Shipwrecked and Alone

I advised my wife also to dress herself in sailor’s clothes, as more convenient for swimming should she be thrown into the water.

She objected greatly at first, but eventually I convinced her of the means of safety the dress would prove in case of accident, and she retired from the cabin to make the change.

When she reappeared, looking very embarrassed, I could not help paying her a compliment, for the middy’s dress became her admirably.

Swiss Family Robinson

It’s been almost 60 days now since my Academy shut down.

A shipwreck metaphor, maybe, works best here, even if I feel confident we’ll leave the island eventually. First, battening the hatches against the rising storm – sanitizer, degrees of separation. Then the storm. Trim the sails. Steer through the waves. Communicate. Then, the exit: take what you can, see you all on the shore. Rowing. Swimming. Government applications. Washing up on the beach and lying in the sun, squinting into distance learning homework. I organized some closets.

Then taking stock of provisions, or retirement funds…this is where I think the yeast comes in. It’s too easy a metaphor, really – will we rise again? Our grandparents made bread,  kneading, strong arm muscles working the dough, so it must be in us? Although the no-knead option is pretty great. I had yeast. But I’ve embraced the sheer unmitigated pleasure of figuring out which singular store has the best physical distancing measures and the best chance of stocking lactose-free milk. It’s an achievable task, but it has the quality of a fairy tale. Complete these three tasks and you will live happily ever after.

The next step should be creating the treehouse, if my foggy memories of Robinson Crusoe – or was it Swiss Family Robinson? – are going to be my guide. I unequivocally know what I wanted to do with the gift of time – write, and spend time with my children. These are extremely achievable, although somewhat mutually exclusive. And yet, I’ve wasted so much of it. Two months, two days ago, a week off would have looked like luxury.  I have made fun of horror movie characters who walk into the dark basements, and still I’ve watched Tiger King (why?) and clicked on links like “Older Workers Lose Hope,” or read just one more screen of Tweets before I am supposed to sleep.

Then of course, sleep doesn’t come, the alarm sounds but there’s no real start to the day, Zoom meetings loom large but play out small and the rhythm of school homework is weak, the scent of the ocean air as you walk inland.

Right now I am writing this blog post in order to train myself to start the day right, but also to learn how to write all over again, without coffee shops or regular paycheques, while also answering questions about where the jam went, whether the coffee is brewed, and marvelling at the achievement of another level on Prodigy.

This essay says it better.

But the task, I think, may be the same.



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