Journal Entry: The Pandemic Inspires a Conversation

Before all this happened, I was already reflecting on this notion, that in the intervening eight years between living through the kind of loss I think of as the emotional equivalent of blunt force trauma, and life as it is right now, my take on things has changed. Not everything. Some losses were undeniably horrible, avoidable, and just plain stupid. There is not too much else to say about those that I haven’t already said.

What I mean is, for the longest time, for years, I kept looking through a lens that somehow magnified my desperation, as if to say, look how much you lost—you’ll never have those things again, ever. The truth is, I’ve spent the last eight years painstakingly rebuilding so much, and have certainly recaptured some of the beloved elements of my former life in Tennessee. Here is one thing I most assuredly found: the love of another human being and a partner for life.

But the rest of it, mainly, I’ve refiled into another bin marked, You Were So Lucky. To have lived in a magical home, to have enjoyed the luxury of full-time parenting (much of it so fulfilling, the balance complicated to be sure), to have been rich beyond measure in friendships, to have returned to my performing arts roots and forged unimaginable connections there, and on and on.

And then there was the horrible, the avoidable, and the just plain stupid. It is water under the bridge.

Last weekend I FaceTimed with one of those friends, a person who probably knows me better than only a small handful of family. We haven’t talked a bunch since I moved up this way. Chef David and I bumped into her and her husband on two of our trips down south, one time a couple of years ago, and again last summer, an occasion where we enjoyed a quick catch-up over drinks. I was tickled to pieces when she suggested a call last Sunday. I get the feeling so many of us are feeling the need to connect and reconnect right now because of the uncertainty looming all around us, to say nothing of the insidious germ that condemns us all to isolation for the time being.

After we talked at length about our kids, what they’re all doing as young adults (and where everybody is in this hellish moment), and how she and her husband are managing their family business, I mentioned I could not have anticipated nor predicted the turns my life has taken and the events that have unfolded—this particular outcome that is, living in Vermont with my handsome Chef, and finding myself now thoroughly immersed in career development. Not on travel, or semi-retirement (as some of our other friends are already).

I bemoaned the gaping hole that opened up the instant I left Tennessee, where once had been my beloved friends. I went on to explain this isn’t an especially fertile time to forge new friendships, and anyway, friendships require work—I mean, you’re asking somebody to work when they take you on as a friend. I’ve been loath to insinuate that upon people in this chapter of my life. I love my job, and I love coming home to Chef David. (And Scout-the-Goldapeake Retriever is a constant in my day, every day.) I video message my twenty-something kid almost daily. Beyond that, I mainly wish to lace up my shoes and run, and then come home and flip on the telly and let my mind relax, a little, so I can press repeat the next morning. Weekends are better for other, more enriching avocations. It sounds so banal, but there it is.

And just like she always did, my friend so beautifully encapsulated what I was trying to say as I blathered on about it in a single sentiment: “You don’t have the bandwidth for friendships right now.” She said there was no way she’d have imagined this particular future for me, either, but went on to point out how beautiful my life in Vermont really is, an observation that felt somehow so reassuring to me. She is right about that. I hope like hell the center holds through all this madness, but for the time being, we are lucky, as I was in the last chapter of my life.

Meanwhile at home. Yesterday Chef David made me Belgian waffles and bacon. This almost never happens, but the night before, I mentioned I’d love waffles and bacon for breakfast, and damned if the man didn’t wake up Saturday morning and make them for me. I’ve lost more than 20 pounds, an accomplishment The Chef observed this breakfast would possibly upend.

Scout can smell bacon the instant it hits the pan and is suddenly somehow right there with his nose in your bum
This was the last of our own syrup from last year, plus some special syrup David’s mama gives us every Christmas

Nah, I quipped, I’m going for a long run today. Which I did, with Scout, who objected to the relatively mild temperatures somewhere around the mile two mark. Seems like winter’s gone, and soon we’ll swap out our afternoon (or late morning) runs for our crack-of-dawn runs. I’ve started avoiding the city (like plague, you might say), because people here seem to struggle mightily to understand the meaning of ‘six feet.’ But nobody’s out on the sidewalk at 5:00 am.

And then last night, Chef David put some chicken on the grill, and made broccoli sautéed in one of our favorite salsas, and served it all over curried rice.

Today I decided to try making a French soup called pistou, from this exquisite book by Rose Elliot, The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine.

I haven’t been vegetarian for a long time, but I still love vegetarian cookery. I tweaked this recipe a little—first by using chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, because that is what we had in the pantry. And instead of using three leeks (or three small zucchini, went the recipe), I used yellow squash. The Chef observed that all that leek seemed like overkill for a soup that contains an entire chopped onion. And the store was out of zucchini, because, pandemic. Instead of using a 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, I used a mixture of Yellow Indian Woman and Eye of the Goat beans from Rancho Gordo. And instead of using a 15-ounce can of tomatoes, I used fresh Campari tomatoes, which have lots of flavor.

The soup is divine; it will be lunch all week long.

Scout had a bath yesterday and smells sweet now, and his hair is fluffy and soft; he still hasn’t blown his winter coat, which is a tad surprising. I scrubbed winter out of the car’s interior and washed the backseat cover, and I cleaned all manner of other Scout-related things, including his winter jackets and the quilt at the foot of our bed where he curls up in a little ball most nights. Life’s little improvements somehow feel so satisfying right now.

Chef David has managed to accomplish a multitude of bothersome and difficult household projects, pressing pause only because some of the materials he needs to finish are not considered ‘essential’ and thus must be ordered online and shipped to us. He has also started our flowers and veg inside, and the seeds are already germinating. After the threat of frost is past, we’ll move the vegetables out onto the deck into galvanized tubs, and we’ll plant another one with herbs.

And before much longer, we’ll pull out our garden furniture and put the canvas cover back on the gazebo, which overwintered well. Van Goat will come out of hibernation and take up his position at various places around the yard, and we’ll hang the sign my ex-sister-in-law-but-still-my-sister gave us for Christmas, somewhere on our pretty white fence. It says, Beware of Goat.

It’s all in a pandemic weekend’s work; and here we go marching into another week of the unknown. Be well.

Chin propping opportunist

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