Thursday, April 02, 2020

April Blogging Challenge 2020--Post 1--These Hazy Days

My daughter Emily and I are doing the ABC [April Blogging Challenge] again this year. We’ll be posting on alternating weekdays. I plan to post family updates, book reviews, current projects, and random thoughts on Coronavirus--that tsunami that has swept over all of our lives--and we’ll examine bits of debris the wave has washed onto our shores.

In a recent Patreon post, Emily wrote:

The world is strange, and scary, and sometimes I feel like I’m not living in the present at all, but rather a memory. 

I thought that was the best description I’ve heard yet.

Six of us are living in our house right now. Some, working essential jobs, leave the house more than others, but we all distance and isolate. Paul and the kids are especially protective of me, since I have asthma.

So I stay home, and non-family members don’t come into the house.

I’m starting to feel like an elderly person with dementia. I move through the day in a bit of a haze, not  sure what day it is and not quite certain what is now and what is past and future.

The day’s little milestones take on great significance. I believe I will go on a walk now, between rain showers. The mail lady has come! Oh, wonderful--it is time for dinner! And now I must tuck the chickens in for the night.

Yesterday, after two weeks of isolation, I felt vague emotions stirring up mud long settled at the back of my mind. It was like smelling a scent you hadn’t smelled for twenty years, and then you got a whiff and it immediately brought back a memory.

Our first two years in Canada, from 1986 to 1988, were spent at a boarding school way out in the bush. It’s hard to describe the experience of coming from Oregon, with its thousands of people, miles of interconnected highways, and endless places to go, to Stirland Lake.

True, it had a road, so one could drive in and potentially out. But the nearest town was over a hundred miles away.

When you were at Stirland Lake, you were very much THERE. You saw the people in the compound. The same people were your neighbors, co-workers, students, Bible study group, and friends. You played volleyball with them on activity nights, worshipped with them on Sunday, and met them in the lane when you went on a walk.

You couldn’t escape.

If one of them had, say, a whiny voice or maybe a bushy beard growing from the horizontal area under his jaw that everyone knows ought to be shaved, and you found this irritating, you couldn’t conveniently avoid that person and their whiny voice or beard. Especially in the dead of winter, with the cold and the miles all around, pressing you hard into this little pocket of community in the middle of the wilderness, you were very much there to stay and so were they.

I wasn’t particularly irritated at anyone yesterday, although I do at times get provoked at the people I live with, especially when they talk too loudly too early in the day, but I had that same suffocating sense of being very much HERE, in this place, with no place to go, as though the rest of the world were a thousand miles away, and these people in this house were the only people left.

That brought with it another sensation that was both current and memory—a vague longing to go secondhand shopping.

I remember this not only at Stirland Lake but also at Weagamow Lake a few years later and even in Kenya in 2003.  It was like a pregnancy craving for acorn squash—suddenly I longed to poke around a good dusty thrift store like I hadn’t wanted anything in a long time. The knowledge that I couldn't do this made the longing much more intense.

The reservation of Weagamow had over 800 people, and I marveled often at what a blessing it was to live somewhere where there were always new people to get to know. But it was even further north than Stirland, and fly-in only for most of the year, so the sense of isolation was still huge.

I used to dream about trains. Trains symbolized connection. They had come from one place and in my dreams they were going past me to another and yet another, honking their beautiful horns.

I would wake up and, of course, we were still at what felt like the far fringes of the universe, tethered only by the thinnest of threads, and the nearest train was hundreds of miles away.

We live in a farmhouse in Oregon today. I would love to go to garage sales and secondhand shopping, those vague longings in my memory that stir to life in isolation. Even more, I want to have friends over for tea in my cabin. I want to go camping at the coast, hike to a waterfall, visit Aunt Allene at the nursing home, and have a big table full for Sunday dinner. I want to hug the friend who is grieving and hold my friend and neighbor Kayla’s baby.

