Today Is Tomorrow

And the next day, and the next, and the next…

It was 315 days ago we started what we termed “Extreme Social Distancing.” No shopping, grocery or otherwise, no church, no friends over for meals, no trips to see grandkids, avoiding like the plague anyplace where we might come within 6’ of another human being. Laughably, my blog post on March 12 – that fateful first day – wonders if this new life will last six to 12 weeks. Ten months later, with a strangled vaccination roll-out and new, easier to catch, maybe more deadly coronavirus variants popping up like mushrooms after a fall rain, we are being told it could be another ten months before we can feel somewhat safe in the company of anyone other than those living in our house; yep, just Terri and I.

Mount Baker at eventide from Cap Sante, Anacortes, WA

We do all our grocery shopping online, roll up to Fred Meyer, the back of our rig is opened, bags deposited, the door closed, and off we go. That will typically be the highlight of that day. If the weather isn’t horrible, we have a couple of choices; drive to Anacortes, where we walk in a ritzy neighborhood with views of the Salish Sea where we are the only walkers on the sidewalks. Head to Little Mountain Park, where one of the many trails has few, if any hikers, or out to LaConner. We drive to the very end of the marina area, walk the sidewalks along the shoreline until we get to the cute, touristy town with closed shops and empty sidewalks. 

Once in a while we will head to Whidbey Island during the week and find a deserted beach to walk, or sit with a meager lunch and ponder the timelessness of the wind and waves. Or we may try and find a backroad in our tri-county area we haven’t been on yet, running out of options there.

As we were nearly home driving back from one of our micro-excursions, we looked at each other, and I asked Terri “What do you want to do tomorrow?” And we both laughed. “Today IS Tomorrow” we said. Our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows are becoming indistinguishable from each other. There are no sharp calendar edges on our months, only the slow shape-shifting of seasons. 

Occasionally punctuation marks seem to appear out of nowhere. Friends moving away, a few very social-distance encounters with a couple friends and family. A short road trip to a condo where we will continue the extreme social distancing, but with a view other than our four walls for a few days. News of hard times for family members, reports of illnesses and death of friends family members. Astoundingly disturbing news from the other Washington. They all come in fast, hit hard, and dissipate like morning fog. 

Maybe like you, I want to live a life with meaning. The visceral knowledge that we are like the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire singes my days. Days like dry tinder, flashing into flame, but with no wood to make a meaningful fire. Incense carrying my prayers that I may play my part in the plan, to make at least a bit of a difference in a world crying for justice and mercy. 

So I scratch and peck, send a text here, make a call there, write a letter to the ethereous internet, jump on a Zoom with anyone willing to share time with us, or join a meeting where they have to let me in. A flash in the pan, a speck of gold dust, reminding me of the richness of relationships now reduced to electrons on a screen, and a yearning in the heart. 

The light of my life!

Hold on, we just have to hold on. Hold on to what we have, to the munificent blessings a mere glance reveals. Hold on to the investment of time spent in extreme social distancing that has kept us safe so far. Hold on to the lottery-like promise of a vaccine that could maybe possibly hopefully who knows begin an emergence into a new normal. If you have met me in person, you know I am a hugger. Know now that my hugs will be a bit tighter, a bit longer the next time we meet. Know that my tears will probably flow when I see you in person. Know that my heart aches and yearns for that time to come soon. I have hope. I am clinging to a hope for a better, brighter day for you and me on this glorious world. And, speaking for myself, one way or the other, I am confident and cling to the hope I have in the next world. 

May there be Peace, and let it begin with me.


The Battle of New Year’s Eve

I should have known that my New Year’s Eve plans would go off the rails a bit when after multiple tries, I couldn’t get any fennel for a fabulous mussels in white wine sauce recipe I wanted to make.

It had felt like I’d been waging my own private two-front war against the pandemic; one physical and the other mental. The physical battle has been tough, on each and every one of us. So many have lost this battle. All that the survivors will have will be memories of their loved ones lost in this great war. Most of the rest of us have sacrificed coveted times with mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandkids and friends. So many are still in the trenches, fighting for us, trying to keep us alive, no matter how safe we thought we were being, or even if we thought it couldn’t happen to us. 

Many of us have sacrificed vacations, anniversaries, honeymoons, funerals, graduations, travel plans. We’ve given up dining out, shopping in stores, going out to the movies, going to church, five-minute friendships with strangers, and a thousand other common, ordinary things we took for granted. And that’s just the physical side.

On the mental side, we are fighting an invisible enemy, lurking anywhere, just waiting for a lax moment to ambush us. For us, extreme isolation seemed to be the safest way to keep each other alive and healthy. Several times it has felt like we were in a newer version of the movie Blast from the Past. We occasionally emerge from our bunker, and drive around old haunts, marveling at new construction springing from the ground like mushrooms after a rain, or with pangs of nostalgia as we see places we loved that will only return in our memories. Then we return to our bunker, close the hatch behind us, cross another day off the calendar, and wait for a day in the hazy future when we will emerge into a world that has been changed forever.

