April

The wind chimes on our back porch tingle and clang all day and all night long. Spring pushes in not just with purple and pearl and gold crocuses, but with birdsong. 5 a.m., when I step out with a bucket of hot stove ashes, the robins are at it already, mating and nesting, busy with robin family-life.

I lie awake thinking of that window of time when my daughter contracted Covid, imagining when she might have let her mask slip, rubbed an eye with her fingers, the slightest of gestures she’ll never recall. Then I imagine the hours when she was contagious, before this gorgeous healthy teen said, My back hurts. I’m tired, and I closed my laptop, looked at her carefully, and began to worry suddenly, in earnest.

With my own two negative tests, the virus has (at the moment) passed over my body.

Snow falls, all day, on April first. We sleep with the windows cracked open, and I smell the particular damp scent of snow in the night. I lie there, thinking of the practical, mundane things of my world (as a single parent, could I get with it and write a will?) and the visible and invisible mysteries of this world. How I’ve tarnished and sullied the prayer of my everyday life, distracted by things that mean very little, while all along our days are unfolding, one after another, in their finite number.

The cats insist on breakfast. I stand at the back door, drinking coffee, watching snowflakes drift in a gray dawn, listening to NPR and a courtroom in Minnesota.

It’s another month. Despite the snow, spring edges in.

You’d better get busy, though, buddy. The goddamn sands run out on you every time you turn around. I know what I’m talking about. You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddamn phenomenal world.

— J. D. Salinger

Quarantining

Every morning when I wake in the dark, I think, I’m not sick, a revelation that begins the day. Although I’m not headed out of the house, for any number of days, I’m up especially early these days, thinking of Salinger’s Zooey telling Franny not to fritter away the best part of the day, buddy.

It’s all jumbled up here, even more than the past year. I am so grateful my daughter isn’t sick, that she’s counting down her quarantine days not with pleasure, but with her trademark resolution, her will do, but I’m plotting my summer plans….

For me, it’s wait and watch, a negative test followed by another test, results in 36-72 hours. Over us hovers the thought: which way will this go?

I set up work on the kitchen table, then move to the back porch in the afternoon. My daughter disappears on a long walk through the woods. At the tail end of winter, we haven’t pulled any outdoor furniture from the barn yet, so I sweep the boards and lean against what remains of the railing broken by falling ice.

In the late afternoon, I’m painting the interior windows of my upstairs office when I see the town librarian walking up my road with two books she’s leaving for me. I holler down, Thank you! We talk for a moment through my screen, and then she’s on her way again.

Like the rest of the world, I keep listening to the trial in Minnesota. My daughter appears and leans in the doorway, watching me. I tell her I’m going to savor this quarantine with her, that we’ll be talking about it someday, years hence, when she has twins and a baby and I show up to change diapers.

That’s wonderful, she tells me, and you have paint on your elbow.

Thank you so much, my readers, for writing in. It means the world to me.

Kitchen office, complete with (working) cat and borrowed tortilla press.