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Letter From Michiana: Sheltering in place

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Letter From Michiana: Sheltering in place

Yesterday I painted a wall in our house.  Dark blue.  We had almost a gallon of this color, left over from the last time we painted six years ago.  At that time we used the dark blue for a single accent wall backing a blue-toned painting by a friend of ours.  The can had been sitting heavily in our utility room, practically daring us to try it again.  So now there’s a second blue wall to rhyme with the first one.  This is what happens when you “shelter in place.”

We’ve been hunkering down for over two weeks.  Which is not to say we’ve been completely housebound.  Last Wednesday we ventured across town to visit my wife Melli’s mom.  She’s in her 90s and still lives independently, albeit in an apartment building reserved for people over 60.  Melli was already there.  When I arrived, bringing dinner, one of the residents, a lady, let me in.  She was understandably worried about opening the door for an outsider.  We were careful not to touch.  It reminded me of the ghostly scene from DeFoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, where Defoe and a stranger pass one another in silence on a dark, deserted London street.

We made spaghetti.  Over dinner, we talked about the virus, things being cancelled, the town growing quiet and how unsettling this was.  Mom, who was once the infection control nurse at St. Anthony, the hospital in Michigan City, needed to talk.  We all did.

We’ve talked or texted and emailed family members and friends around the country. Everyone’s story is a little different — involving pre-existing conditions, or kids, or layoffs no one saw coming — and yet the same.  We’re all sealed in the amber of apprehension.  At this point, everyone seems to be muddling through, though it’s also clear we’re on our own (pandemic seems never to have been dreamt of by our health care, social services or economic philosophies) and that this could be a marathon.

No news has been good news in LaPorte County.  As of this writing just two cases reported.  But since testing has been limited here, it is impossible to know what, if anything, this means.  Over the weekend we noted the arrival of many of our Chicago neighbors.  Illinois license plates started turning up in previously empty driveways like migrating robins.  Makes sense.  Chicago is in lockdown; city dwellers who are able are looking to put more space between themselves and others — except that Indiana’s governor just issued a stay-at-home order of his own.

But then there is a certain amount solace to be had in these parts by simply looking out the window.  Snowdrops are in bloom around the deck and daffodils are shooting through the sandy soil.  I caught a deer finishing off a serving of crocuses outside our kitchen window.  “Pretend I have a gun,” I yelled.  She played along and obligingly sauntered next door.

Before painting our wall, I snapped on a pair of latex gloves and went to Duneland Hardware for a paint tray and roller.  I put my ten dollar bill on the counter and John, the owner, took it with suitable care. “When there’s nothing else to do,” he observed, “we paint.”

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