Fighting an invisible enemy takes its toll. Isolation takes its toll. I want to attack, fight and defeat this enemy, but all I can do is hide. My fight or flight response has been maxed out every day for nearly a year, and I’m tired of running from a particle too small to be seen by the human eye. As I lay awake on New Year’s Eve Eve, my mind, addled by sleeplessness, decided to declare a personal war against the virus on New Year’s Eve. I’d show it! I won’t be cowed! I’m going to make that whole day a huge party, and win this battle it has been waging against me in my own mind. Along the way, there was a distinct possibility that this battle may involve a bit of consumption of my favorite anesthetic to salve the wounds I had borne.

The day started off with my making our favorite frittata, maybe the best ever using chipotle flavored olive oil. I was going to serve Mimosas along with it, but my practical, Scotch side made a rare appearance, and convinced me that the bottle of bubbly would probably go flat before we finished it. The fritatta was fabulous, but now my plans were off track a bit. 

Several days earlier, I had a brainstorm, and ordered a Smoked Gouda from Fred Meyer, and three of my favorite cheeses from The Cheesemonger’s Shop in Leavenworth, WA; a Kerrygold Aged Cheddar from Ireland, a Blue Stilton from England, and Humbolt Fog from Cypress Grove in Arcata, California. Along with that we had some Rosemary Crackers, Artisanal Rosemary Bread from Avenue Bakery, a Limited Release Olio Nuovo  Extra Virgin Olive Oil form Durant Olive Mill in Dayton, Oregon (a gift from our friends Gary and Linda), Hummus with veggies, and Honeycrisp Apples for lunch … while we watched Shrek. True confession, I’d never seen it before, but Terri loves it and wanted me to see it. Why not? Having fun was a big part of the battle in my brain. Oh, and we shared a VERY nice bottle of Sonoma Zinfandel, a perfect accompaniment to this repast.

Next up, a great video reunion with our great friends Don and Trish, who just moved into their new house in Texas. Laughter, tears and wine flowed as we caught up with each other, their absence and distance a part of this new reality. Two hours whisked by like a brightly burning meteor lighting the sky and disappearing. 

Well, it was too late to make dinner now (and it wasn’t going to be the fabulous Mussels in White Wine), so we found some of our frozen “Planned Overs”, turned on the TV to watch “Bosch”, our latest Prime binge, with a tiny splash of bourbon. Looking back on the day, and on my private battle, I figured I had fought well against a huge opposing force. I had not totally won, but neither had I lost; I was satisfied to call it a draw, head to bed, and rest to fight another day in a new year.


I Am Leery…

Not Timothy Leary, He’s Dead. (With apologies to the Moody Blues)

Occasionally I get an opportunity to fill out surveys. I got an easy one the other day – it asked me how many miles I had driven in a 24 hour period, starting at 3:00AM the previous day. That was easy; I just put a zero in every box. In fact, due to the steady rains setting in and other factors, I haven’t left the house except to pick up our mail in four days. 

View from Little Mountain

It did get me to thinking, though, about how constrained our activities have become. Basically we get out to pick up groceries that someone else has picked out for us from the list we send them; we get out to do nearby hikes or walks, and occasionally we get out to just to drive around, and see if we can find a road we’ve not been down before. We are pretty leery of doing much else, especially now that the numbers of coronavirus are increasing exponentially all around us. 

Like many others, we were super excited to hear about the efficacy of the vaccines that are in the pipeline. We can finally start to dream about doing more, and expanding our horizons! Visiting grandkids, friends and family, shopping (especially at Costco), movies, dining out, wine tasting, returning to our favorite places, travel – oh my! We can’t wait for the vaccine … but we have to. We are optimistically thinking that we may be inoculated by April. But then Mr. Leery started knocking. 

First of all, 95% effective sounds pretty great, especially when the flu vaccine is generally about 60%. But if you had a 5% chance of winning a $1million lottery, you’d buy a ticket every day, and might win twice a year. The good news is that I’m guessing we will be in the first 30% of people that get the vaccine, so that’s good! On the other hand, it’s projected that 50% of the population won’t get a vaccine, so that means even though we may have a high level of protection this spring, 70% of America will still be getting infected, and trying to infect us. 

We’d love to go to a movie, but there we are, cooped up in a room filled with strangers, and always – ALWAYS – someone coughing their lungs out, floating their aerosolized pathogens while they eat their popcorn and drink their Coke. I’m pretty leery about that. 

