Writing in a Time of Peril: 3.23.2020

March 20, 2020

The US CDC reported 10,442 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 150 deaths nationwide. This represents a 48.3% increase in reported cases and a 54.6% increase in deaths from the day before.

March 23, 2020

The US CDC reported 15,219 total (confirmed and presumptive) COVID-19 cases and 201 deaths nationwide. This represents a 45.7% increase in reported cases and a 34% increase in deaths from Thursday to Friday. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard is reporting 35,345 US cases and 473 deaths as of 10:30am on March 23. 

My home, in Rio Vista, California, is surrounded by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Deltas. We must cross at least three bridges in every direction over lush wetlands and rivers to get to an interstate highway. My partner asked me to go out for a ride to the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area about 14 miles from our home yesterday. I was laying on the couch in our study with my eyes closed while Orange Julius performed on the TV. 

Her question startled me. Go outside? Even thirteen miles along Highway 12? Was the wildlife area open? Was it safe to go that far outside? Would we be breaking any rules? Would the police stop us?

Now, let me be clear. I live with my partner of nineteen years. We are sixty-nine and seventy-year-old black well-educated women. Joann has chronic asthma and hypertension. I have reactive asthma and hypertension. We take good care of ourselves. We have health insurance. We have enough money, for now. 

I have lived my entire life in urban areas. New Orleans, La., Oakland, Ca., Cambridge, Ma., and finally in a 4th floor condo in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, Ca. We moved to Trilogy, an over fifty-five gated community three miles from the small town of Rio Vista, last September. Social distancing is strictly practiced. The local grocery, pharmacy and restaurants are open for pick up and they deliver. We are stocked up and so far, we are healthy. We are so privileged and, in many ways, safer than many. So, why was I so afraid at that moment?

My partner very patiently called to find that the wildlife area was indeed not staffed but open between sunrise and sunset. I got up, put on some clothes, and drove thirteen miles to Suisun City.

The clouds over the low green hills and fields towered and soared like floating island kingdoms. Red winged black birds perched along fence posts, as if showing us the way. The paved road gave way to gravel. Our tires grumbled over the washboard surface. Joann was on the lookout for wild Tule elk reported to live on the island. What we saw were regal egrets, soaring prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, smaller birds and ducks we couldn’t identify. Why? We left the binoculars at the house! The hills and marshes were covered with goldenfields, salt grass, spiney rush, and goldenrod. The air is clear and sweet.

The Grizzly Wildlife road was populated by cars and trucks pulled over, lots of distance between individuals, a few buddies, a father and daughter, a young couple, and whole families fishing. The inhabitants of almost every vehicle waved as we passed by. We slowed to reduce the plume of dust our car made as we approached each fisher spot. Everywhere we stopped, the fisher people reported stripers wererunning, but they were still too little to take home, so catch and release. 

We drove home with the setting sun behind us. Once at home fear 

continued to wash over me every once in a while, shiver, an awful thought of death and devastation. When this happened, Joann scooted closer to me on the sofa to allow me into her arms. I am as safe and loved as is possible, yet I am still afraid. 

I put Tuck & Patti, “Takes My Breath Away” as I begin my Morning Write. 

I write experiencing fear. I relax and welcome it. I breathe it in from my head along my spine into my sacrum and breathe in healing light. I breathe in everything that is healing and joyful. I breathe out that which is not useful, although rendered not harmful to others. I embrace my fear because the powerful and productive work of fear in the world is to mobilize, expose, speak, confront, share, connect, plan, organize, and act. The powerful and productive work of fear in the world is help ourselves and each other, to protect, to have faith, to lean into and be nourished by love and joy, give exquisite care to our sick, to grieve and let go of our, dead and to fight with all our might for our living. The positive and productive work of fear in the world is to fight for our lives. The positive and productive work in the world is to save our lives. It is our right to do everything to protect, preserve our lives, our communities, and our world. 

I go down my to-do list of selfcare a check them off: meditate, write, eat well, rest well, move, sing, connect, connect, connect, stay home, except for the pharmacy & the grocery with sanitizer, mask and gloves, & sometimes take a drive in our amazing country side. Watch less TV, but stay informed. Listen to music, Tuck and Patti today.  Laugh a lot. When I feel my fear or my hair on fire, I consult my to do list and tackle what is next on the list. 

I continue to chronicle these times.

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA


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