family quarantine


A month into the greatest cataclysm since World War II, its effects on us are beginning to become clear. Aside from a lot more baking and binge-viewing, here’s what I’ve noticed is shifting in my life and likely yours.

1.Time.  I asked a hyper-busy friend who does crisis management how hard he’s working these days. He replied: “I’m working three days a week: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Nothing else matters.”

The days do seem to drift one into the other: before, Saturday felt very different from Friday, and more different still from Sunday. Now, their curves have all flattened.

2. Nature. Jean and I are up north where we get to see something we’ve missed for the 25 years we’ve had our cottage: early spring.

Not late spring where everything turns from brown to green. But early spring when it turns from white to brown. The leaves aren’t out, and only the odd hellebore is pushing up from the ground. The ice is leaving, the lake is down, the streams are rushing, and the geese are headed north.

It seems when human activity declines, nature tends to thrive. Here’s an illuminating piece on how the pandemic is turning the natural world upside down.

3. Sleep.  When you never get enough sleep and suddenly great gobs of it arrive, it’s like a dream come true. So how is it by late afternoon I want to nod off? Maybe  I’m making up for a quarter-century of sleep deprivation.

4. Food. Making lunch at home has one big benefit from lunching out or even going to the food court to bring back some sushi. You eat less of it. It also tends to be leftover from dinner the night before. Oh, and since I open the fridge door vastly more now, it’s become a kind of food court as well.

Yes, we did buy that end-of-the-world freezer for the basement and stuffed it full of end-of-days food. I even remember paying cash for it all. Back in the days when cash was a legal currency. That would be a month ago, which is another way Pandemic Standard Time is warping my memory.

5. Music. I used to listen to music on my phone all day. Writing in the office, on the subway, walking home. My Playlists are all organized into aural wallpaper that fills the silences.

But now I also have time not just to grab and hold on to my favourite tunes from the past, but to actually explore new music. This is where services like Spotify and Apple Music shine. The idea that if “I like this, I’ll love this” can now actually come true because…..well, I’m not on the subway, nor working in the office, and my walks home are as long as I want them to be.

Now, I can just listen deep and long.

6. Curiosity. I can’t remember the last time I spent an hour on Google seeing where it would lead me. Likely no place useful, but many places diverting and even delightful.  But tomorrow I’m going to try that and I urge you to as well.

It doesn’t matter where we start. The point is, to begin. This isn’t like finally taking up crocheting or wood-turning because those are real goals with some practical value. I’m talking here about setting out to do something that’s driven only by your curiosity.

As they say, “Adventure is not in the guidebook and beauty is not on the map. Seek and you shall find.”

7. Other People. That’s what Jean-Paul Sartre defined as Hell. But I’m still craving close contact with lots of humans. Even the precious few I see now — the neighbours who came out of self-isolation on the weekend, the supermarket cashier behind her new plexiglass – I’m wary of getting too close. So I keep back 30 feet instead of the required 10. I’d hate to make it all this way and end up dying from enthusiasm.

8. Staying Clean. No, I don’t mean off drugs. I mean off virus. I still wash my hands for the requisite 20 seconds at least five times a day. Which is far longer than what I used to spend washing my hands.

But the big new delight comes in taking a long shower. I used to take as long as it took me to get clean, with an eye to my internal clock about what I had to do next. But now that clock is broken, I can have showers that last five minutes and even 10. Bliss!

I once saw a movie where the captain of a submarine rewarded one of his sailors who’d done heroic service with a three-minute shower instead of the usual two-minute one.

We are living that movie.

9. Usefulness. There are two kinds of people these days: the huge number who have little to do, and the tiny number who have much to do. Those few will save us many.

My ‘job’ is to wait on my wife while she practices telemedicine. My pre-occupation is getting the new RamsayTalks Online up and running, and writing these blog posts. I’ve learned that when I’m not writing, I’m on edge, and when I am writing, I’m somehow calmer.

So if you feel you’re still in a puddle. I urge you to “not let the quarantine slip through your fingers.”

Here’s a wonderful place to start.

Here is the link to the Plague-Ground podcast if you want to listen to this blog with your ears instead of reading it with your eyes.

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14 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? MOMMY?”

  1. Ginny Bellwood

    Loved your latest blog. I am so on the same page. But ere are the lucky ones. We have no external pressures, or pre-existing conditions.
    No complicated forms to fill out to access to funds just to stay afloat, My heart goes out to those who struggle to get through the day
    with few resources and little hope.
    Sorry to be a downer after your uplifting blog, but that’s how I feel today after a blow-out Seder meal we had last night.

    1. Ginny – I agree with you about the safe place life has set us on, and how very unsafe much of the world is.
      I’m glad also that you enjoyed your Seder meal!
      Cheers. Bob

  2. Jenny Matrosovs

    Is it appropriate to be enjoying these posts so much? Please do keep them coming – for yourself, and for the rest of us.


    1. Yes, the audio part is new and a bit awkward. But just so long as people don’t think this will be the CBC, it should be fine.

  3. Love your posts, Bob, they help brighten the day & ease the quarantine (& yes, ‘dying by enthusiasm’ pretty much brilliant!)

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