And, Oh! How we miss dining out and Happy Hour! Oh, but wait – there we are again, in a room of strangers having unprotected gastronomy, blissfully sharing their exhalations of joy with us. Yeah, maybe not.  (Korean Study: Infected after 5 minutes from 20 feet away)

We are hoping to fly to Texas to see friends there. Yeah, “they” say flying is safe, but we’ve all seen videos of passengers who refuse to mask up, and they are serving food again on flights, so everyone’s mask will be off in that cramped aluminum coffin hurtling through space for hours and hours. That pretty much takes leery to the limit.

So, our joy at the great news of the vaccines has been tempered a bit by a healthy dose of reality. When will we be leery-less? Maybe when everyone who wants a vaccine has had both shots, even though the rest of the nation will still be playing hot potato with Covid-19. Maybe when they stop reporting hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus, and mass shootings become the story of the day again. In the meantime, we’ll do what we can with what we have. Words with Friends, anyone? Or online Hearts while Zooming? Or…

Anti-anticipation or Antici-zen-tation

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I kinda rejected the “Faith of Our Fathers”, and went in search of a “better” way. Enlightenment, nirvana, achieving a “Zen” state all seemed to offer an interesting way, maybe a “backdoor” to heaven. That’s not really what this post is about. 

Starting week 7 of extreme isolation, with the world all around me being shut down as well, I’ve found myself not really down or depressed, but just kind of floating about in a detached way, with little or no enthusiasm, no exciting projects, no compelling reason to invest myself beyond the very superficial. As I was self-analyzing my feelings (or lack of them), I realized two things.

First, if I remember right, “Being Here Now” is the essence of Zen. And that is pretty much where I’ve been for the last six weeks. And I’m pretty bored with it, which is why I will never reach that state of Enlightenment, where you are 100% happy to live totally in the now.

Second, I realized how much I love anticipation! And therein lies the rub, as anticipation has been cancelled for some dark, murky future date. Someday, there may (or may not) be a cure for COVID-19. Someday, there may (or may not) be a vaccine for COVID-19. Someday, there may not (or still may) be a need to be compulsive about social distancing and isolation. Someday, there may (or may not) be a return to a simulacrum of the life and activities enjoyed pre-pandemic.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, planning a trip or visit provides me nearly as much enjoyment as the trip itself. I can spend hours and hours planning routes, lodging, sites to see, activities, and expenses. My imagination takes me on the trips several times before I go, and my anticipation grows as the time for the trip approaches.

Once on the trip, I try to milk every moment of being there then (heh heh), lapping it up, reveling in it, totally opening myself to the experience. Once it’s over, I like to compare my plans with how the trip actually turned out, and I generally get satisfaction from that. But now, planning feels more like buying a lottery ticket, knowing full well that the odds are stacked against you. The conspiracy of life removing the joy I get from anticipation is ANTI-anticipation. On the other hand, the extra joy I get when I’m living life to the fullest in the moment I planned for I call anti-ci-zen-tation

So for me, this is a battle between anti-anticipation and antici-zen-tation. Terri said I just needed to fight these feelings, so I guess that would be anti-anti-anticipation. I’m trying to fight it; although there is no way I could even think about planning a significant trip anytime in the next 12-24 months, I am looking at some more local possibilities in another six weeks or so. I may be looking at those reservations with the same skeptical hope I do at lottery tickets, it’s a small step.

PS: I know in the light of the profound suffering of many, this seems puny and very self-centered. It is – I freely admit it. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, who weren’t able to be with them at the end. My heart goes out to those who are losing the businesses they dreamed about their whole lives, and everyone who is really struggling to get by. 

I am blessed beyond belief! I was also blessed with a very introspective nature I have to deal with occasionally, helping me to learn more about who I am, even at this age. I share this because you or someone you know is trying in their own way to figure things out right now; this is me, trying to figure out deeper parts of me. I hope your journey, whatever it is, is leading you to light places.

Not much color or plants, but it’s a start!

Hello again, world! Here we are, just trying to make our way through this crazy time, along with everyone else – at a social distance. Saturday felt good, a great combination of things. I called my Uncle Don and Aunt Martha in northern California (they were in the car, trying to see if they could safely buy an azalea bush or two from their favorite nursery). He will be 90 years old soon, still driving, living at home, and sharp as a tack. Then Terri headed outside to plant our flower starts we got the other day; I was going to help, but got distracted by all the moss growing between the pavers on our patio and backyard. Only about four hours later, I was done, it looks so much better.

Another virtual happy hour!

After we came inside and cleaned up, we did another FaceTime happy hour, this time with my cousin Deb and her husband Jim. We love hanging out with these guys, and they seem okay with us; lots of good memories from our trip to Italy, down to Sonoma and others. It was great to see them, and catch up on their lives. After dinner we got to practice using Zoom with my daughter, SIL and grandsons. 

Easter worship at home

Sunday was bittersweet. We were able to worship online with our church, and they did a fabulous job. The music was great, a very inspiring message, but we did miss the fellowship of physically worshiping together. Then we headed back out to the yard again, Terri to finish planting the flowers (at least until the weather warms and we get more), while I edged and mowed the lawn. Yep, yards in the neighborhood are going to be pretty awesome this year!