When those gifts return, I don't think I'll ever forget to appreciate them.

Meanwhile, I deliberately appreciate the gifts of here and now.

We live out in the country, so the landscape is mine to wander across and through, unhindered by snow, cold, or potentially contagious people. I’ve been taking more walks than normal and taking time to really look at sheep in a green field and acorns sprouting in the ditches under the oaks, near the cabin.

The insides of these acorns are a bright red when they split open. How have I never noticed this before?

There are neighborhood pigs and goats to visit.

Cars and trucks still drive by. Sometimes the drivers wave.

And the trains are still running. They sound their beautiful horns in the night as they rumble by on the tracks a quarter mile away. They are coming from somewhere and going somewhere else. The world is still connected.

We are not isolated at the edge of the universe.

Someday this time will be a memory stirred up like the mud at the bottom of Muddy Creek when a gently swimming duck suddenly flaps into flight.

My view of Muddy Creek from a cabin window.
There are two ducks in this picture who inspired the analogy.
But now, right in the hazy middle of it, I want to live it fully, with every possible grace.

The lambs' tongues are blooming.


  1. I’ve never been so happy to see you’re doing April Blogging Challenge! Another little milestone to look forward to every isolated day - “Oh good! The post for today is up now!” ��

    1. That's how I feel too. This is a service to us other shut-ins. Thank you.

    2. Yes! Thank you for doing this again.

    3. That is sweet motivation, to see it as a service to the isolated!

  2. It's interesting that you mention second hand shopping. I'm surprised how much I miss that.

    Our local Et Cetera shop has had a strange problem, theft! In the past few months they have started locking their dressing rooms so customers need to ask to enter. They are limiting the number of items to five, that customers take in there. The staff used to find many tags in their dressing rooms. LRM

    1. funny how many commenters miss secondhand shopping!
      But I'm so sorry to hear about theft at the Et Cetera shop!

  3. Ha! I just said yesterday, Man, could I go to Goodwill! 7 of us in the same house, so grateful for a place with woods to roam even though it's still in the 40s some days. And yes about the small accomplishments taking on huge meaning! Suddenly living the dream of homeschooling, too, and after catching my breath I'm enjoying it!

    1. Odd how many of us crave thrift shopping!
      And You Go with the homeschooling!

  4. It's heartwarming to know I'm in good company with the rest of you ladies who are longing to go to a thrift store! I don't need anything, I just like to go and look, like a museum where you can touch things; and sometimes find a hidden treasure to bring home and enjoy. My daughter says to me regularly, "Mother, would you like to accompany me on a turn about the house." I reply, "It's so refreshing!" The other day it was warm enough to take a turn about the property, which was especially nice.

    Thanks for doing the ABC so we have something to look forward to.

    1. Yes! A museum where you can touch things. It surprises me how much I'd love to just wander around a thrift store! Although I have been doing a lot of organizing. Maybe I can set up a pretend one in my own house!

    2. Rozy Lass, I love the "turn about the house" line!
      Maybe we'll all run into each other at thrift stores the day the quarantine lifts!

  5. I could totally relate to the pregnancy-like craving to go to a thrift store! Not to buy anything I’m particular, just to poke around and be OUT. You’re right, not being allowed to do something makes it even more desirable.
    We do not live in a community in Canada, but in an off grid cabin in Alaska we are even more removed from people.
    Tabitha Stoltzfus

    1. wow, good for you.
      I think an outlet like blogging would have helped me cope with winter and isolation, so I'm glad you've found a way to write.

  6. As an life-long introvert, I haven't found staying at home much of a challenge. Of course, I'm not stuck in the house with a bunch of people... Just my husband of 43 years, with whom I have really needed the chance to reconnect. In a couple more weeks, I might be seriously stir-crazy, but right now, I'm very comfortable with feeling "safe" inside my four walls with the husband and the critters (four cats and a dog...)