Life has not been much different for us during this pandemic. We are solitary souls who enjoy each other’s presence even though we relish our separate spaces in our home. Still, knowing he is in that other room is soothing. We are well suited in that way. I am an only child and grew up in near seclusion and he is deaf, living in a world of near silence. Most of our communication is unspoken. I know embarrassingly little of sign language, and he now has a cochlear implant that doesn’t respond well to voices. (One downside of the pandemic is he has not been able to see the doc for an adjustment). But we manage and have comfort in our distinct yet conjoined worlds.
Despite our cocooning in our cozy little home, I feel strangely merged with the outside world. It is a scary world, but also a hopeful one. Fear comes in the form of the white House and the resident monster that lives there. Hope comes in the form of the hundreds of thousands who have watched a man die unjustly and come forth throughout the nation to protest his death, and that of all black lives who have been handled cruelly based on bias and prejudice.
What a lovely little saga took place outside my front door for the last few weeks. Every morning I went out with my coffee and journal to see how the babies in the nest in our lamp were doing. It was such fun seeing how they grew — and how quickly! Every time we were out there, both Mama and Papa perched directly above us. At first they in a frenetic flutter but eventually settled into a more relaxed chirp — surely just to let us know they were there. They did indeed show excellent parenting skills.
The last few days the babies were suddenly BIG, and I knew the time was near. It was. This morning the little nest in the lamp was bare. Who knew I would grieve the end of the sweet little saga of the birds in lamp?
I ask myself, if life had not been boiled down to a level of simplicity I’ve never before know, would I have noticed. let alone relished, the developing life of a baby bird and the doting of her bird parents?.
As do most houses, we have a porchlight mounted to the side of our front door. We don’t use it often because we don’t get many visitors. One day recently I noticed a bunch of grass and stuff in the lamp, and on the subsequent day, as I walked out the door there was a woosh and slight breeze on my face. Putting two and two together, I realized there was a little bird living in the lamp. Evidently it was one very smart wren who has taken up residence in our covered and very protected porch light. What safer place to be during our very wet and cold spring?
On the one summery day we’ve had so far, I sat myself down on the protected patio in front of the front door. Book in hand, I was looking forward to a nice, relaxed time of reading. However, there was one bird who was clearly hanging out as close as she dared; I had no doubt it was Mama Wren keeping tabs on me.
We now make most of our entrance and exit exercises through the garage door.
Bird # 2
About a week ago, I was working in my home office when I heard what sounded to me like drilling. I didn’t think anything of it, and assumed it was just a neighbor doing something, and continued on with my work. A day later, same noise. This time I looked around the house and found the noise was coming from our fireplace gas insert. Instant alert. It took me another day to convince my partner that there was indeed a noise coming from our house, in particular, the fireplace. Once he heard it, we went on high alert and I was instructed to call the company who installed it (he’s deaf).
The company is on lockdown, but I luckily got ahold of someone who asked me to record the sound and send the video to her. I did so, and she pronounced “Woodpecker”. I thought she was either insane or looking for a way to avoid my insistence on having them come out to save us from possible extinction due to an exploding fireplace.
“Go out the next time you hear it and look up at the metal chimney insert. You can shoo it away. We usually get a number of calls like this in the spring.”
I stayed civil, but I really thought this was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. I mean, I’d never even seen a woodpecker around here.
The next morning while we were having breakfast, there it was again. Dominic hurried outside, trying not to disturb our resident wren. He came back in the house and said, “I’ll be damned! It was a woodpecker!”
My dogs have been my salvation during this pandemic and I think I may be theirs as well. They are so dear and devoted, happy to sleep at my side, cuddle in my lap, catch an errant Frisbee, or happily stroll along with me on walks.
We’ve done a lot of strolling these weeks. I have my one, youngish Boston Terrier who is my main walking squeeze. She’s come a long way with that, having come to us from the terrors of a terrier Amish puppy mill in Ohio. She spent her first two weeks with us ensconced on the floor under the kitchen table growling from fear and confusion. It is now four years since then and though still skittish, she walks (mostly) with confidence at my side and has (mostly) emerged from under the kitchen table (sans growl).
Brinkley is my old man. He’s 14 – 15 in September, and he’s pretty gnarled now, takes a low dose of prednisone daily to keep pain at bay. He can’t see or hear, and we have to be oh so careful with him to keep him safe. Occasionally he gets “lost” in the backyard and can’t find his way to the door. I must then go out and rescue him. I adopted him from a breeder when he was 6 months old after he’d been returned by two previous buyers and he’s been my lover boy ever since.
Sasha is also on the downhill slide at 12. She has battled Cushings Disease for years, but she has done so with grace and dignity. She is the low dog on canine totem pole in our home. Still, every day at lunch she parks herself at my chair and looks at me with big, doleful eyes that beg for the daily ration of her beloved carrots. She always gets them. I adopted her through a rescue group from a family that just didn’t want her anymore.
Finally, there’s Rosie. Rosie was allegedly a Boston Terrier, but with her longish snout we knew there was something else going on with her. Curiosity compelled us to get a doggie-DNA kit, and voila! We were right. Our clearly non-pure (but adorable) Boston was ¾ her namesake and ¼ Cavalier King Charles!! Go figure. She is my man-friend’s favorite but she puts a little twinkle in my eye, too. She is also the wild one of the bunch and her mission in life is to place a Frisbee at your feet.
