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Looking out, looking in

by Jan Wheatcroft

I am keeping a very low and safe profile in light of the pandemic. I have gotten quite used to my own company as have so many others who wish to remain safe and healthy. 

Having such long periods where I am alone, I find that I have so much more time to read. I take that as a gift and sink into a good book just for pleasure and no longer as a reward. I also can sit and look out my windows, which face the streets on my corner and watch people pass by.

Being so close to the Village, many people walk or bike either down to the town or up from it carrying their coffees, flowers, bakery goods and other various purchases. I can watch how they wear their face masks—on their faces, dangling from one ear, hanging on an arm or hand or neck, sticking out of a pocket, stuck on their heads or worn not at all. 

I myself find it difficult to breath in a mask when it is hot and I am sweaty, but the idea of germs entering or leaving keeps me on the straight and narrow. I am also in that group of people who have to take more care both for their age and for their health. So, wearing the mask is what I do. I just wish others would, too.

My mother always encouraged me to look for the bright side of things and I have tried to approach this experience that way. It doesn’t mean that I am happy about staying inside most of every day, I just try and reap the benefits. The A/C keeps the main room cool and I like my space and enjoy looking at my collections that hang all over the walls, and perch on the shelves and tables. They help me feel safe and stimulate me to be creative. They also enrich me as I sit and work, think, meditate and remember. 

These months have given me so much open time to reminisce and I have had quite a rich life to think about. Remembering all my travels makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I have been to so many places and experienced so much by living for months or years in different cities or on islands, because of the different people I have shared good times with, and because of the ability to survive the tough experiences and grow from them. So much has been written, drawn and journaled by me over the years so I can go directly to the experience and drop in for a visit. And sad because I am not traveling now.

Spending so much time indoors and alone has me looking forward with great pleasure to my Zooming and connecting with friends. It’s so good to see their faces paired with their voices in my living room. It’s like when we were meeting at Some Crust. We now come with our coffees and toasts and compare notes. We joke around a lot and everyone shows their concern for one another. I don’t feel so isolated and it is all immediate and personal.

Being alone with me so much means my brain seems to work much more actively and loudly. I think a lot and I find that my thoughts and memories of when I was young have become much clearer and more intense. I like having these intense moments. They enrich me and my activities. I am learning from my own past even in these present days. Having more time to go deeper into the memories gives me greater pleasure and time to explore that past and its influence on my present. 

However being a captive in my own home has its negatives. No one just drops in on me anymore. I miss that.  I miss the spontaneity of seeing people, going any place just when I feel like it. For my own safety I prefer not to have people pop into my house at any time, which was one of the best parts of living where I do so centrally.

I enjoyed rushing to a store just because I wanted to or was bored or needed a change of scene. I no longer eat out in a restaurant. That means I have to rely on my own cooking day in and day out. I have gotten bored with my meals and the activity of doing cooking. A lot of the pleasures of eating have disappeared. Then I had to cut out salt from my diet. Oh, how I miss big flakes of salt sprinkled on my food. Lemons are good but they are not salt flakes—neither are herbs, no matter how good the taste.

My mother would have said to find the good side in everything. It’s all there really. Good friends are good friends and I love them all. Ideas and creative moments live in the mind just waiting to be released and run wild.  Letting them out and welcoming them into my world with pleasure can be exciting. 

Taking an early-morning walk on local streets and checking out favorite gardens—what’s new, what’s birthing and what has finished. New color, heights and textures in trees and plants is a real pleasure. So now this is my life and I try to live within it with whatever gusto I can manage.

I didn’t request these changes we now face and which have arrived rather abruptly, but change is ongoing. It just happens so slowly that it is normally not detected until we look back and realize that it has happened. These changes have been forced upon us quickly and with intensity. I will keep trying to find things to help me learn and grow and try not moan and feel miserable. My mother had a lot of wise things to say. I’m listening...

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