Staying at home has become the new normal, because we are living in unusual times. In recent weeks, my only outside activities are a weekly trip to the grocery store, and daily walks, generally close to home. The air is cleaner, thanks to fewer automobiles on the road, and the Bay Area is getting some much- needed rain. And the important thing is for everybody to take whatever steps are possible to keep not only themselves, but also those around us, safe in this time of pandemic.
In many ways, a public health crisis can bring out the goodness in people. Several neighbors and friends have reached out with offers of help. “I’m going to Whole Foods (or Costco, or Mollie Stone’s, or the Canyon Market), can I get anything for you?” Walking in the neighborhood, there are signs proclaiming “We are all in this together.” The little girls down the street have chalked some messages on the sidewalk: “WASH YOUR HANDS” and “SOCIAL DISTANS 5 SQUARES AWAY FROM OTHERS.”
Just a few short weeks ago, I was taking walks and hikes with groups of friends, enjoying the glorious vistas from Mt. Tamalpais, the Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio of San Francisco, and other state, federal, and local parks. Restaurants and bars and health clubs were still open. I looked forward to an upcoming trip to the east coast. Then, that all changed, suddenly and dramatically.
In addition to the uncertainty about what lies ahead, the hardest thing about staying at home is not being able to be with family, to share meals and conversation, to go to the playground, to hug the grandchildren. Apps that connect us virtually help fill the void. Our 9 + month old granddaughter made her first crawl today, captured on video and shared via Message. Her 3 ½ year old brother sings, plays his ukulele, and “reads” to us on Facetime. I look forward to upcoming virtual lunch dates with friends and workout classes at my health club via Zoom. Photos from family and friends are shared via e-mail, messages and Instagram. All of these technologies and apps could not be more welcome during this challenging time.
Autumn and Percy, our cats, aren’t quite sure what to make of all this staying at home. They do not appreciate my house cleaning efforts, which are quite disruptive to their daylong naps. Also, they are puzzled by my new home companion, a robot vacuum cleaner. My robot is personable and energetic, and goes about its job with diligence. It cannot, however, be left alone, as it has a particular affinity for finding loose cords and cables, and from time to time gets confused when seemingly trapped in small spaces. Unlike the usual human house keepers, it needs supervision and oversight.
There cannot be a better time to stay in touch with friends and family. Judging from my email in-box, others feel the same. But it is also a time to think about writing a letter or card and sending it via snail mail. I am participating in a postcard writing campaign related to the 2020 presidential primaries.
As a young person, I swore I would never keep unused items, but somehow, over many years of living in the same house and raising a family, the number of boxes of now unused stuff seems to have grown. Letters, sewing materials that haven’t been touched in years, family pictures, extra tableware, and more crept their way into the house and stayed. Staying at home provides the opportunity to make some hard decisions about what to keep and what to toss.
Perhaps, for a few weeks or many months, whatever it takes to get through this, it’s time to rediscover your inner home body. Working from home has certain benefits, like wearing slippers all day. If the magic of tidying up does not appeal to you, there are books to read, programs to watch, games to play, and correspondence to write. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, please practice social distancing, and stay safe!