Sinking In

Tuesday March 17, 2020 6:00 A.M.

What was unthinkable on Sunday, happens on Monday. The orders from the Governor, not contradicted by the President, being that “elderly” people should “shelter in place except to get food and medication, Jan and I—from now on “we”, decide to go to Trader Joe’s and possibly its low-class neighbor, Food for Less, when it opens at 8, rather than Costco, which we heard had long lines and empty shelves on Sunday. Its raining steadily. When we arrive, there are hand-lettered signs saying “Opening delayed until 9, and harried employees holding up hands while moving merchandise outside and others being let in.” Food for Less is open, Jan wipes the cart handle and inside there are piles of merchandise with new price mark-downs. We fill the cart with bargains for stuff on our list and find long lines at the cashier, but moving quickly. While Jan goes for extra strength Tylenol, the woman next to me says she really misses Jan as mayor. I say please don’t say that to her, she gets it whenever she shops and it causes pain each time. The clerk at the cash register is tired but friendly. They are working 12 and 14-hour shifts and getting overtime. Heading to the car with our stash, we see people with umbrellas standing in a line that reaches Starbucks waiting to get into Trader Joes. They aren’t six feet apart.

We unpack at home, storing surplus wine in the garage, taking three heavy bags of groceries up in the lift, constructed years ago to accommodate Jan’s knee surgery and allowing us to avoid stairs in anticipation of future accessibility problems. The news is a cascade of panic. Stock market “cratering” worse than last week, all schools closed, health authorities now predicting that US is two weeks behind Italy, where deaths are skyrocketing and health care system is overwhelmed. After a trip to feed chickens in the rain, leaving them inside the coop for the whole day and night, I return and contact Solarponics to see when the now installed Powerwall can be activated. End of the week or beginning of next. They are swamped. I’m eager to get it working after all this investment in backup for grid shutdown.

Jan calls to inquire about production schedule of the new mobile home we have ordered for Claire and Lucas with the one year stock market profits we cashed out back in December, when the virus was starting to work in Wuhan. He says they are still on schedule.

Claire calls Jan expressing concern for us and reporting that she has been laid off. The opening of the new restaurant in Paso, which she’s been frantically and ecstatically preparing for, is cancelled. She will apply for unemployment insurance. She and Lucas are now again staying at Gregg’s, combining care for their boys and coping. The 13th birthday celebration for him last Friday was a happy two hours among four adults inconceivable even six months ago, at least partially attributable to the crisis. They seem now to be bonding as a new family. It’s likely we wont be getting together in person for the foreseeable future.

As the trees in the yard leaf out and the hills turn green in the rain, I try to clean up back email and check the news continually. I confirm that Tree and Shane and I will work at the farm starting 10:00 this morning. We’d agreed that tending the garden still makes sense, though that too may change.

I sleep well afternoon and night, happy that the alarm clock interrupt dreams, that are now becoming easier to remember: all our chickens somehow tied up inside a basket and underwater, but probably ok, and being out in a hillside clearing surrounded by pristine redwood forest, as a surging sound gets louder, not feeling it but realizing its wind, looking up at the nearby slope and seeing a great red trunk emerge from the green mass and delighting in being able to watch it start falling and then waking up to the alarm.

In the dark bathtub, basking in the daily sensation of hot water easing the tension of muscles and joints, I’m overtaken with big picture imaginings. My anticipation of being grid independent when the Powerwall flips on is framed by the realization that if the grid really goes down, Diablo will blow up; my project of growing food at City Farm in case of shortages framed by the realization that it would feed only a couple of people and only while the pump was working; my desire to preserve a coherent archive of projects and pictures on a computer not dependent on the internet framed by the news yesterday that Microsoft will now require purchase of software subscription in order to provide future access to all previously saved Office Documents.

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