As a writer, I might claim to have been in training for this moment all my life. Solitude and silence have been agreeable, indeed vital, companions to me. And to that extent recent days have not been that different from any others. Apart from performing the new chores we all must carry out, I spend my days as I always do at home. Inside, I migrate between my writing desk and piano. I enjoy the garden more. And yet in the gaps that have opened up the bigger question hovers. I suppose my own answer is a doctrine of a kind. Which is that we are most likely to find meaning in the places where meaning has been found before. That what has seen our forebears through, and nourished them, will see us through and nourish us in turn. I don’t listen to the news much. If the church is open I will sit in it. I remake my acquaintance with great music. In the evenings I read Anna Karenina.
Activity diffusion seems to work along the same principles as the molecular version. If a lot of space is suddenly opened up in one’s schedule, whatever chores and hobbies remain will expand to fill the vacuum at an equal concentration. Things take as long as they take, in other words. TV-watching, formerly occupying maybe one evening every week, now becomes a nightly ritual. Yardwork can be spread out over several hours instead of compacted into a couple. Overall, it feels as if we’re suspended in between an inhale and an exhale, just waiting to see what happens when the arbitrary deadline for the return to normality arrives. Will we have work to resume after an enforced three-week vacation? Or will we suddenly have to scramble to find new sources of income?
Even that concern feels slightly surreal. It’s like the joke: if you owe the bank a thousand dollars, you have a problem. If you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank has a problem. If millions of us suddenly owe the bank…? There’s a paradoxical liberation in having little choice in the matter. As usual, fearful anticipation tends to be more painful than the experience itself. Things are what they are. We’ll adapt if we’re forced to. As long as we remain healthy, I find I don’t much care about the rest.
It was time for the first grass-cutting of the year yesterday. Last year’s stray leaves were all methodically shredded into mulch. The yard looks greener every time I look at it, the straw-colored winter grass in full retreat. The firewood is stacked for drying throughout the year. The peach trees and redbuds are stationary pink clouds, and the windows are open day and night with the dreaded dust storms of pollen yet to arrive. We awaken to a chorus of birdsong and fall asleep to the graveyard-shift orchestra of spring peepers. There is suddenly time for aimless doodling on the guitar, and at night, there is still Montaigne, Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson to read.