How far away can we stay from each other and for how long? That was the question uppermost in our mind on day 78 of the pandemic, when we began this entry Wednesday.
We are counting the days since China alerted the World Health Organization of the flu-like virus in Wuhan, on the last day of 2019. COVID-19 has been with us, with the world, on every day this year. Already, in the annual New Year’s editorial cartoons, we saw more than one with old 2019 wishing young 2020 luck and saying, “You’re gonna need it.” It was not for the virus but there was something in the air.
You can measure the way we’ve come since by the distance we’re supposed to withdraw from one another, first three feet, then six. Today we believe the other side of the dog park is OK, yelling with hands cupped.
This unrolling of social distancing is going well on the whole, with some predictable bobbles. On Monday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis ordered the suspension of dine-in service at restaurants and other restrictions, the most sweeping state order so far – but likely not the last.
Jim Pfaff, chief of staff for the state House Republican caucus and a Woodland Park City Council candidate, was having none of that Monday, saying on Twitter that social distancing may be an effort to suppress President Trump’s rallies, and is itself socialist – “Absolutely socialist,” he clarified, adding, “This is a basic freedom of association issue.”
There is not much that is collectivist about telling everyone to go home and stay, no visiting. And freedom of association seems an odd liberty to be tender about in a time of quarantine. But it is just a few bobbles, we continue to believe. We are not so used to the government intervening in our quotidian lives. It is another shock to the system. But if we are summoned to a common task individually, we still think we can rise.
Yesterday, we could almost feel through the ether all the hunkering; people gathering as much as they could for the siege, chicken pot pies and two-percent milk and gummy vitamins. We’ve been stocking up piecemeal for the last several days, trying to guess whether there is enough before we are forbidden to forage. All this gathering – just looking at two dozen cups of yogurt, 10 pounds of frozen berries and two large bottles of glass cleaner – has made us think of Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking.” It begins with the narrator done for the season:
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
That is a poem for fall. And here we are garrisoning four days from spring like bears with broken mainsprings. The light is growing; nature in its other forms shows the dependable signs of renewal.
We were walking just the other evening in Three Springs with Charlie the border collie when we stopped to listen to first one, then two, red-winged blackbirds perched on the swaying straw of last year’s cattails. They must have set down that day from Sinaloa or the other Durango, sweetly oblivious to the time we’re having.
Where are you? called the mousy female, although the male was in her sight, maybe 30 yards away.
Here, he said, flashing a wing; here, here, here. Here, here!
What are you doing? she asked.
The saaaaaaame thing, he trilled. Here!
OK, she said, good to know.