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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Don't Fence Me In

Give me land, lots of land and the starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in
-Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher

I find it highly ironic that in the middle of a pandemic, instructed to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, I find myself feeling trapped. My first instinct when this thing started was to get in the truck and take off to the desert. Anywhere away from the city, from the six-feet-still-feels-too-close and the eerily quiet streets and the grocery stores packed with spaced out patrons and the pharmacies with empty shelves and the hospitals with white tents erected in parking lots in anticipation of a surge of patients.

My mood has bounced between, "hey this is ok, better than being sick!" to "i hate this, i hate this, i hate this."  I've self-medicated with chocolate to the point my adventure pants are starting to tighten, and those are the stretchy ones. I pace the house from one room to the next, seeing projects I could start but never quite get settled enough to begin. I thought it would help to have a list going. So far, I've only managed to check off "find yeast online to buy" and "change toothbrush." At least my dental hygiene won't suffer from all the chocolate I'm eating.

I am now working from home, having been part of the third wave of workers to be outfitted with all the necessary equipment to work remotely. I have a pretty sweet work station set up, complete with dual monitors and headset. All the conveniences of work with none of the free snacks. Damn office mates keep interrupting my meetings with their snoring, not to mention the pile of fur that accumulates under my chair from all the extra scratching they insist upon.

My coping mechanism has been to allow myself a really deeply satisfying wallow in pity about once a week. I just let myself go there, morose self-pity, full on oh-woe-is-me-this-sucks-and-it's-not-getting-better depths of despair. The lower I go and the whinier I get starts to strike me funny, then I come back to the "hey, it's better than getting sick!" stage.

Easter Sunday was a weird experience. I'm not religious and have never associated it with much more than a chance to eat a nice dinner with family and consume a terrifying amount of chocolate eggs, but that chance was not available this year. We did have an hour Zoom session with most of Mark's family, which was fun but not the same. My favorite chocolate house of worship has closed for the duration: Sees Candies, the makers of the best chocolate Easter eggs in the world, has ceased production until it's safe for their workers to come back. In place of exercise that day, we went for a neighborhood walk with the goal of passing by all the churches we could find within our area. We hit 10 on our three mile walk, all closed for business. Even Jesus was depressed, and it takes a lot to get that guy down.

I realize how lucky Mark and I are to still be employed, housed, and (over)fed. So far, all our relatives are well and we are healthy and live in a nice walkable neighborhood with many helpful and friendly neighbors we could rely on in a pinch. But if freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose never meant anything before, it surely does now. If we take off to the desert now we risk not being here if something happens to our folks. We risk possibly spreading the virus to others through gas pumps and quick grocery stops along the way. We risk tracking something home from a far away place and spreading it to our community which has, so far, been spared the worst of it.

So I will sit in my work chair, mute my headset when the snoring commences, wallow in self-pity occasionally and ride this out with the rest of you. Freedom can wait, and I know we can do this.

I just don't wanna.

Land, lots of land, nary a fence in sight.
Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierras CA