We shelter in place for safety. You and I, together now for over 30 years. Sheltered in this house for over 30 days. Over sixty days. And longer. Pandemic-locked in place. We cycle through seasons as if disaster wasn’t lapping at our door, an ocean of illness made real by the sound of dying. What is it like to be intubated, so many days lost in a coma-ed oblivion, alone in a hospital bed? We breathe this reality in through cloth masks, counting the time it takes to swallow our fears. We hunker down, dig in, hole ourselves up. Attempt to escape from a virus that scans the world indiscriminately, searching for victims.
What if you didn’t get along with your partner? We wonder aloud when we meet in the kitchen between remote work calls. We count this day in the basket with the lucky ones, a house big enough to have two remote workplaces at the top of the stairs. Childhood bedrooms cobwebbed with little voices and stuffed animals we can set aside for stand-up desks and computers, their inhabitants off in other states, sheltering on their own now.
I turn from my screen to find a slab of hot sourdough slathered in butter, a cup of coffee next to the plate. How did that get slipped inside the closed door? I lift the offering into my mouth, the sourness just this side sweetness.
During those first weeks, we danced in the kitchen. Music turned up loud, the locked-in feeling freshly coating our four walls. Then, the season of cooking followed. Complicated recipes with internet lessons. The two of us measuring out distraction one heaping cupful at a time.
But no amount of hot oil kept the worry at bay. No pretend castle can stand stalwart against this microscopic foe - but what if we didn’t get along? You can only shelter together for so long before that one place becomes a hotbed of frustration. Of miniscule irritations flaming themselves into small fires that cannot be contained by any governmental guidelines.
Later, the music stayed low as we entered the kitchen. No dancing ensued; the weeks had pared down our inner patience. We swept our woods clean between work calls. Met under branches, hacked our way to the surface with machetes and the Swedish brush axe. Our hands sore from dragging fallen branches together. The burn pile in the April rain heated us into a cold, fevered sweat. Funeral pyre for a pandemic. We stood dampened in spirits, watched the hot flames burn the fetid air.
What if we didn’t like each other? We muse, locked in by the boundaries of our land, our little sheltered island. This house. This forest. This virus that holds us at bay from the world, striking down hope in its path. This peace we hold between us, making a season completely into itself. One bigger than this wide-open pandemic. A season that binds us here. Sheltered. Together.