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More than a Vector: What Covid-19 Taught Me About Social Distancing

Venetian Plague Doctor

I set my flip phone on the table and look out a freshly-washed window at our greening lawn. It is Saturday, day four of my self-imposed covid-19 retreat, and plan-canceling has become second nature. I was able to say “No,” to grocery shopping, buddy strolls, and a writing workshop.

Bob and I had a pivotal discussion after dinner on Tuesday. At first, I thought he was kidding, but the set of his face assured me he was serious. He’d been watching the virus sweep over the globe, affecting his co-workers and their clients for weeks. “I’m only suggesting we limit our exposure and wait it out. See what happens,” he said.

“Okay, I’m with you,” I said, struggling to catch up. “I am, after all, an introvert.”

Earlier that day, I had spent $100 on groceries, and now it was time to sit tight and eat down our larder. “It’ll be easy, I assured myself. “It’ll be fun!”

We have long been a nation of two, so reducing our social profile would be easy. Bob works from home, I’m retired, and we have access to an arsenal of social media tools. Ignoring the lump in my windpipe, I began re-framing my commitment. It would be a relaxing mini-retreat cleverly disguised as our civic duty, not solitary confinement. We’d merely be removing ourselves from the vector pool. It would be like a second honeymoon.

“What’s on our list?” Bob asks this morning.

“Well, we’ve got our Dam walk . . .”

We are running our of winter projects. The pollinator garden we topped off with compost last weekend is settling nicely, and the frogs are happy. We should probably plant out the last of the spider lily bulbs we got from Whitney. If we felt ambitious, we could work on replacing the crawl space door. And we could spend an hour wiring chicken wire onto the garden fence.

Instead, I sew the heels shut on my wool socks, and we drive out to Jordan Lake. We step between the guard rails onto the worn path towards the tailrace. The water is much calmer today, the whirling gull vortex replaced by a solitary blue heron. The sun bounces off everything, the distant trees one-dimensionally stoic. A man with a long, black ponytail tosses a net as a cormorant rises, flapping wildly.

Back home, we tackle the overflow in our garage, unearthing a set of rusting pipe-wrenches that Bob plans to restore. We play tidy-up for a little while before coming inside to gorge on popcorn. Bob retires to a sunny bedroom with the last chapters of In Cold Blood while I sit in a rocker on the front porch and get caught up with my brother, Johnny.

Later, I open the chest freezer and pull a bag of homemade seitan cutlets from the top shelf. We could eat out of here for a month! Additionally, we are packing an extra ten pounds of flour, ten pounds of dried beans, a cupboard stocked with canned goods, five pounds of rice, and four pounds of pasta. The garden weighs in with collards and carrots, and there are squash and sweet potatoes from last fall. And, in the refrigerator, we’ve got four quarts of mayonnaise and more than a dozen eggs from Ted and Helen’s chickens in the fridge.

So far, our social distancing project has been quite bearable. Tomorrow promises more of the same: a little exercise, a bit of puttering, and some heavy snacking. The tightness in my throat is long gone, and I’m feeling good about doing my bit to slow the spread of Covid-19. Additionally, we’ll likely stay healthy, and are in no danger of losing weight.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

One reply on “More than a Vector: What Covid-19 Taught Me About Social Distancing”

And, may I say, thank you! I keep looking at FB posts from Chatham County folks in NY, California and overseas and thinking, what a selfish act – they don’t care if they bring it back here.

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