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

 

 

 

Moving Into A Quieter Time


 

 

By Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, March 12, 2020)

How often do we wonder out loud why life is so hectic, and complain that we don’t have enough time?  Our lives are full of obligations, errands, events, endless demands on our time, and yet we often feel that we don’t tend to the important things in life.  We are bombarded with demands for even more obligations and commitments, and our growing collection of electronics chirp and beep further straining our capacity to manage our lives.

Do we really want fewer obligations and more time to kick back and enjoy life? I think we do, but we simply haven’t given ourselves permission to do that.

Well, now we have that opportunity.  If there’s a silver lining in the cloud of the Corona Virus crisis, it is the gift of time and space in our lives.  My calendar is getting cleared as I write this, with almost hourly e-mails announcing cancellations, postponements, and changed plans.  I now have mandates to not be so obligated and committed.

Public health officials and the Governor are taking drastic actions to call us to a simpler, less hectic life.  No large groups, no travel to meetings, fewer social interactions, and a call to spend more time at home.

There’s compelling scientific evidence to support these directives.  Yet, this crisis is perhaps a blessing in disguise. The Chinese writing character for crisis contains the character for opportunity.

My meeting was cancelled for this morning, so I found myself in the garden, with time to contemplate where I’m going to plant my early spring vegetables. I planted some seeds in the greenhouse and began my annual organizing there.  I’d told myself I’d get to that needed project, but I’ve just been “too busy”.  Now, the cleared up calendar is telling me I have the time.

The “hunker down at home” message is going to allow me the time to tend to my garden, to find a sunny spot and enjoy a cup of tea, and read some of those books that have been piling up on the coffee table. Spring is truly coming and yes, I can even enjoy it.

I’m going to have fewer hours at my favorite coffee shop, but I can also make time to invite a friend over for coffee and sit out on the deck and enjoy the birds that are arriving at my feeder. I’ll catch up on some correspondence, even getting back into the old yet treasured practice of writing a letter to a friend.

We have a month, at least, with legitimate excuses to dial back the pace of life, to take our foot off the gas, and take a breath. I’ll even avoid meetings that, perhaps, weren’t really that essential. I know I’ve been over-obligated, over-involved.  Now, I have an excuse to move into a quieter time. I can still do what I love to do: play my guitar, learn more about playing the banjo and mandolin, doing more in my yard than the most pressing tasks, even having a second cup of coffee on the deck in the morning, and linger over the daily paper.

I suspect my friends who are working will enjoy more productivity by working at home, and not having to travel for meetings. Maybe they too can live in quieter times and linger over that second cup of coffee on the deck. Perhaps we’ll be more like Europeans, with shorter work weeks, and more time with friends and family. Let’s give it a try.

I’m going to connect more with friends and family, too. More listening, more planning a small event where we really have a deep conversation and talk about our lives. Dinner can be more relaxed, and I’ll try to more thoughtful on what I cook and focus on healthier eating.  In all of that, I’ll be in the spirit of our collective effort to deal with this disease, focusing myself on being rested and improving my health, being a responsible citizen in times of crisis.

I’ve been yammering for years on the hectic pace of life, whining about how Americans work too much and don’t spend enough time with their family.  Now’s my chance, our chance, to get out of the fast lane, kick life down a few notches, and enjoy a quieter time, a slower pace of life.

It’s time I practice what I preach and get to really know myself and the people I love.

After all, it is doctors’ orders.