Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 14: We Are In This Together – or Not

20200613_banner_webI read the disheartening news articles at the end of May about the George Floyd protests gone awry.  I read about  looters standing with crowbars at the ready as peaceful protesters marched down the streets of San Francisco and Oakland .  They were waiting for the right moment to turn and smash a window for plunder.  I read about rubber bullets and tear gas and arson and professional criminals driving up in vans to strip computer shops and appliance stores of their goods.

But amid the turmoil of the end of May and early June, I took heart from the signs and banners spanning the streets and decking the lawns in my town: “We are in this together”, “We are strong – We will get through this together.”  During the COVID-19 lockdown I had used Zoom and Skype to form new bonds with neighbors, exchanging news, congratulations for milestones, produce, and garden info.  We are a community, safe together.

The Wednesday evening after the weekend of protests-turned-violent I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work were outside in their front yard, parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net. Work-at-home families are playing together.  The hills across the bay stood out sharp and clear, despite the earlier 90 degree heat.  My neighbors weren’t driving; no driving means no smog.  It seemed that even in hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

That Friday I heard helicopters, then saw a couple circling seemingly right over our back porch.  I checked online – there was a protest march going on down our section of El Camino Real, the main street of California, led and followed by police escort.  It was peaceful, no violence. We are standing together.Los Altos Protest

On Saturday, I drove past downtown  and noticed that Main Street was closed. Another peaceful march circled downtown,  protesters carrying placards, all carefully masked.  It was pretty much a white or light-skinned crowd, marching to show solidarity with people whose experiences most of them had probably never shared. The protests seemed like a way to express community, to meet for something positive. My secure little bubble seemed a good place to be.  We are in this together.

The next Monday we entered Phase 3 of lifting restrictions.  Retail stores were allowed to open, allowing only a few customers in at a time. I drove down El Camino again and saw a line of socially distanced people stretching almost a block up the street.    What could it be for?  A trendy boutique?  A liquor store? An auto supply shop?

They were lined up for The Gun Vault.

GunVault

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 13 : Re-Imagining the House

 

20200609_162804_resized_1webBefore the Lockdown, we lived in six of the rooms in our nine-room house. We slept in the bedroom, and used the adjoining bathroom. We watched TV in the TV room (den, to real estate agents.) We cooked in the kitchen, ate in the dining room, read and had our pre-dinner glasses of wine in the living room.

We have been empty nesters for a while, and our two sons’ bedrooms remained like shrines to their memory, used only when one or the other or both returned with family to celebrate some occasion. The third bedroom formerly doubled as an in-home office and official guest room. Since we have retired, the office function faded. It was nicer for me to work in the corner of the living room where I could exchange an occasional comment with my spouse. The two extra bathrooms were dusted fairly regularly, and before any guest arrived we ran water in the sinks and tubs to make sure the pipes weren’t rusty.

But after twelve weeks of lockdown, we have reclaimed our un-used territory. Rooms that were seldom used have acquired a new purpose, rooms that were used for one purpose are now multi-tasking.

20200609_162633_resized_1webThe TV room is still where we watch TV, but it is also my exercise studio, as my thrice-weekly exercise class has moved to Zoom. And it also serves as a chldren’s library, as I have collected all the children’s books in the house and spread them out on the sofa as resource for my bi-weekly Skype Story Time with my toddler grand-daughter.

The guest bedroom is now my husband’s physical therapy room, where he can practice the exercises designed to stretch the muscles and sooth the nerves of various aching joints. And it serves as an classroom extension, where I can participate in some online classes and meetings without disturbing my housemate’s reading or TV watching.

The living room is still the reading room, and includes a table for my in-home office, but we have added a card table in front of the picture window for whatever jigsaw puzzle is occupying my idle moments.20200321_120038web

My second son’s bedroom has become my sewing center, my mother’s sewing machine lifted out of its cradle for instant availability and both beds strewn with fabric from previous and planned projects.

I’m lucky, I know, to have space to expand into. I wonder, once the world opens up again, whether I will be able to confine my life back down to only six single-purpose room

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 12 – Silver Linings

I had an eerie experience today.  I drove south on a major freeway at 4:45.  I was driving to a destination about 15 miles from my house. Normally (at rush hour, going in the commute direction) it would have taken me nearly an hour to go 15 miles.  Today – 15 minutes.