Family gathering, COVID-style

We decided to take the rest of the day off, and just sit outside and read. Very relaxing, and something we almost never do, although I bet we do it more in the coming days and weeks. We packed up and came in to get ready for a family Zoom Easter get-together my daughter Kalise had set up. She uses Zoom every day as she works from home, so it went very smoothly. It was awesome to see family members from around the country all get together and hang out for a while, checking in on each other. Definitely need to do that again to keep in touch! And, just for icing on the cake, Terri’s son Nate called to FaceTime us with his family! If there is one good thing coming out of this, it’s that we are communicating with our kids and grandkids and other family members more now than we have in a long time, and we love it!

We were going to ease our way in to Monday, but then got a notification that our groceries were ready to be picked up at Fred Meyer! Somehow we thought it was going to be in the afternoon, so we had to hustle around, then head out; picked them up on time! I actually sat down Sunday for awhile and made out a menu, and added the ingredients to the grocery list, so I’m back in my comfort zone again, cooking dinners with a recipe. 

Weeded flower beds, a spot of color and clean pavers! Very much a work in progress

Once we got home, Terri got to work sanitizing the dry goods and using her vinegar soak to cleanse the vegetables while I headed outside and started up the pressure washer. Although it’s electric, it started losing a bit of oil last year, so I wasn’t sure it would last very long before the motor burned out, but, yeah, still running after about five hours cleaning the moss off the surface of the pavers. It grows exceptionally well in our long, wet, gray winters, and would probably take over our whole yard in just a couple of years if it wasn’t cleaned regularly.

I realized a few days ago that keeping busy around the house was going to be key to keeping me relatively sane during this time of isolation, so Sunday after I finished in the yard I took a clipboard out, walked around the house, and made a list of projects that I’ve successfully put off until now. Looks like about two dozen of them, some of them requiring major time investments.  Tackling that list is going to be a mixed blessing …

So, that’s all the news today from Lake Wobegon. Chin up, nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, stiff upper lip and all that!

Can this paint job be saved? Days 26 – 30 of ESD

Nice countertops and backsplash, but cabinets CLASH!

To paraphrase Chief Joseph, “From this day forward, I will paint no more forever.” I have been well and truly humbled by my attempts to successfully paint the cupboard doors. Previously I had to contend with a horrible orange-peel finish, sanding and repainting the fronts of every door, then letting them cure. I flipped them over yesterday, fully intending to mount them back on the cabinets. I really can’t describe my feelings when I turned them back over and found that the paint had run and puddled all along the back edges of the doors. I had to take my putty knife and scrape it all off, then repaint – two coats – every edge. Today, no matter what, no matter how they look, they WILL be remounted! Afterword: we got them mounted! And they look great, from a distance! Need to touch up a couple of small spots, and then I can put “PAID” on this job. Whew-hew!

Kitchen after, pretty happy overall with how it turned out (don’t look too closely)

While my life has been consumed by painting, fixing, painting, painting again, fixing, and yes, even more painting, there has been a couple of bright spots in our lives – literally. The sun came back out, and brightened up our lives! It also highlighted how long the grass had gotten in our lawn, and how the weeds had taken over our flower bed over the last six months. It actually felt great to get out and fire up the trimmer/weedeater and plug in the lawnmower and make the yard look better. I put on a bit more fertilizer to keep it green, then went around back to check on Terri. Wow! After pulling a wheelbarrow’s worth of weeds, we could see the garden again! 

So, I need to back up a few weeks. Terri absolutely loves California Poppies and Sweet Peas, and we often can’t find them at local nurseries, so when we were at Lowes awhile back, I saw seed packets for these flowers, and then we found “peat pellets” and trays to start seeds, so we decided to give it a try. It was fun to watch them sprout and grow, but the challenges mounted, and we struggled to keep them healthy and alive. The survivors were planted yesterday, a bit earlier than weather would dictate, but it was now or never. Our big challenge now is figuring out how to get our plant starts when we dasn’t enter our plant purveyors. We are really going to miss grabbing a wagon and filling it up with plants that catch our eye, debating colors, sizes, and where they will go in the yard. 

Whole lot of yummy!

New normals: We continue to do our primary grocery shopping using Fred Meyer’s online app and delivery/pick-up options. There continues to be challenges, but so far so good. Just curious – anyone else spending 50% or more than normal on their groceries? On the  other hand, our larder has never been as well stocked as it is now. We are continuing trying to get out and walk on a regular basis; today, we had a “picnic” at our favorite viewpoint – staying in our car, and rolling the windows up when people thoughtlessly passed right by us. Afterwards we found a nice new place to walk, with fabulous homes and amazing views of the Salish Sea. I buy megamillions lotto tickets maybe twice a year; if we win, we will be house shopping there! And we continue to eat very well; check out this fabulous frittata we made for breakfast!

