Quarantined


 

 

Regeneration, rejuvenation, restoration—

Yet nature unaffected —

Late afternoon quiet

One car on the highway, far away

The one dog barks twice, then joins the status quo

Birds cavorting, swirling, scouting for nesting sites

Snubbing social distancing and travel bans

Spring arriving on time, by its own clock.

 

Quarantine gives me time

Daily routines upended, reset,

Important, pressing tasks now abandoned.

Daily rhythms recalibrated, the away, the alone

Now what is needed.  Time away is our new cure, our new

Mantra: stay home, stay well.

 

Plague now more than unstudied history, the world today

Together in lock down, isolation, yet as one, all against this

Invisible silent, invader, the master of stealth, its

Irrationality in who it sickens, who it takes.

 

Against it, I plant my garden, pulling weeds, watering seeds,

Taking out the trash, organizing, taking on countless little tasks

Left undone for so long.  The virus

Random, lethal, drives my chore list, the home labors;

Idleness, yet urgent, awaiting Death’s irregularity, its unpredictability

Not knowing if it will come, or not.  Life is, after all,

Uncertain.

 

I plan for flowers, summer tomatoes, harvests I will can and dry, and freeze,

Savored on the deck, a meal needing friends to drink to that next season in our lives,

If it comes at all. The virus, unmentioned, ever present, in my mind,

Persistent, obnoxious, pending,

Unplanned.

 

My life, on hold,

Nothing guaranteed, nothing to really write on the calendar,

Now just white space, some crossed out events,

Uncertainty reigns on the refrigerator door of my life.

 

 

Community life regroups, reconvening, after a sort,

New technology, new words, ways to find our way back to familiarity–

Now faces we saw in one room, so human, expected, so normal

Become boxes on screens, familiar yet distant, removed,

Voices, thoughts, and agendas, some old familiarity, yet

Transformed over electronic space, not quite

Human, not quite

Real, like our lives these days, everything

Not just quite, with no real end in

Sight.

 

The daily death count, new cases, slips into my inbox, a regular part now of

Cocktail hour, an old custom, reinstated by statistical, medical, psychological necessity.

The drink of the day needed, somehow, to deal with the numbers, today’s

Place on the curve we are trying to flatten, we becoming

Amateur epidemiologists, public health analysts—

Dr. Fauci the Mister Rogers of our time.

We are, after all, now in his neighborhood, the new norm of this surreality, the

New normal we are trying to understand, his calmness in the eye of the storm

Soothing.

 

My mask at the grocery store, the bleach-soaked towel, keeping social distance

Somehow doing my part to flatten the curve, do my part, be the patriotic warrior

On the world’s latest battlefront, six feet apart,

Home for the duration, we to be changed,

Quarantine veterans in the making, changed in ways we do not yet fathom.

 

I am left with this—-

A social recession, a need to

Make people, again, the center of our lives.

Racism is America’s pre-existing condition.

Wanting that decisions, not situations, determine our future.

Be the communitarian.

—Neal Lemery

4/18/2020

 

 

 

Hunkering Down


 

 

The morning drizzle finds me inside, sorting and organizing, rediscovering my writing space.  Long neglected filing cabinets and piles of papers are now getting sorted.  I have a number of bags of burn pile starting paper, waiting for a sunny day and a match.

 

The second week of “Stay Home, Stay Well” in this pandemic finds me with a deeper layer of projects on the “to do” list. The yard is already manicured, seeds are sprouting in the greenhouse, the vegetable beds weeded and waiting.  Even all the laundry is washed, folded, and put away.

 

Old treasures are found and filed away, fodder for a poetry collection and other writing projects.  Mellow guitar on the dusted off CD player soothes my soul in this time of global uncertainty.  My paper sorting provides me with comfort, familiarity and accomplishment. Here there is order of a minimal sort, in a world now chaotic, unknowing, scary, now comfortably distant from the reality of my day here, hunkered down.

 

We are learning again how interconnected we all are, dependent upon each other to be staying well and safe. Microscopic disease runs rampant, reminding us how vulnerable, how fragile life can be; how something so small can change our world, and threaten our very lives. What are the lessons I need to learn? How will we change?

 

My bean soup simmers downstairs, soon to be flavored with a little bacon grease, chopped onions, and a little wine.  Two for the pot, one for the cook, I can hear my aunt say.  After this paper stack, it will be time for a break, to check the soup, put the kettle on.

 

I head to the kitchen for the mid morning cuppa. The water boils, poured into the hefty mug that will heat both hands. I sweeten the tea with a dollop of honey, just like Grandma in her old farm kitchen, after we gathered the eggs and picked some lettuce for dinner, throwing a few leaves to the hens.

 

She survived the Spanish Flu, the Depression, and World War II, keeping the farm going, steadily moving ahead in life, making do, and building a family.  All we are called to do is stay home and be healthy. She’d laugh today, at what we think we have to endure, how inconvenienced we think we are. She’d wipe her hands on the apron she made from a flour sack in 1934, and sit down to tell me a story, over our tea.

 

The tea, slowly cooling, soothes and comforts, like it always has on cold days, and demanding times. Quiet, thoughtful memories of good times, old traditions are revived.

 

I survey the bird feeder, taking time to notice new birds, on their way to Alaska, this corner of the yard alive in late March drizzle. Others, settling in for the summer, scout for nesting sites, raiding an old nest we’d found last fall and set on the porch with the pumpkins. Ancient rhythms are noticed again, rebirth and regrowth, endless, and comforting.

 

Life as we knew it, is on pause now. Slowing down feels good to my heart, this time creating a place to savor and rejoice in. I go slowly through the day, finding a new kind of work, a new order of the day, building a time that promises many lessons for us all.

 

—Neal Lemery 3/28/2020