I looked up from the road. Today was an unusually hot day, in the nineties. Normally, in that heat, smog would have blanketed the valley I live in.  I would be fortunate to see the foothills five miles away.  Today, despite the heat, I could see the mountains at least thirty miles away.  The observatory buildings at the top of the highest peak in our area gleamed white. No traffic = no smog.

This evening I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work was outside in their front yard,  parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net.

In hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

Live in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 11 – Testing Online “House Calls”

Week 11, and we have a medical problem in our home. My husband’s arthritis (we think) has flared into a brushfire, he can’t walk or stand without a cane, and even then not for more than a few minutes. Last night he tripped over a rug and fell, and it was several scary minutes before he was able, with my help, to struggle into a chair.

He had called a doctor two days before, but the closest appointment available, in an on-line video conference, was Tuesday mid-afternoon. My husband is something of a Luddite when it comes to modern technology, so we were a bit apprehensive about going on-line with the doctor. Tuesday morning we got a call from the doctor’s office: Could we move the video conference up to 12:20? They would send a new link via email.

As of 12:05 the new link had not arrived. And then our internet connection went down.

Backup, of course, was my husband’s new smartphone, grudgingly bought a few months ago because he was tired of having to call me for GPS information. I decided that maybe the old link for the mid-afternoon appointment would still work. I started working on that, while my husband used our landline to contact the doctor’s office. After 5 minutes on hold, he got through, as I was still trying to decipher the difference between “username” and “password” on my husband’s cheat sheet of access codes.

Turns out the office had forgotten to send out the new link. My husband had an old-fashioned phone conversation with the doctor, ending with the decision that yes, husband had better come in for an even older-fashioned office visit in another two days.

At this rate of “progress”, we may find the doctor making house calls in person!

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 11 – Celebration!

20200520_170602_resizedwebI was due to have a milestone birthday this month, and we had planned a big family reunion picnic at a central location convenient to my two sons, my sister, and a couple of nieces and nephews. Of course, several weeks ago it was clear that was not going to happen. My friends and relatives compensated with a cascade of birthday cards. It was not quite the same.

“We can still have a picnic,” said my husband. But the morning of my birthday dawned dark and damp – unseasonable rain. Not even a vestigial picnic would be possible. We ate hot soup inside. It wasn’t very comfortable, as we had decided to take advantage of the lack of foreseeable company to get the carpets cleaned, so all the furniture was piled around the edges of the room. Oh well, I told myself. I’ll have a whole year to celebrate this birthday, as soon as I get a chance.

By early afternoon the sun was out, and I was just getting my shoes on to go for a bike ride when the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and there were my two sons standing on the lawn.  They had brought lawn chairs, a bottle of chilled sparkling prosecco with their own champagne glasses, a custom-crayoned picture of a frog from my 3-year-old grand-daughter,  a bouquet of origami flowers from my 11-year-old grandson, and a very classy wooden jigsaw puzzle to help pass the time.

I brought out my birthday cards, my husband brought out a birthday cake, I opened a couple of other presents from my husband and my oldest friend, we sipped the prosecco, and we had a lovely hour-long visit with our sons sitting 6 feet apart on our back patio.  Such a great surprise. 

So, we harvest bits of joy here and there.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 10: The Choices are getting hard

Today I drove to a produce market and bought fruit.  Not amazing, except it is the first time in two months that I have driven my car. (My husband has used it on alternate weeks to keep the battery charged.)

At the market, I wore my face mask.  The market allowed only 10 customers at a time.  Within the market, duct-taped arrows on the floor directed me around the fruit and vegetable stands – if I missed something, no turning back.  I avoided putting my choices in bags as much as possible – everything went into one bag at the check-out station, which was shielded by plastic curtains except where  I could insert my credit card for the check-out.

For a decade we have been asked to bring our own reusable bags to shop. Now reusable bags are possible vectors of infection, and the plastic bag makers are staging a comeback.  All I can do is to pile my fruit and vegetables all together in one cart, let the checkout clerk sort, and put my purchases into one paper bag.

Public transportation, re-usable bags, cluster housing – all those ecologically correct ideas are now hazardous – how can we save the planet now?

