HOW TO BE

An abundance of caution . . . “you’ll get used to it. Maybe.”

If you, like me, cried every time you watched the brilliant video of “How to Be Alone,” there’s more. But in case you haven’t, here is that video collaboration between poet Tanya Davis and filmmaker Andrea Dorfman, the one I shared with students more than ten years ago.

Maybe I’m an easy crier, but this one does it every time. So does the new one. Good cries.

Gary and I went out for a quick walk this morning. Then Gary came in because he was expecting the exterminator and a plumber. He’d worked on the kitchen sink for several hours without unplugging it. He used the plunger marked “sink” and removed the trap. No luck. Somehow this has been a crazy year for all sorts of reasons. Months ago a friend said the pandemic was only an inconvenience for us, but Gary and I know people who have been sick and who have died, so while we are not essential workers facing contagion every day (more praise to those brave souls) and we do not actually suffer under lockdown—we have one another, we have our walks, and we are retired—it feels like something more than an “inconvenience.”

We have ordered one take-out meal since March (and not again—too much trust and people who eat restaurant meals are statistically more likely to become sick), we have been to Portland three times (once for a root canal, once to deliver something, and once to pick up a painting), shop for groceries every two or three weeks, and we pick up our mail only every few days. I do not miss movies in theaters, despite the Big Screen. (And Queen’s Gambit on Netflix surprised me by proving better than any theatrical movie I have seen in the past few years.)

Most of what is missing is not missed. But there are gaps. I miss live events. I miss actual people. I miss visiting my old high school and the teachers, who would be in a new building on a fancy new campus but local schools are virtual. I miss the Farmers’ markets and shopping in stores and hugging my grandchildren and eating chili rellenos from The Stand. I have not seen my brother in thirteen years. I miss him sometimes, but he is completely out of contact. Loved ones are divorcing and in therapy—the therapist says there have been a lot of separations during the pandemic, that it is “not uncommon these days.”

But the cards we ordered last month say “joyful” on the front and we have reasons to feel joyful.

Our family is all well, our closest friends are well, friends who are working are mostly doing it virtually and staying healthy. My friend in cancer treatment has completed treatment, her health outlook is excellent, and she has enough hair to brush! We have been able to afford the unusual bills from exterminators, plumbers, electricians, and so forth. We paid our property taxes from our checking account, which held an obscene amount of money because we did not go anywhere or spend money on anything for most of the past nine months. The paintings—those extravagant and out-of-character expenses—are a pleasure and not a regret. They are a glancing vacation each time I pass them. We are lucky that the house is large enough to allow us to spend time away from one another, and even more lucky for our morning walks and evenings together. We have accomplished several major tasks—Gary fixed the drainage on the south edge of the property (a huge task) and I completed a ridiculous amount of weaving and piecing. We attended a virtual wedding. I heard from former students. Adrian sat twenty-five feet away from me—both of us masked—and told me about his life.

There are things we cannot do—visit people we love or any other country—but we are fine. An abundance of caution.

My grandmother had a half-full quart jar of black walnut meats in her freezer when she died in 1978. It was still there when we moved into this house in 1979. The jar remained unloved for a few more months—moved to one corner and then another till I needed the freezer space they took up—and then I opened the jar and tasted them. Incredible.

Thanksgiving will be just the two of us, but I ordered two pounds of shelled black walnuts on the internet.

8 thoughts on “HOW TO BE

  1. Roy Orbison said it best: Only the lonely—know how I feel tonight. I am so glad to be somewhat Finnish, already knew why to survive—danger will Robinson Caruso. We will survive, we will get by. Thank you, Grateful Dead all except, that is, the president eject and his illegal team. kiitos

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A good read. We are much the same with one retired while another looks for another job– and our walks, various enjoyments aplenty inside these walls. But I will miss more frequent hikes in the mountains and carious state parks during the colder rainy season. My family lives partly around here; we visit outdoors with masks at times. But as you noted–much gratitude for this day and its activities. And sorrow for those who have been ill or passed on…
    Good black walnuts story. I eat lots of nuts, my go-to for snacks. I might make a pecan pie next wk. but, honestly, being stuck ,more indoors doesn’t make me want to cook or even bake more than before. Mr. likes to cook, thankfully.
    Meanwhile, have a good dinner next week. We may try something new here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

      Nuts are favorites of mine too. And I have always been an enthusiastic baker and cook. I bake all the bread we eat, though Gary generally has a back-up loaf in the freezer for emergency toast. I baked bread weekly in college (SO long ago) and I am happy tone back in the habit. It looks like alternating between sourdough and oatmeal every five or six days. I will be baking panettone after Thanksgiving.

      Maybe fruitcakes from a recipe more than a century old.

      And black walnuts, uniquely American, are really special.

      Like

      1. I actually used to cook for a huge family and bake, also. After the five grew up, very little. But thinking of my gingerbread cake, poppy seed cake for Thanksgiving to share with family, and might try out a British raisin-cider cake….Mr. plays with sourdough (perhaps a bit too much…:) )

        Liked by 1 person

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