In These Times

Notes on a Pandemic and a Democracy in Peril

I don’t write anymore. I sit at my desk, staring wide-eyed out the window at the rain, the leaves tinged with color, and I think. But I don’t write.

I eat raisins. I use the good pen.

I put bitters in seltzer and call it a night off.

I just did . Because, yeah. Dead inside.

I think about isolation dinners. Me, never alone. My father, always alone. Neither is ideal. Both are challenges.

The sadness is the thing. It’s amorphous and overwhelming, swallowing the days and me, too. I’m just sad, is a thing we say now. The body is heavy and slow. Time is a two-faced thing: Now slow and languorous, now buzzing with menace and imperative. The world asks for so much. We are in a moment, of the moment, and our leavings will be testament to it — but what to leave? How to make it, now, with these old tools and all this buzzing?

The typical seasonal things carry on. The spring rains gave way to lush summer growth; the late summer so familiar, berries fermenting on the bush or freezing in the kitchen. Now the early fall is chilly and wet and full of color. The moon cycles and the critters are busy, unaware that much has changed, here in the east. The west burns.

A selfish secret: I thought I had a book deal and then I didn’t and now I’m a giant baby about it. Months of emails and writing, inspiration and dreaming, a Zoom call half a world away, only to find out that marketing me is too hard in a global pandemic. Giant baby loses in a pandemic.

I’m mailing things. I tipped the mail carrier and have written dozens of postcards for our local sane political candidate. I signed up for Rachel Syme’s #Penpalooza, and have purchased fun stationery and written long letters to strangers. It’s been delightful to find the mailbox blooming with life.

I buy stickers and washi tape. Who am I?

The library is still closed. It’s a heartbreak. I volunteered at the library, sorting books for the twice annual book sale. It was therapy to sift through boxes of cast-offs and file them appropriately. Now, the doors are locked and piles of donations are collecting in my house.

I bought a painting and pre-ordered a bunch of books, because at least I can support the arts. The artists will tell the story. I listen to long recordings of and an . The repetition is somehow soothing, a balm for the dawn dread.

My hip hurts, the doctor wants x-rays. My gut is riled, she wants bloodwork. Dizzy days, stomach sick and aching, will they find trouble? Or a map of end days, angst and keening inside me? They see nothing, and tell me I’m fine.

I take a lonesome post-wine walk in the near dark and see, just for a moment through the torn clouds, a big, bright moon. I want so badly for it to mean something good, please something good just once this ugly year.

I toss hearts at things like It’s okay to be sad all the time and Update: Wine and feel a general kinship with all the sad, confused, doomscrolling wounded.

Sometimes I almost die in the night. I wake in the dark and feel that all systems are struggling. Unsettled stomach, throbbing head, burning tongue, pain in the leg. What does it mean? Same old me or devilment afoot?

looms, not a favorite. Election day is on its heels, another house of horrors. I can’t imagine that it will be tidy — will anything ever again be tidy? Was it ever? “Election season” is what I expect, maddening months of challenge. The president is preening like a tinpot dictator. The war on Christmas is coming from inside the White House and the virus marches on. The headline font size is bigger each morning, the talking heads bug-eyed and screaming.

I only want soft pants. This year, I deserve soft pants that aren’t high waters with pouchy knees. This is the year of smart, soft pants. Any suggestions? I signed up for the monthly wine box, and now I just want soft pants. Is this too much to ask?

Could you all just please vote, and don’t vote for the team that wants to kill us, but vote for sanity and sleep? Please?

Write it down.

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