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 9 – Tallying up the Cloistered Life

What I’ve finished:

Six face masks (see above)

Three jigsaw puzzles,

An old-fashioned rag doll with a matching toddler size outfit for my granddaughter – including a face mask for wearing outside.

 

What I’ve read: Bloomberg Business Week (weekly) , Time (weekly), The New Yorker (weekly) and nine books  (click for links to my reviews on Amazon):

        The Horse and his Boy – C. S. Lewis

        Milkman – Anna Burns

        The Fourth Hand – John Irving

         The Belton Estate – Anthony Trollope

         The Chinese Have a Word for ItBoye de Menthe: 

         Paris by the Book – Liam Callanan

          Celtic Myths and Legends – Eoin Neeson:

          South of Broad – Pat Conroy

          Season of the Witch – David Talbot

What I’ve grown:

Hair: at least two inches of shag.  Kudos to my hairdresser Heinz, – 10 weeks between haircuts and I haven’t really had a bad hair day yet.

Orchids: moved from my mother’s garden.  Largely neglected. Vitalized by timely spring rains.

Amaryllis: benign neglect works well

Roses: Most fragrant – Double Delight, Secret, Just Joey

Most perfect for bouquets: Fame (but no smell)

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 8- the Shadow Comes Closer

Week 8 of Sheltering in Place.

I have developed a routine:

Monday morning is my Aerobics Class on Zoom.

Monday evening I go to a neighbor’s house and we maintain social distancing while tuning into a Continuing Education class focusing on the Roman historian Tacitus.  It’s not a pulse-pounding subject, but Donna is the only adult besides my husband that I see in person these days.

Tuesday morning  I jog around the neighborhood, and then I do a Story Time on Skype with my 3-year-old Granddaughter.

Tuesday afternoon I Zoom with my oldest friend, the one I was supposed to visit in Texas when all this started.

Wednesday morning Aerobics again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my sister in Sacramento.

Thursday morning jogging and Story Time again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my cousin in Ojai, California.

Friday morning Aerobics again.

Friday afternoon we Skype with my older son and his family in Sacramento. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother and his wife in Longview, Washington.

Saturday morning jogging again

Sunday morning I do yoga. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother in Texas.  In Texas they take the threat of COVID-19 a lot less seriously than us Hot-Spotters do.  My brother always asks me, “Do you actually know anyone who has had the virus?”

This week, I can answer, “Yes.”

One of my favorite professors at college died of COVID-19 last week.  He was in his 80’s, had had a stroke some years back, and was being cared for in one of the most well-equipped and competently-staffed elder care centers in the country.  Somehow, the virus, no respecter of money and privilege, made its way to him and had its way with him.

The world is a little bit darker.

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 7: Nature’s soft side shows in Spring

Nature has been throwing  us a lot of nasties in the last months – pandemic, killer tornados, smothering snow, torrential rain, and historic drought levels, to name a few.  And then, as if to make up for the tantrums, she sends us a Spring as lavish and luscious as any I can remember.  From native-plant gardens,  to cultivated rose gardens, to bursting containers, everything that has ever thought of blooming in my own garden and my neighborhood is out-doing itself this year.

Above: Poppies, sage, lupine, and blue-eyed grass from a native-plant garden in a nearby park.

Above: calendula, roses, raphiolepsis and orchids in my own garden.

Above: ranunculus border, tulips, wisteria, and rhododendron from a heritage garden nearby.

Above: cultivated roses at a neighboring university campus.

I hope these pix refresh you a bit, especially those of you who are still snowbound as well as lockdown-bound.  Spring still arrives, in spite of everything!

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 6 -Lockdown Extended 4 more weeks!

 

Cooped up with the morning paper and the hourly news, one would think the apocalypse is at hand.  A walk in nature is called for, but where does one go during lockdown?   Many parks are closed, or have closed the  parking lots  in order to discourage crowding, or at least have cordoned off picnic tables and playgrounds.

20200403_172027webWe found a little oasis not too far from our home – theBlackberry Farm Preserve.  Normally, this green dell offers visits to farm animals and truck gardens as well as grassy paths, but these tours and visits are now locked off.  The playground and picnic areas are also marked as dubious.  But the stately redwoods, the creek,  the twisted bay trees, the fearless deer, and the feral vincas are all still available to soothe the restless mind.

 

 

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