When we win MegaMillions…

We have been overjoyed at the return of the sun, and the burst of new growth we see whenever we venture outside. We miss our little outings where we could randomly decide to stop somewhere for lunch or happy hour, or shop and actually get the exact items we wanted. We miss being able to meet with our friends, and attend church. But we are very blessed to have every need met, and to continue to stay safe and healthy, and we hope for the same for you.

Never-Ending Paint Project, Days 21-25 …

I graduated from Benson High School in Portland in June, 1967 at age 17. My dad was the president of the local painters union, and got me a job as an apprentice painter for the summer to earn some money to help with college. I primarily worked with an old Swedish guy, short, tough as nails, and a hard worker. He taught me how to cut in, how to clean my gear, and – most importantly – to NEVER dry roll or dry brush. Which turns out to be excellent advice, except when you are applying an oil-based primer to cabinet doors. 

Setting up the workspace

I couldn’t put off starting painting the cupboards any longer, so Monday morning I took all the cupboard doors and drawer fronts out to the garage, which I had set up as a paint station. I had a bad feeling about this from the get-go, and had decided to do only one small section of the kitchen that would be mostly out of sight if it didn’t turn out well, but I really wanted to get this done and over with. Too bad I didn’t actually follow through on that. Anyhow, I loaded up the brush and roller, and primed the back, and then the front of all the lower level cabinet doors and drawers. I admit I was a bit concerned about the stippled finish the roller left, but I thought it might relax and even out as it dried.

My worst nightmare

When I inspected my work the next morning, I knew I was in trouble. No nice, smooth finish to be seen anywhere. Nothing but a gray orange-peel surface. After some concerted effort, I found a palm sander I had gotten years ago when I was going to restore some 1970’s vintage huge speakers, and a small stockpile of sandpaper, so I went to work. I stopped sanding late afternoon when I ran out of sandpaper, still not happy with the finish, but DONE. One of the most ignominious days of my life. 

So, that brings us up to Wednesday, when I started putting on the first layer of the final coat. A subsequent chat with my mentor had enlightened me to the fact I had over-applied the primer, and not to over-apply the finish, so I slowed myself way down, and got that paint thinly applied to back and front surfaces, and left them to dry overnight. In the meantime, Terri had primed and painted the cupboard frames with no issues. She had seen how much paint I was using, but decided to not say anything, helping me to learn a lesson I’ll never repeat. 

 Thursday I applied the final top coat, and after I finished the doors, I came back inside, and we both worked on taking down the upper level doors, cleaning them, and masking up around them. We got the cabinets all primed, then took a break to have fun and watch paint dry.

That brings us to today, Friday. Knowing it’s going to be another big day, I got up shortly after 6:00, did my morning exercise routine, and finally sat down with a cup of coffee and my Chromebook to let you all know just how much fun I’ve been having. Today the plan is to prime the front (and hopefully the back) of the cupboard doors, put the first top coat on the cabinets, and remount the doors and drawer fronts on the lower level. Yeah, I’m thinking it’s going to be a long, hard day, but it’s raining outside, so let’s get ‘er done!

How does this end? I’m just hoping for the best. Saturday I will put the first topcoat on the back of the doors, and we will put the finish topcoat on the cabinets. I’m thinking for best results I should let the doors dry a full day before I flip them over and paint the front (Sunday), then another day for the final coat on the back (Monday), then another day for the final coat on the front (Tuesday), and THEN, the next day (Wednesday), following the advice from my mentor, Jamie, mount those doors and be DONE with it! I did get a small heater for the garage, as our daily temps aren’t even hitting 50 degrees, so maybe the paint will fully cure (not just surface dry) faster, and I will be able to complete this job before it drives me completely bonkers.

Charlie with Bass Saxophone

On a happier note, I had a great Facetime with my daughter and grandkids in Portland. Charlie was first, and I got my own private saxophone concert, including Louie, Louie, the sax part of the William Tell Overture, plus a bonus improvised jam session! I got to watch Kenny as he scavenged the refrigerator to try and find something he wanted to eat, then had a great conversation with Kalise as she is challenging her department to envision what community-building will look like post-covid crisis. Will people still want to close off their streets for block parties? What will community events look like? How will people respond to gatherings after being extensively trained to avoid each other? 

Lots to ponder as we sit in our rooms, contemplating the very fuzzy picture of a future that is radically different than what we imagined just a few weeks ago. How will life change for you? I’m so curious!

Slipping into the future: Days 19 & 20 of Extreme Social Distancing

Saturday slipped by like a zephyr rearranging tendrils of fog. Days are becoming just a bit less substantial; purpose drains like shower-water off my body, lost and unmourned. Nonetheless, we are persisting. Over a week ago, I thought it might be a good idea to have some flour and yeast on hand, just in case we were unable to get bread, so I added them to my Fred Meyer online order, formerly known as Clicklist. Yeah, no bread, no yeast and no whole wheat flour to be had. Guess I wasn’t the only one with that thought. We did get 5 lbs of all-purpose flour, and Terri found some unexpired yeast we’ve had for who knows how long. Then a friend on Facebook posted a super-easy bread recipe, so I had to try it. 

