Unknown Days of Isolation

My place has been questioned and still remains with some degree of uncertainty. Quarantine. Economy. Conspiracy. Crash.., Freedom, Socialism.., Disease, Space…, Governance. Each of these words have meaning now. Some have split branches leading to new realities and thought; fear for many. How will they grow?

Quarantine began around the end of March, about the 22nd, I want to say. I had been too busy with routine to hear the apparent warnings leading up to this moment. It could be because I had refrained from watching the nightly news cycle for a while after being horribly sick during the month of January. I had quit smoking also and, ironically, was too preoccupied with coveting my health that I missed what was coming.

With little warning, work made announcements on a Thursday that we would not be coming into the office on Monday and to make sure our email had a response notifying people that we were out due to a Covid-19 outbreak. “What is that? How do you spell it? Just a dash one nine? What does ’19’ mean? Oh, it started in 2019 – so that’s a date stamp? Why are we just hearing about it now?”

People scrambled to get things pulled together to set up a home office. By Friday, announcements were flowing on a constant cycle of corporate info-planning and strategies rolling out a responsible response. Only technical assets that required lab and production cells to work would be allowed on premise. All others that could work remotely would work from home until further notice. It’s been almost three months now and I have not seen any of my colleagues.

Admittedly, the first week was a bit exciting, finally able to put to real use the office in the home we had just purchased six months earlier. The big dual monitors and docking station were in and things were ready to hum along business as usual. But it would be anything but usual. I over-think technology some times and certain things have been a challenge.

By the start of the second week, slow connection speed was rampant and the company had to make some adjustments to expand the VPN protocols to allow for the surge in new activity. Passwords were changing and things generally loped along with meetings being held via phone conferencing and WebX. “I can do this.” I told myself. It was a great distraction, if nothing else. Gadgets have a way of doing that in our lives.

After a couple of weeks, I began to quickly realize the magnitude of this thing and the unforeseen economic disaster that came crashing into the rocks of our foundation. 1,000 people, then 10,000, and 20,000 more – they kept popping up and then dying. Cruise ships became nightmares haunted by the sick and dying spirits of helplessness ordered to remain anchored in the bay. Old folk homes collapsed into the foul lost place where death made its rounds. Everyone was either sick or told to shelter in place. Suddenly, the essential workforce began roll call and uncertainty hung in the air as millions were swept away into unemployment. My home office became a battle ground of determination to understand the impacts and report back. I was lucky to be employed.

Almost a month in and I realize I haven’t showered but for a couple of times. A grizzly gray beard had taken hold. My routine developed from work in the office to work in the yard to the news. I started smoking again and that pulled me deeper into thought about what was happening.

About this time, my garden began to fall into place. I had been publishing a before and after photo album on my Facebook. The raised beds made from recycled pallets gave structure and form to the wild bamboo that was overgrown along with mountains of invasive grass. My pruning discovered pockets of sun throughout the green shoots and the pallet beds fit perfectly. This defined path ways and caused bunches of bamboo islands with lettuces, broccoli, beets, kale, cabbage, celery, onion, and other things to emerge and take root.

I decided this would be the Corona Memorial Garden and shoved about 2-3 cases of empty Corona beer bottles into the dirt and planted a large patch of strawberries (Hood, Benton, and Rainier). Large slate rocks were discovered in my excavation of the plot that became borders, like a wall to prevent pests from entering though I knew they would go under or over. All in all, a quiet respite from the latest presidential gaffs or death toll or economic ruin found me wandering there.

And then, we went to the next level.

As if a pandemic, economic collapse, and an insane king weren’t enough, our world erupted in protest with flesh pressed to the sky and screams for justice. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. You matter. I matter. They matter. We matter. It matters. Set us free some chanted all the while standing in the government building shaking automatic weapons at the man. The irony.

I had expressed to my wife that the scariest thing for me was the uncontrolled mob mentality fueled with delusion and rage for justice. Saboteurs infiltrated while peace signs waved for solidarity and the chants became drowned out with the 24/7 news cycle of rioting and looting, buildings burn and all the while the division can be seen growing more vast every hour. Our devolution of our humanity and all of its entitlements in full display for the world and ourselves to take notice of.

The next day was full of meetings and a cosplay of practical business. It was surreal, the realization of the absurdity and white luck speaking as though we were still insulated from society; from truth trying to keep it together. I make it a point to personalize conversation at the end of our staff meetings – to allow myself to be slightly vulnerable so we don’t forget our humanity but carry some hope in our professional companionship where maybe things will find footing that fosters a friendly forward thinking foundation that does not falter but finds the fantastic in all people.

As it is, the white cabbage moths will return and the praying mantis can’t hatch quick enough. Fortunately, the ladybugs are keeping attacks at bay against the kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Peppers are popping and squash is arcing over its borders with corn peeking up to remind me. We have our distractions and I know I have created one in our garden. But, my hope is that people don’t forget their masks and somehow people find their balance.

Things will never be the same again and I don’t want them to. I think, as is evident with all the footage of police brutality, that people – this society, has been running too hard for too long. The hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters must be careful where misinformation is being perpetuated into delirium where hate is the answer, the response to a loss of control.

Having to self isolate for so long and then to feel isolated from your people when sharp contrasts are made about some very deep issues only fans the hysteria and creates more stress and confusion. One of the most disturbing centerpieces is the ongoing harsh narcissism from our President who appears to be steeped in denial. As well, are his extreme followers that blindly shout from false news fed to them through a narrow pipeline of information.

I don’t know. I curse a lot more of late and have ripped debates apart on social media – to which I have gone back to apologize more than once. But the silver lining there is that I have come to remember conversations with my father who always talked about Jesus and agape love and forgiveness. That always stuck with me. I am not religious, but I value the basic tenants of the message of Christ – even if I don’t believe in the complete definition of his character. Religion has skewed the values of our spirituality, in my opinion.

My point is that love and kindness must be at the center – the focal point in order to heal so many. I fear for this fall and the election that looms in the backdrop of a second wave of this pandemic, which even as I write this continues to grow in cases and deaths. The US is by far the worst country in the world on every level in how it has dealt with the pandemic with nearly 150 K people dead and millions either hospitalized or diagnosed to remain isolated.

I think where love and kindness come is in deescalating our tragedy from what may be catastrophic (if we are not already at that precipice); but I believe our world can worsen still and likely beyond what we can even imagine. I also have hope and know that there is goodness in the world.

I keep pulling weeds and find myself pulling back. I am in love with my children and worry about them. I don’t want to go back to the office but need to remain as close to my family and friends as I can. I hope this November brings peace – though I have a feeling that we have already stepped onto the double-sided blade and so am continuing to love as much as I can and stay grounded and grateful gladly wearing that mask of business cosplay to help others get through the day and keep myself busy for as long as I can.

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