Friday, May 8, 2020

Life during the Pandemic Lock-Down - Weeks 1 & 2

Sunday, March 8, 2020 – Sunday, March 22, 2020

    I believe our first personal concern began around 2 weeks ago.  The preceding week had been a cultural / entertainment splurge of incredible proportions.  We had gone to see the Met film of the opera Agrapena, the James Baldwin play Amen Corner, and the Saint Saens opera Samson and Delilah.  Sunday the 8th was also a socially rich day.  Bonnie went shopping with our good friend Elsie, and then we had a fine social with a visiting ex PhD student (and friend, coauthor), Steve.  Steve insisted on no hugs, no hand shakes, and thus began our very gradual withdrawal. 

    A friend, Eileen, was visiting  from out of town and stayed at our place Monday the 9th, Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Bonnie went out to eat lunch with her and a group of friends on Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday we normally go to a poetry group.  The leader of the group was thinking we should discuss its cancellation.  Bonnie, getting nervous given a compromised immune system, said she wouldn’t go.  I went.  Jenny, the leader of the poetry group was reluctant to set up a virtual group, but said she would continue to give reading and writing assignments and comment on our poems.  She handed out assignments for the next week.  She suggested we write longer serial poems.

    Thursday the 12th Marita Golden was to visit my VA writer’s group in the large DC VA hospital.  My co-leader, Bernard, and I decided to cancel it.  Instead, we agreed to set up a ‘Skype’ group for coming weeks.  Our Thursday Meetup Writers’ group similarly needed cancelling and I decided to set up another Skype group.  While I was at it, I tried to get our neighborhood book group to move to Skype.  

    We cancelled all future meetings and appointments, such as lab tests, PT and doctor appointments.  I set up a small (3 house) shopping collective.  When a neighbor came to volunteer shopping efforts for us, we expanded the shopping collective to include his family. 

    The handholding needed to get people up and running on Skype was surprisingly time consuming and difficult.

Week 2:
    Sunday I spent beginning a long serial poem on a couple moving to an assisted living facility. Bonnie began a poem on coping with the viral outbreak.  I will include her segments with each week’s entry.  Here is the first:

Bonnie Oppenheimer
A Viral Response

                Dear Claire,

For sure, Chocolate is a panacea
the tool I choose to use for anxiety
so I made brownies and thought of you
as I took out the Hershey cocoa.

Recalling how we shared chocolate cake
at age 25 from our apartments across the hall
and how after you moved away
we met by accident both big with child

For the past few days I’ve tended old
plants and new rootings
from our split-leaf Japanese maple
they thrive and leaf with certainty

If they had voices my cuttings would sing
I think with gusto
In Italy the quarantined sing together
 notes of hope from their balconies 

Before leaving for home college students
celebrated themselves with orgies of liquor
and laughter knowing without really knowing
how their lives have altered

I’ve been warned to not leave home
but am allowed to walk so I do down
paths forsythia lined
canopied with pink flowers

    We also had reading to do.  For the poetry group it was Galway Kinnel’s Book of Nightmares, a set of poems about the Vietnam War.  And for the neighborhood group it was Erik Larsen’s The Splendid and the Vile, about the first year of Churchill’s reign, 1940-41, a year of fear and courage. 

    Sunday I tried all sorts of food delivery options.  But none were available.  So Monday I went shopping for our home and one of the others in the co-op.  We also began our walks around the neighborhood.  Stopping many times for chats (distanced, of course) these prove to be fun socials. 

    When the weather permits, I also plan to do biking. 

    At home cooking and meal time have become more prominent since we don’t go out to eat.  Monday, night the poets were to deliver  their poems: only Bonnie and I did. 

    Noticing that, I uploaded the poems to our Thursday Skype writers’ chat.  I invited others to do so. 

    Tuesday the poets were to deliver their comments on the Kinnel book.  One person besides Bonnie and I did.  The leader did not do her part.  Wednesday there was no poetry group.

    Thursday I was nervous.  What would work?  I put out a notice for the Skype meeting of the VA group.  At noon, we went live.  My co-organizer and I, then a long absent member, Jenine joined.  Then up popped Denise - a vital contributor.  As we bemoaned our much reduced space George sent a message he was detained but would definitely be active in the future.  John joined.  Maxine joined.  No one had done any writing, but they wanted this meeting.  They wanted this thread of connectivity.  We opened up the power to call meetings.  Said anyone in the group should use the  group to call for others to connect at any time for any reason.  90 minutes later the meeting ended.  Soon thereafter it served as a platform for John to invite people to a virtual celebration  of the solstice that night.  I demurred.  Others participated.  I smiled at the community I created.

    Later that afternoon I looked at Skype to find others had posted their writingSaturday, March 28, 2020s for the Thursday night Meetup group.  We had an early supper, and got to the 7pm Skype meeting.  Kathy was there.  Karen and Will (who had submitted pieces for comments) were there.  Then Adam showed up (he too had submitted an item).  Then came Marilyn and Nora.  The meeting lasted two hours.  Again, I told everyone  to use the group any way they found useful.

    Friday, Bonnie and Carolyn had a long phone discussion of Austen’s Emma.  We decided that it was important to  Karen said let’s have a virtual happy hour!  Great idea.  But Adam had a virtual dinner invitation, and others were engaged.  Still  it was a fun discussion and ended up with a few of us having a good ½ hour of shmoozing on Skype over drinks miles apart. 

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