I guess like everyone else, I have my strong suits and weak spots. Sometimes when I’m cooking I get a bit hasty, and combine steps that should be separate, like mixing the dry flour, yeast and salt together before adding the water and mixing. After spending several minutes cleaning dough out of the whisk, which would have worked so much better with just the dry ingredients, I tried to salvage my project. Following the directions purposefully, I put the dough in a covered bowl on a warm spot, and let it sit overnight.

Our beautiful Skagit Valley
Just the way we like it nowadays
Just a pioneer bush in rocky soil with beautiful spring blossoms

Saturday around noon it was time to put the bread into the oven, and see if it was going to be edible, or maybe dried and used for breadcrumbs. Once baked, we let it set a spell, and took advantage of a break in the weather to head out and walk Burlington Hill. When we can’t go further afield, this is our go-to spot. We get about 600’ of elevation gain with a 15% grade with a couple of varied options on which way we go, plus we get some great views of beautiful Skagit Valley. The sky was overcast, and we could see a storm slashing against the Lookout Mountain range, but aside from being breezy and cool, we were just kept company by the weather. We’ve walked here dozens and dozens of times over the years, in every season, but each time we find something to marvel at. 

Well, back to the house, and time to try the bread. Years ago we were introduced to the joys of rustic bread dipped in great olive oil and balsamic vinegar, complemented by a glass of nice wine, so that is what we did. The bread was surprisingly good, and worked well with the EVOO and vinegar, and I splurged and opened a bottle of Pezzi-King Zinfandel from the Russian River area of Sonoma. Remind me to tell you sometime about how I got that … and about our favorite balsamic vinegar. Anyhow, it was like a magical portal had opened up to a world not consumed by contagion, sitting there with my sweet wife and our simple repast, just alive to the moment.

A loaf of bread, wine and thee…

Sunday I felt compelled to get up a bit early and exercise, then sat down with a cup of coffee. Terri soon joined me with her coffee, and we connected the laptop to the TV and tuned in to Cornwall Church’s 9:00 online service. So grateful we are able to recenter ourselves and reconnect with our church and through that, our Creator.

Well, mundanicity calls! Bills continue to come in the mail, quietly insisting on the transference of the ethereal concept of value represented by symbols printed on paper, or pixels on a screen. Meanwhile, Terri had fun looking for some special gifts to send to our grandkids to bring a bit of excitement and projects to their homebound days. I made even more additions to my Wishlist at Fred Meyer, hoping they will be in stock when I get to go on my assigned day to pick them up next Saturday. 

On my way to losing at Splendor

Time to change things up! We pulled out the game of Splendor, easy and fun for two people. Terri won the first game, I won the second, so we had to have a playoff. Unfortunately, Terri won, big time. I’m going to have to hone my strategy a bit more to stay competitive.

I had to sorrowfully say good-bye for now to Zion National Park, Santa Fe, Mesa Verde NP, Chaco Canyon NP and Yellowstone NP. We had a fantastic road trip all planned in meticulous detail, leaving on May 1st. I had been holding on to all the reservations at our condos, but in the morning news, when Dr. Fauci said this would go on for months, I knew any miniscule glimmer of hope I had for this trip had evaporated. I didn’t cry when I cancelled each precious reservation, but I was sad. Then, of course, perspective sets in, and I am aware of the tens or hundreds of thousands who will not survive this pandemic. I think of the millions who will be impoverished because I – and countless others – are staying home or cancelling trips, and all the businesses, large and small, who will lose all their revenue for weeks or months. 

So far, we haven’t binged on TV, Prime or Netflix, but decided to watch a movie last night called Uncorked. It is based on a true-life story of a black man who wants to become a Master Sommelier, and the struggles he faces on that journey. I have to admit we struggled with the dialogue in places due to the black patois, but it was an interesting diversion. 

Well, Sunday also brought the news that the president is extending the national social distancing order until April 30. I can’t imagine anyone is thrilled with the prospect of at least another month of isolation, but I was … gratified … to hear that this is being taken seriously now by this administration. So sit down, buckle in, and stay home, and stay well.

Coffee with Jesus, Days 17 & 18 of ESD

It was a dark and gloomy day, Thursday March 26th, when I got up. But since there was a chance it was going to clear up later in the day so we could walk, I skipped my workout, and instead went right to work writing my blog post. The days just seem to slip by with little differentiation, and memory fades into the gray mist so quickly and easily. It will be interesting to look back at posts a year from now, and recall the odd mixture of intensity as we consume the horrifying news, and the mundaneness of isolating ourselves in our homes.

