It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it? Magnified images of the virus—a rotund ball studded with little pink florets. Similar enough, I guess, to a crown, a corona, to merit the name. In spite of the royal name, it’s a boogeyman, a monster, bearer of our worst fears.
We’re sheltering in place, in our new place, in the flatlands of Goleta. Reduced to the basics. Hunkered down. We’re all living like cavemen now, pressed up against our own walls, peering out to scan the distance for dangers.
What I fail to understand is the hoarding of things like toilet paper. I got a video recently that showed a guy paying for his coffee with little squares of toilet paper, counting them out like dollar bills. It made me laugh, of course. And laughter is a very good thing in times like these.
Panic and pandemonium seem to be riding tandem. The one leading to the other, both contagious. Hoarding is instinctual, we hear, a fear-based survival-of-the-fittest drive to take care of one’s self and one’s own.
My friend Linda watched a Trader Joe’s clerk remove two apples from a woman’s cart that contained five. Five apples doesn’t seem like hoarding to me, but when shortages are critical I guess every apple counts. It’s a thing we should strive to remember. Consider others in our human group who may need an apple or two.
At Albertson’s, where there were no shopping carts available, I spotted a woman whose cart was piled to the gunnels with bottled water. What? Did she think the spigots would be turned off? That could happen during an earthquake, but during an epidemic?
The thing we’re urged to remember is that the problem is not a food shortage, but delivery issues. With everyone grabbing everything edible from shelves, delivery trucks can’t keep up with greedy demand.
So here we are, hunkered down. Forced to read books, watch TV, use email or Skype to reach out to friends. But we can still go outside, take walks, look at what our bounteous spring has to offer. Nature is oblivious to our turmoil, trees leafing out, plants throwing out buds and bee-loving blossoms in a wild array.
Here at Encina Royale, our new digs, we are surrounded by eye-pleasing stretches of grass and gardens and trees, with paths winding through everything. A nice place to stroll, walk the dogs and breathe rain-fresh air.
Living here, I don’t miss Summerland, where up and down tramps were problematic and stores very far away. I do miss Carpinteria, though. I miss writing for the paper and I miss the town with its shops, friends, and especially my favorite gym, the Gym Next Door and the kind and convivial women I hung out with. The gym, like most gyms, is closed now, a necessary inconvenience.
A few words about moving from our Summerland home of 50 years. No regrets, but the displacement was traumatic. Having everything you own uprooted and taken away, as if by a tornado, was so disorienting it has taken us several months to adjust. Getting our old stuff settled into the new place was an exploration, like laying down familiar landmarks to establish a trail, a way to move forward. The displacement was psychological, parts of our psyches taking a long time to sift down, finding the right spot to land.
It was a bit like Alice in Wonderland at first. Where were we? How did the mountains move? They are lower here, more like a tall range of hills. Clouds sit comfortably along the crests instead of settling into deep crevices of the taller peaks behind Summerland. Even the air is different, colder, crisper.
The condos at Encina Royale sit under a flight path for small aircraft, so I regularly see and hear little planes buzzing by overhead, lowering, getting ready to land. Briefly noted and then gone. Flybys I call them. Like this column that I hope to keep writing as time and conditions allow.
One good thing: Although we are physically separated, we are still united, all sharing these fearful times together as Americans.