good strong handwashing, for one thing, antibiotics, for another, should other methods fail.   It's this new disease we don't know and the future we can't see that has us tied in knots.

And yet, when could we ever really see the future? No doubt, much of the world  will be the same or similar when we return to it - there will still be roads and cars, shops and sales, banks and schools. There will still be work. And gardens. Some things could be very different - more telecommuting might bring about less traffic, cleaner air.  We might return to the way olden days of delivery of groceries and eggs and goods, as a habit, if nothing else. But we have to get through this first, subdue and subjugate  this new disease that has put a huge dent in our fabric of living, twisted it, rent it, gnawed huge holes in it.

Rock, Paper, Scissors - what solutions will be used to quell Virus? Testing, physical barriers, social distancing - how many times will we go through this routine before a Vaccine puts a hex on this beast? We can't know this now - we'll have to experience it. And take notes.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

April 1, 2020, Weds. No Foolishness Today. Dispatches from SIP, 2020

Yesterday, March 31, was Cesar Chavez Day in California, or in the local parlance of the Rincon Way Ranch, NWFH  ~ Not Working From Home Day -

So, of course, we tackled making face masks. Our pattern is rather clunky -- and then we found that working a sewing machine is too close to working  a computer; our eyes crossed and our backs gave out.  We'll try again. There is such a need for them. This is the Victory Garden Effort of our times. Do you have pattern to recommend? Please post in the comments!

Poppies along the levee at Hamilton Field

Today, April 1, doesn't feel like much of a joking, foolish kind of day, so I haven't bothered with trying out a prank. I don't think anyone I know has. Even if it might have leavened the mood, things feel far too serious for pranks and light-hearted Tom-foolery.

Instead, I took a socially-distanced walk with an old friend I only just recently re-met. Back in the days of Time Before Coronavirus II (TBCV) walking six-feet apart would have seemed almost Monty Python-esque, like some bizarre challenge:  how far can you walk, keeping six-feet apart and still keep a connection going? Turns out, it is quite possible, especially as the connections run deep and the concerns, fears and politics align so well between us.

We met back when our kids shared grades and schools in Petaluma, but we hadn't seen or talked to each other in many years. There was a move to the mid-West for her family and then a return to the Bay Area upon retirement, though not back to Petaluma. And though I knew we were within spitting distance of each other after our move down to Marin, it took a chance encounter on the Hamilton Levee in mid-March for us to fully reconnect. We are both huggers, and while physical contact was already completely verboten at that point, we snuck in one long hug that first meeting, among avid talk between us. We couldn't help ourselves. There was history in the hug and a gladness for renewed friendship.

Today we do keep our distance, offering a wave and a touch to the heart as our greeting and then walking a long 2-mile loop, catching up on each other's lives, our kids, our grandkids. Going over the new rules now - and how devastating it feels not to be in literal touch with the littlest ones. Even though we understand and acknowledge the need for distance, that's one of the hardest to endure.

Then I went home, without sharing coffee or tea or a tour of her  new-to-me house, and I kept working on making masks.  Here's the NYT article with instructions on making the pleated kind of mask. Think I'll try this one next. I have a friend in Utah who needs them, desperately. Well, I think we will all need them soon enough.

p.p.s. Doctors Plead for PPE

March 31, 2020 - Tuesday. Week Two: Dispatches from SIP. Shoppers report: Costco.

In this Age of Sequestering, we are trying to take turns going out for supplies. With three adults hunkering down at the house, it's not so bad. If each of us goes out once during the week,  most of our bases are covered with each person only having to venture into the contact-possible zones once.  Anyway, that's the plan.

It was my turn for the big run, so I went to Costco in Novato to stock up for a few weeks. Pretty organized, I thought; it felt fairly secure. The parking lots looked to be about a quarter full. If that. And sure, a goodly line to get in,  but everyone was patient, sticking to their square of sidewalk, with one full square between each of us. Therefore, the line was long in term of distance - along the whole huge warehouse, around the corner, past the auto shop and out almost to the back access road - but short in terms of the number of people waiting, maybe 30 to 40 folks standing about 8 feet apart. Plenty of people wearing masks.  I felt socially irresponsible, only carrying wipes soaked in rubbing alcohol in one hand which I planned to use to wipe the handle of my cart. However, Costco employees were sanitizing the cart handles as they brought them back from the parking lots.

I jammed the wet, alcohol-fragrant wipe in my pocket. I thanked the young man at the door who was letting us in, ten or fifteen at a time. This made the line jump up quickly ... and then stop for a time, like some sort of erratic conga line.

There was a sign on an easel just inside the door noting what was available and what wasn't. Toilet paper was back in stock, though only one package at a time per customer. No ibuprofen right now, which had been sitting on my list since I learned that was the preferred pain med for the 'Rona. We'll see if we ever get any, as it seems to be out of stock everywhere, online, offline, IRL.

With only 100 shoppers in the cavernous store, customers could easily have an entire wide aisle to themselves.  It got tight around the meats and produce and in the frozen foods, but employees with wide white wipes were disinfecting the door handles along one side, then the other. Meanwhile, I was dipping my fingers into the alcohol-soaked wipe dampening my jacket pocket. I made it a point to only pick up what I was going to put in my cart. Which meant I - and everyone, I noticed - stared at things a lot, cocking our heads and necks, squinting to read ingredients written sideways or in tiny print along the bottom.

Coffee (two bags of French Roast, yes!),  crackers, sugars, some tri-tip, peanut butter pretzels, frozen fish, Annie's Mac N'Cheese. A few things for our neighbors across the street who shouldn't be going out to stores. Some little potatoes, onions. Rice. But no hands soaps to speak of. Well, perhaps in a few weeks.