Anyhow, I “went to work” after the blog was finished. Last year I was a benefit fair representative for Vision Service Plan (VSP) at several businesses in my general area. It was a lot of fun, right up my alley, and I made a few dollars to  have some fun with! Since then, California, where VSP is headquartered, tightened up the rules on who actually is, and who is not, a contract employee. From what I understand, it’s very difficult to prove anyone who works for you is not a standard employee, and subject to all the rules regarding breaks, vacation, etc etc etc. So, VSP has contracted out benefit fairs reps to a company called VOLT, and I had to do the onboarding process. Twenty-five forms later, and I was done! Of course, who knows if companies will be having their employees gathering that close together again come this fall when they are usually held. We will see! 

Social distancing with daffodils

Terri and I headed out to walk midafternoon, but as soon as I stepped outside, it started raining again. In fact, upriver (where we were headed) looked like it was being put through a power rinse cycle, so we decided to head west and hope for a respite. Made it to Anacortes where we like to walk around the harbor area, and it’s easy to maintain social distance, but it was still sprinkling, and not warm at all. This was a non-starter, so we opted to just go for a drive instead. 

Old farm outbuilding with blossoms

I mentioned the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival before, so I decided to head out that direction. It’s a pleasant drive among all the varied farms in this valley with the beautiful mountain frame, relaxing and nourishing to the soul. I spotted a field tinted a bright yellow, and headed that way. No tulips yet (may be a bit early), but a whole field full of radiant daffodils. We sat and drank in the beauty, then reconnoitered, and headed back out on the hunt. I was delighted to find an old farm outbuilding that is feeling the call to return to nature. There is beauty in aging gracefully!

Spring cloud sculptures with daffodils

Soon we spotted another field, half glowing white, and half the vibrant yellow – narcissus along with daffodils! Normally we would be in stop-and-go traffic here, with no parking and no way to get out and take a photo, but today – staying several car lengths apart – we were able to get out and snap a couple of shots. The lofty Chuckanut Mountains were dark blue in the background, and the sky was putting on a surreal show with grey cloud formations. I was wishing I had a real camera with me instead of my phone, but at least I could capture a sense of what we saw.

Remember the huge issue with the Fred Meyer online order? Well, they DID call me back, and only 30 minutes later figured it out, and gave me a store credit to use on my next purchase. “Just put a note on your next order to use it” she said. Yeah, well, there is no place for notes, except on individual items. I guess we will see – that order is due here in minutes. 

My grandson Kenny tried to Facetime me while I was on the phone, so I checked back in with them once I was done with my shopping ordeal. He loves being out of school, but hates being away from his friends. I got to see grandson Charlie’s new Bearded Lizard, and see the results of some of the work they, along with their dad, have accomplished in their backyard. My daughter is working from home; a task that has gotten a little easier since they closed the mall where her husband works. It was good to see them, touch bases, and be reassured that they are doing okay.

Terri and I looked at our list of friends and family we want to make sure we stay in contact with, so she called her sister Karen, which was a very positive thing for both of them. I called my daughters father-in-law … he lost his wife to cancer not that long ago, then moved out to Portland so he could be closer to Frank, Kalise and the twins. Normally he gets to watch the boys after school, but since there is no school, and since he has another health issue, he is wisely social distancing right now. 

So, there it is, another pandemical day full of mundainish activities. Staying safe, staying healthy, and hope you are as well!

Day 18

Terri and I are very aspirational. Our goal, though, is to be more inspirational. It’s been our desire, for example, to have a daily devotional time together every day. The good news is that our time of self isolation is helping us work on that aspiration, and make it more of a reality. Friday morning, we got our coffee, sat down, and devoted  ourselves. Pastor Kip at Cornwall Church has started posting a resource, encouraging people to fast and pray during this season as we approach Easter, and we’ve been using that as a framework. As we sat in our recliner in our living room, eyes open, coffee in hand, praying for friends, family, healthcare workers and our poor nation, it came to me that if Jesus were here, he’d join us with a cup of coffee and conversation. It was like a light bulb came on, and I visualized Him sitting across from us, engaged in this conversation of love and care for others, and it subtly changed the way I talked with Him. So my new aspiration is to start each day with Coffee with Jesus.

More misadventures in online grocery shopping! I had another delivery scheduled today from an order I placed five days ago. I went in early AM and updated it, then waited. I signed up for text alerts on my order, and soon enough … Madison refunded toilet tissue … Madison replaced disinfecting cleaner … Madison replaced Elderberry syrup … Madison refunded Organic Diced tomatoes … Madison refunded dry yeast … Madison refunded Dave’s Killer Bread … Madison refunded Sodastream CO2 cartridge … Fred Meyer is on the way! Yay! Without more than half my order! And no, they did NOT apply the store credit as I asked for. Still and all, I am very grateful that we don’t have to expose ourselves by going into the store to shop. I just heard that our little county ranked 8th in the world per captita for COVID-19. Probably because 45 of 60 people that attended a practice session for the Skagit Chorale before the lockdown became infected. Anyhow, I REALLY appreciate the grocery store workers, the personal shoppers, and the delivery people for all their work during this tough time. Thank-you!

