What We Did–and Didn’t Do–Today

After we thoroughly dissected the current state of affairs, with name-calling like “that devilish asshole” and “radical rightie”, my friend and I could only repeat the two phrases that define the unsettled feelings we were left with: “What a mess” and “I don’t know.”

There’s a sameness to these COVID-19 days. As if to emphasize this, our mid-valley weather has adopted a sameness as well—and yes, temperatures in the 80’s and sunny for weeks can get old. (Never thought I would say that. Ever.) On good days a lovely breeze wings in from the west, pulled down from the eastern reaches of the coast range. Always welcome here. Many birds are regular customers at the bird baths. Goldfinches, pine siskins, spotted towhees, western creepers, nuthatches, chickadees, robins. Even a wrentit, which is said to be a very shy bird. And all the others calling in the trees that I can’t even identify.

At least I don’t live in Raleigh, North Carolina, as my friend does. They’ve had temps in the 90’s and it feels like 100. Her daily life is planned around long walks around the city in the mornings and evenings, with the rest of the time locked inside for reading and writing reviews. In their Marin County house in California, my sister and brother-in-law have been locked inside not because of the plague but because of conflagration. Fires in the Bay Area have sickened the air with smoke so thick that breathing is exercise. My sister in Mendocino to the north is languishing inside her lovely home in the redwoods, in a gated community, where the community has holed up inside and pretty much disappeared from the neighborhood. No more dropping by. No more exercise class. No more in-person committee work.

In Humboldt, the Eureka/Arcata area, another sister and her husband’s main outing is grocery shopping. This sister also is wading through Russian literature, a subject she studied in college. She’s completed Anna Karenina and is now tackling War and Peace. I imagine Dostoevsky is next in line.

Also jigsaw puzzles. This sister sent us a photo of her latest creation, a complexity of colors and an admirable feat. I’ve hear that jigsaw puzzles are disappearing from thrift shops. They’ve become quite popular during isolation

I know a nurse who is still working. She and her husband, a high school acquaintance, live here, in Albany, Oregon (I feel I have to add “Oregon” to the name of my town, because to most there is only one Albany and that is where Governor Cuomo lives.) This nurse, however, commutes via air to Albany, California—or in the vicinity—to recover post-cardiac bypass patients. Her luck is that her ICU is restricted to only these healthy(?), that is, COVID-19-uninfected patients. She keeps an apartment and a car there.

My Seattle friends—all nurses—are negotiating these plague times in different ways. One works from home because her husband, a dear friend, is fighting leukemia and thus, well, rather high risk. Others are working from home as part of Operation Warp Speed, the clueless leader’s attempt to have a vaccine in his pocket before November 2. Working a temporary job trying to untangle a dysfunctional clinic, another friend is making money before she has to return to her home in Tucson—hopefully after Arizona gets its head out of its ass and diminishes their infection rate.

(Is there any laundry to do?)

Zoom, phone, text. Email. Communication is vital. I may feel at lose ends but we are so much better off that many, many people. It’s a drag being an over-60 lady during the plague, but perhaps worse to be younger, with kids, and unemployed. I at least have an income (“for now”, she said cynically), my health, a husband whom I like, a great place to live. A car, two cats, two dogs. A working laptop and phone. Lots and lots of books. Good, long-term friends.

(I could vacuum again, but that’s not as fun as hanging clothes on the line in warm weather.)

I just saw the elusive wrentit. That’s a sign. OK, let’s go write a short story now.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


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