By Colleen Craig
Day one: On the Central Coast of California, spring has arrived. Golden poppies are scattered across newly green hills, as if tossed by a goddess descended from one of the Seven Sisters; our string of volcanic mountains. Tiny bunnies scamper through the sage. All speaks to rebirth. And yet it is death we confront now, in the Age of Covid-19. Our county just reported 38 infections. Two deaths. They say it is only the beginning.
I am sheltering quietly, reading much and speaking little. My husband and I will get to the tough decisions soon enough. For now, we throw felt mice to our kittens, Alice and Pippa, and find comfort watching black and white movies. We hike each day along the bluffs behind our house, where troubled thoughts fade into the bellow of waves crashing on the rocks. It's a lovely respite, lasting only as long as the walk.
We are just retired, and our portfolio has taken a beating. Whatever was on the calendar is cancelled. The new cobblestone patio to replace the cracked cement? Cancelled. The hot tub to ease my husband's arthritic back? Cancelled. Even the trip to Michigan for his mother’s memorial is now on hold. There are no funds for travel. All feels muffled. Shut down. The future has been silenced.
Day two: There are articles and discussions everywhere about at risk elders, of which I am one. What a surprise! Sixty-six, and old. Sixty-six, and relegated to feeble. "Why, I have friends in their sixties who still play tennis and travel," says one commenter, trying to be helpful. Trying to make us sound not so alien. This makes me smile.
Is sixty really so unimaginable to the young? Most of my friends still have jobs they love. They paint, they scuba dive, they run marathons. We’re still doing what we enjoyed twenty and thirty years earlier.
Although, I'm not doing much. Somehow, I can't get myself to mobilise. I lived through the AIDS epidemic and lost too many friends, including my dearest and best childhood friend. I remember the hysteria, and the fear. But I stayed strong, for my family and myself. We had our whole lives ahead of us. Now, the retirement money has vanished. And there aren't enough years left to get it back. More than anything, this is what old means. We are running out of time.
Day three: I read that the canals of Venice are blue again, that dolphins are appearing in rivers and streams for the first time, and polluted skies are clearing. There is light in the darkness. In our small community, heroes are showing up. A mother with two children home from school is making face masks by the hundreds, to be given away. Some of us purchase materials for her, or offer to deliver them.
Our roadside free pantries are overflowing with cans and jars of food. Someone has set up tables loaded with fresh produce along a stretch of country road. Take only what you need, says the sign. A line of people wait patiently, properly distanced.
Children have been drawing fanciful pictures in chalk on the sidewalks in front of our houses. Take good care of yourselves, they write. The young are watching out for the old. I see the fairies and rainbows and wobbly letters, and shed a few tears. I need to put my books away and start caring about tomorrow. Even if I only trim the roses, that is something. I can write a friend. I can make soup with roasted cauliflower and garlic. I can not die, until the day comes when it is my turn. Like Emily Dickinson, I will not stop for death, knowing it will some day kindly stop for me.
But not this day.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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