Two shots in the arm
a needle’s distance
and facing what remains.
I write a poem pretty much every day as an exercise in mindfulness. Narrowing the task and keeping the words flowing helps me rein in an anxiety that continues to feel global.
My husband Roger and I got the shots with a small sigh of relief. Released from a year of Instacart grocery deliveries, we still didn’t rush out to shop and dine. It’s been difficult to leap suddenly free after a hard-grained year of habit grounded in fear.
We live in Encina Royale, an older condo development with a small golf course and club house (both off limits for months). It was built in the 60s, Hawaiian style with upturned roof ends, lots of palm trees and exotics. It’s not a bad place for a long sequester, with plenty of winding walks and small plazas around gnarled old olive trees.
I seldom see anyone on my walks, my neighbors, mostly older, sequestered in their safe spaces. I like to stand under a small redwood grove at the corner and look over the perimeter fence at the world going by, cars rushing, gas station prices in red neon, a McDonald’s.
For many months I longed to be out there, conducting whatever business was still possible. But a year of lockdown has made me wary. Now that my personal fear has been largely alleviated, there is still the challenge of facing what remains.
What remains is on so many levels catastrophic. There’s a shot for the virus, but the economy is a ragged wreck for which there is no quick fix, and for some no fix at all. So many stores, businesses, restaurants are gone with for lease signs in the windows.
I watch the cars line up in the Good Shepherd church parking lot next door, waiting for bags and boxes distributed by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. This is the Foodbank’s drive-through option, and they operate 20 monthly mobile food distribution sites plus pick-up spots at community centers, parking lots and farmers markets two or three times a week.
Food insecurity is what they’re calling it now. The terrible word hunger replaced by something easier to stomach, I guess. The Foodbank distributes 131,500 pounds a month of food to 21,804 individuals in underserved areas – 19.5 million pounds of food in the past year. Food insecurity is not vanishing with the virus. A $1 donation can provide eight meals. Go to email@example.com and give what you can.
This has been a year of profound chronic stress. But many of us, the lucky ones who have homes, jobs and economic security, have muddled through. I know artists who have continued to paint, writer friends who have kept on writing. I finished a novel long in the works and am now confronted with the task of finding an agent. It’s about a small Central Valley town awash in McCarthy era paranoia. Its themes – division, suspicion, violence—resonate with issues we face today.
In spite of so much bad news, or maybe because of it, real estate is enjoying a field day. In the north, wealthier homeowners fleeing the Bay Area are buying up houses in Sierra foothill developments. My niece’s sweet family of five, who lived near my brother in Sacramento, was priced out of the market a dozen times before locating a home near Folsom, now a booming suburb.
An identical shift has occurred in my old hometown of Summerland. Well-heeled buyers fleeing Covid-central Los Angeles are snapping up houses at record rates. On my street, Whitney Avenue, where we still own a house, 13 homes sold in the last year.
Recently my book group, seven women I’ve known for 40 years, met face to face for the first time in many months. Maskless, giddy, we hugged and laughed open-mouthed, light-headed with freedom.
One good thing: The view ahead when all of us will gather again safely and without fear.