Another angel is disguise

I don’t know about you, but I have this character flaw – if somebody or something tells me I can’t, it often creates a desire to do just that thing. Now, 99.5% of the time, I don’t follow up on that desire, because there is generally wisdom behind the admonition – “Stay back, dangerous cliff”,  “Speed Limit 70 MPH”, “Keep feet from under mower deck”. “Don’t go shopping or to church or out to eat or meet up with friends”. Oh boy, I want, I want, I want! So, as I endeavour to exercise wisdom, there are a bunch of holes in my life. Sometimes I can find satisfying ways to fill those holes; sometimes someone steps in and helps. Our friend Jamie is a perfect example. He’s been giving me great advice on how to do a professional job painting our kitchen cupboards. Friday he went to the paint store, picked up the paint he recommended and we needed, plus some other supplies, and delivered them right to our house. That is love in action right there, people. 

Live from Studio A …

Once again we shared our Happy Hour with friends Don and Trish. It is always a time we treasure as we swap stories and offer each other encouragement. Later on that evening I was able to talk with David, a good friend down in the Dallas area. Their situation is a bit different from ours as they have no medical situations that compromise their survivability potential, so they are able to connect with their grandkids, and get out and do food deliveries for Uber Eats and Doordash. This year has been one of challenge after challenge for them, a year that should have been nothing but full of joy as he and Jodi celebrate 50 years of marriage. 

How do I wrap this up? I guess I really can’t, because for everyone everywhere this is a brand-new world we are living in. Every day will bring fresh challenges and opportunities. God bless us all as we make our way during this crazy time.

Days 13 & 14 – Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping away

Oh boy, I’m going to have to start taking notes about each day. Are your days starting to run together as well as ours? So, Sunday! We both got up reasonably early, so I got the laptop plugged into the TV, and we got to watch the message from Pastor Bob at Cornwall Church online. I have to say we missed the full band, but these are strange times. It was a challenging sermon on the nature of the Trinity; it’s recorded and online if you are interested …

Haenal Road Trailhead

Anyhow, had a bite of breakfast, and our usual fare of Words with Friends, then headed out. We had walked a bit of the Skagit Cascade Trail that starts right here in Sedro-Woolley, so we decided to check out another section. I figured if we got a few miles out of town we’d have substantially fewer walkers,, which proved to be the case. We were out in rural farmland, with lots of cows, horses and goats, plus views of snow covered mountains on either side of the valley. 

Flooded trail!

After walking 15-20 minutes, we saw a sign that said “If trail is flooded, please use alternate route.” Okay, but the one other route was a driveway signed Private Property, Do Not Enter. We headed down the trail, and soon enough it WAS flooded! We were able to skirt by it on a muddy boot-beaten track, until we came to a real creek blocking our way. There had been a bridge earlier, with no water flowing under it, and now a creek with no bridge; looks like it changed course. So, we turned around, and walked past our original starting point to Coal Creek. On the way we passed an ornate mansion, which turned out to be Willowbrook Manor, a very upscale agriturismo lodge.

Hidden Manorhouse

So we got in about three miles of decent walking. On the way back, we drove Minkler Road all the way home, seeing even more farm animals, including llamas and some future photo subjects for my Abandoned Washington Facebook group. Just needed some better light. While we were driving, we decided to make a goal of walking the whole 22.5 miles of the trail, in 1.5 mile segments during our incarceration – err, isolation.

Still painting…

Boy howdy, it’s crazy and doesn’t make sense, but time is actually zipping by quickly (my excuse for putting two days in a row on this blog. Monday I got up, did my regular exercise routine, we had a quick breakfast, then jumped right back into painting again. It was “just” our small hallway, but we started at 11:00AM, and got it all cleaned up and put back together at 6:00PM with just a short lunch break. Five doors to cut around certainly slowed us down a bit, but now all the walls are painted! Woo-Hoo! We broke out the very nice bottle of Moet Champagne our great friends Jamie and Susan had brought over a few days earlier “just because” they knew we were self-isolating. Perfect time for a celebration! Oh yeah – those jeans? Probably over 40 years old, and they finally wore out, the top button ripping out of the jeans. Guess I can’t complain too much about how long they lasted.

Done painting … I thought

I texted my thanks to Jamie, and happened to mention that sometime in the future we planned to paint our kitchen cabinets to match our countertop and backsplash. Well, Jamie is a professional painter, so I ended up with a master-level cabinet painting class over the phone, AND him volunteering to get the supplies for us so we wouldn’t have to leave the house! I think our break in painting is going to be much shorter than anticipated. How are you keeping busy???