Once I got to the check out stations, there wasn't much of a wait to get out. I had to hold my receipt up to be marked as I left the store, but otherwise, I exited with most of what I came for, plus a few extras, which was always the way of that place. And as long as we have coffee, I'm not worried about toilet paper.

And so here, we are, the end of Week Two. We got through it - and we already know we're in it for a much longer haul, until the first week of May, for sure.  But personally, I'd rather go long than go short on this particular play.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 28 2020 SIP Journal: "Try Eye Hugs" from Molly Wertz

'Round about the first week of SIP, perhaps even the first day, when we were all getting used to the funny rules of social distancing for virus protection, my friend Molly Wertz came by for a walk around the marsh trail just down the road from my house. I think we were mostly 6 feet apart, but these were early days and we had to practice. We talked of many things, of walruses and kings, of our children who had grown up around each other, and our grandchildren, who sometimes see each other; we mulled over  how to hold each other without touching, of elbow bumps, hip-bumps, footsie-bumps. Then she went out to Forestville and wrote this piece about eye hugs, which ran that weekend in the Press Democrat. Check it out; it's a lovely piece! To Stay Connected, Try Eye Hugs


Monday, March 30, 2020 - Community Howl, 8 p.m. - Dispatches from SIP -

Tonight, at 8 p.m. sharp,  the three us stepped outside the house and the howls, yips and yodels were already echoing against the hill on the far side of North San Pedro Road. We lifted our faces, framed our voices with our hands and joined in for two minutes of unabashed wolf-style howling. It was thrilling, uplifiting, a communal rebuke against the physical restraints we all must operate under these days if we are to slow the transmission of COVID-19.  A primal yowling, a release of anxiety.  We heard yippers, we  heard long involved rolling ar-hooooooos!  but all were expressions of gratitude and support for the nurses (some who live on our street) and doctors and sonographers and EMTs and the myriad of medical personnel risking their lives so that we can survive the pandemic. And isn't that the very definition of a soldier?

Our medical folks are on the front lines, exposed to this relentless enemy in countless, unending ways. They have been left unprotected and unsupported, dangling in the wind,  through the mismanagement of the pandemic crises from the very start by Drumpf and his Republican henchmen (you can read most of the sordid details here) -  most certainly many of our valiant Soldiers of Medicine will die in this fight. Yet they return to the fray, even if exhausted, sick, missing their families, leaving a sick loved one at home to fight the illness alone. Heroes, all.

And so we take the cue from Italy and Spain and France, where the sequestered citizens step outside at 8 p.m. every night and applaud their health care workers. It's the least we can do -- though of course, we've added some unique twists to the practice.  Howling like wolves - it seems appropriate in this land of Jack London and  The Call of the Wild, in this territory where coyotes are snooping around our spaces. Wonder what the coyotes  think of this Community Howl?  Have the Humans gone mad, lost their collective minds?

Or maybe, we are finally getting it, that the community that howls together, stays together, through thick and  thin, in sickness and in health..

March 29, 2020 - Sunday. The Four (Five?) Things That Fall from the Sky.

A mixed-bag Sunday - some clouds, some sun, some rain. Two newspapers grace the table, replete with articles about the rise of the virus, the state of the nation, the condition of the world.  But I am compelled to dig, to plant, to consider what sunlight, dirt, wind would mean to a lilac tree, to irises, to blue-flowered penstamen, to the small grasses I'd gaffled from our house on B Street just before we moved, pulling them from the soil, hey babes, you're coming with us.

It takes time and study to learn how the elements play out across a new lot, how the geometry and vectors of the house interfere with the four things that come down from the sky - sunlight, rain, fog, snow (not so much snow around here, I must admit). Oobleck is that  fifth option, submitted for our approval by Dr Suess. I try to read where the wind plays and dallies, where the sun might break through the future foliage of the mulberry tree, as gauged from the just leafing-out buds. These are landfill lots, thin topsoil sitting on yellow-brown clay and lots of infill-rocks. It takes a lot of amending to provide beds amenable to roots. If we had to survive on what we could grow out of our plot this year, it would not be pretty.

So I concentrate on flowers for now, deploying them like little thin miners to tunnel through mixture of rocks and the dense, gluey clay-stuff. This is not rich adobe clay, so dark, almost black, with nutrients. This clay is anemic, pale, almost yellowish-brown,  old dried up oobleck perhaps, a continuous layer that seals up against water and rots the roots. One must dig  through this layer, down into the old marsh below or build up, with raised beds or mounding habitats.

And so through the sweeping waves of sun and rain-drizzle and cloud-shadow, I dig and plant, convincing myself of a summer and a fall that will arrive. Yes, indeed, it will. But first we must get through all of this. And we can only do that together.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 27, 2020 Friday - Dispatches from SIP- Poppies On The Hill

A walk to the top of a local hill - because we're not driving too far out of our area for our walkies - brought us brilliant orange poppies against a chilly blue spring sky.

We're lucky to have Governor Gavin Newsom going to bat for us citizens in the State of California.

We're facing a major change in the way we will conduct our lives going forward, both in the short and long term. But we can do it; it will happen.  It is happening

In fact, there is little choice here. We can deal with it well or badly, but we deal with it we must. Until we have the vaccines or other tools to control the virus, we will continue live our life in its shadow, adjusting protocols to minimize transmission.

When the big picture gets overwhelming, focus on the small. The poppies on the hill are doing that for us quite well today.