A time carved out of time. A chasm, deep, but not bottomless.
The landscape is changing. What will it look like when this is over? Will it be ever over?
I tell my students who are sad about missing their graduation to think that they are experiencing something cataclysimic that shall be forever embedded in history, a history about which they can say, “I was there.”
I am one of the lucky ones. I am content with my simple, daily life of reading, writing, and playing with my animals. I am alone with my partner, but instead of a time of tension and separation, we are growing closer. He is our courier and he is happy with that. I am our hearth keeper, and I am happy with that.
Still, we listen to the news, watch our governor’s daily briefs and cheer him on, watch our president’s daily briefs and scoff in disgust, and wonder how it will all turn out in the end.
This is Ethel. Ethel is my green cheek conure-parrot. Ethel is my very feisty, very nippy, very bratty parrot. She is also my energetic, always-in-motion, hilarious friend. Ethel has bonded tightly to me and she acts like a shy toddler when someone comes in who she doesn’t know. That’s when she gets herself as far under my chin as she possibly can, probably thinking the visitor will not be able to see her there.
Ethel dances to my said rendition of “You Are my Sunshiine,” and as only animals can do, she clearly loves singing as she happily bounces her head up and down to the beat.
As are so many of us, during this pandemic I am working from home. When I’m at my desk I usually let Ethel out of her cage. I try to encourage her to play on one of her jungle gyms but she usually decides I am her favored playground, which means she crawls all over me, nips at my ear, and generally makes a pest of herslef. A funny pest — the other day, she climbed onto my keyboard and in a flash dug up the “R” key, and like a naughty kid, off she scurried in her hunched over parrot walk, R key in mouth.
Long story short, I got the r key back and at this moment, Ethel is hanging upside down from my glasses. Sigh.
So many things are different now, and so many changes yet loom. It’s hard to put words to it all. What I can put words to is the changes in humans, at least the ones I encounter on my daily walks of sanity with my little dog.
Not too many of us are out walking, and I wonder if I’m making some violation of something or other. True, we are all on isolation in our homes, but should that include staying off the sidewalks? We don’t. Nor do others in our little neighborhood. Like one of my neighbors said today as we passed one another, “You’ve got to get out of the house.”
Getting out of the house restores the humanness of our predicament. Smiling, saying hello and waving reminds us we are not alone.
I was talking today with someone, and a very learned someone at that, who conjectured whether this Covid 19 virus could be the death of all humanity. Whoa! I am scared and taking precautions, but I never thought it (the virus) could go that far! Could it?
It’s so hard to fathom, but it also lends perspective. I mentioned this comment to my partner, who is a stingy old money-monger, and he said he now wished he’d gotten that car he wanted or taken us on a vacation last summer (not a cruise).
The meaning of a day, hour, minute at a time now screams with legitimacy.
For Donald Trump it’s all about pennies – trillions and billions and gazillions of them. For Donald Trump it is nothing about people. This man would be happy living on top of a heap of coins and cash in a world with no people. Thus is his resolution to bring the economy back by subjecting millions of Americans to the most evil and virulent disease known to modern humans.
Trump continues to snub the realities of a nation in crisis; instead, stupidly promising an imminent panacea in the face of hell. In fact, in a recent daily update, he flouted the advice of one of his top task force members, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as one of two heroes in this health catastrophe (the other is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo), said that only the virus can set the timeline for reopening the country, not a human.
Enter another billionaire businessman. Tom Golisano is the founder of the successful company, Paychex. In the midst of the crisis, he was quoted as saying, “I have a very large concern that if businesses keep going along the way they’re going then so many of them will have to fold.” He added that it would be better for some people to die than to potentially have more die due to an economy in tatters. Of course, he has since stated that his words were taken out of context (?) and what he really meant was that once the health officials gave the all-clear, people should go back to work as quickly as possible. Not sure I see a whole lot of difference in his intentions where getting the economy going trumps (so to speak) keeping people healthy.
As the virus marches forward and shocks us with its advancing numbers, it appears that “normal life” could be weeks, even months away. Remember how Trump scoffed at what health experts were saying about the potency of this virus? Knowing Trump, he’s probably still in denial as the rest of us stalwartly face the deadly tsunami known as Covid 19.
From jackrabbit quick to the stall of a snail tucked tight in its shell. This is the trajectory of life before and during a pandemic.
I’m not complaining, except when I get a tad bored and the only thing I can think of to do is clean out the linen closet. In truth – this is a once in the existence of humanity to stay secluded and find meaning in the particles of daily life that go unnoticed.
Correction – some of those particles are evident, like the blanket of dust that acts as a wrist-rest when I’m typing at my computer. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Maybe meme is a better word – the memes of daily existence, like:
Really listening to my green cheek conure to determine if she’s mad, sad, hungry, playful or bored.
Taking my little Boston Terrier, Finja, for a daily walk instead of shoving her out in the fenced-in backyard to do her business.
Listening to all the wild birds on our walk and drinking in the luscious smell of fresh earth as it awakens from its winter cast.
Slowly savoring every crumb of the foods we never have time to eat in our “real” world.
Digging out my digital camera and seeing the unseen and making it exquisite.
Sitting still and looking out the window
It appears our ability to live simply is going to last awhile. I will relish it.
Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications