• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

STAY-AT-HOME TIME CLARIFIES THINGS

Tuesday morning, this week: A 6:30 a.m. walk, 21 degrees, sunshine. Back home to fresh coffee, toast made from the bread I baked on Sunday. A 9:30 a.m. yoga class via Zoom. Green tea, an old book from my bookshelf. I read the first 26 pages of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and think about Zen Buddhism, sexism, poetry, San Francisco in the 1950s before I was born. Open up iTunes on my computer, play an old Jason Mraz album that reminds me of when my daughter was in middle school. Get choked up.


Everything reminds me of the past now. I can’t quite see the future beyond the end of our stay-at-home order.

So I turn to journaling, making poetry, drinking tea, baking bread. Try not to think ahead because there is only now. There is only making grocery lists, doing laundry, taking daily mile-long walks before breakfast, chatting with my kids and missing their hugs. There are daily decisions to dial back expectations, simplify what I’m doing, let go of plans for summer travel. Stream another show from Netflix or Amazon that offers laughter or some sweet story that won’t tax us too much. Limit news consumption to once a day, but never right before bed.


I watch my husband with his headphones plugged into his laptop during a Zoom meeting with his lab group. He doesn’t love working at home, struggles to ignore all the distractions he finds here. I’ve worked at home for a long time, and know that distractions ebb and flow. Some days are better than others. He’ll get there. In the meantime, I like having him around every day. We can work in this space without getting in each other’s way. We know how to respect each other’s silences and each other’s periods of intense concentration. This bodes well for that future I can’t see, when we are in retirement and there are no more meetings. We both know that we will not be idle if we are still here then; we have too many things we want to read and learn and volunteer for. But this is now and our new routine works. I love our compatibility. I love that we have lunch together every day.


Before the pandemic, I had a lot of alone time in which to write. And I still have that, thanks to an office with a door. But I leave the door open, like hearing the sounds of another human being in the house. The last thing I want anymore is to be alone.


In this now, I pull my own illusion of safety inside my house around me like a parka, zip it up to my chin, cinch the hood. There has never been an absolute guarantee that we would wake up to see another day; in that sense, this pandemic is no different. Our odds have worsened a bit is all. Clarity about that, drawing daily activity into a tighter sphere, expands my own understanding of how lucky we are to be here at all.


Yes, lucky. I’m going with that.

Reminder: New Book News will be here next week!


If you have a recent book or chapbook that you'd like to make sure readers know about, then New Book News is for you. This feature will run again next Wednesday, April 22, to announce new publications from small presses, from writers who are now unable to give in-person readings or go to conferences. To submit your information, please click HERE, fill in the requested publication information, and click SUBMIT.


#pandemic #workingfromhome #stayathome #newbooknews #grateful

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