Covid Chronicles (using my writing group’s word “unleavened”)
Judging from all the social media posts, no one is making unleavened bread out there, even though baker’s yeast is as rare as toilet paper. They’re all turning to sourdough, grabbing yeast from the air. And I can’t really blame them—a fresh loaf is comfort food to most of us, me included. But oh, tortillas! If only I had a strong and skilled Mexican woman at the end of my street making tortillas, like I did that month I stayed in Ixcatepec (Tepoztlan, Morelos) back in 2013. Everything I tucked into those warm tortillas tasted perfect: avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, eggs. Or maybe that was because they all came from within a five mile radius of my little casita.
That month felt similar, in many ways, to this pandemic isolation. I wasn’t quarantined, nor am I now, but I was social distancing, although I didn’t call it that. I knew no one except for a friend from decades past who lived in another small town a short drive away, and the realtor who’d secured me the house for rent, who happened to be from Victoria, and I only saw these women a few times all month. I went out daily, but not without planning, acute awareness of others, hand sanitizer in pocket, and a slight fear of what I might encounter. Sometimes I cried over what I saw.
I was there to write stories but ended up writing poems and the beginning of my current novel-in-progress. I read a lot. I picked oranges from the garden. I watched birds and rescued a baby hummingbird, and watched its mother feed it while it was in the bowl-cum-nest I gave it, set upon the high stone fence. I did laundry. I did a little yoga. I missed everyone. I noticed my own habits, patterns, thoughts, anxieties more clearly than ever. I listened to the same songs over and over. I wanted to go home. I couldn’t. I had to stick it out. I forgot about the loneliness sometimes and made art, watched silly things on the internet, stared at the sky. (photo below of my writing desk in Mexico, Jan.22, 2013)
I was lucky. So, so lucky. I could Facetime people and show them around my garden. I could hear life beyond the walls. I needed more hugs.
Yesterday, I bought a big bag of yeast, because that’s all they had at the tiny store I shopped at. I intend to share it. So far, my favourite bakery is still open, practicing social distancing very well, one customer at a time in the shop. I’m wearing a mask to do errands now, even though Canada’s health officials are still not adamant on this. I’m lucky to have masks, rubbing alcohol, soap, bleach, warm water, a garden. Someone to hug. I cry each time I go out, witnessing the changes of a society shut down.
I can still go out.
Sending wishes for good health and peace to all of you this long weekend.