A pandemic check-in

(This blog is good for updates about every six months, it seems.)

It’s been about six weeks since the world collapsed and the phrases “due to COVID-19” and “in these uncertain times” entered the lexicon. At work on March 11, at the end of the day, I gathered up anything that I might need to work from home for the foreseeable future, and I’ve been working remotely every day since. We’ve all gotten real familiar with Zoom, a tool my office had already been using. About two weeks ago, I remembered the Larabar in my desk — in a sealed container, to guard against mice — and wondered if I’d be back in my office before it went bad.

For the first couple weeks of quarantine, I took my kids’ temperatures daily. One of them had a fever, but it turned out to be a regular little-kid sort of fever with just a bit of a cough, and it cleared up quickly. We bought extra bottles of children’s cold and cough medicine, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, but thankfully, haven’t needed them. Nor have we needed the big bottles of regular acetaminophen or NyQuil, the Vernors or saltines.

Not to mention my gratitude that we’re back in our own house for all this. The restoration company made an effort to get us here by Christmas; we moved back in on December 23, with most of our stuff arriving on December 26. In January, we unpacked. In February, we really settled in. By early March, there were only a few things we hadn’t gotten around to re-buying (although one of them was yeast).

My husband, the store-enterer of our family, made sure we were also stocked up with Lysol, Clorox wipes, toilet paper when he found some, and the other quarantine necessities: Canned goods. Milk. Eggs. Flour. I began a sourdough starter but stuck it in the fridge when our quest for active dry yeast was successful (a 2-lb brick!). I began and abandoned a crochet project. I sprayed all the door handles and light switches with Lysol and washed everyone’s bedding. I started wiping down the counters more often (possibly because there’s more happening in the kitchen), using a cleanser with bleach after once-a-week grocery trips. I wipe down all our groceries before putting them away (even if I don’t really need to). I placed an order with King Arthur Flour, but not for flour; they were all out. The first week, I ordered a cookbook for my kids, and we’ve been cooking and baking from it: quesadillas, oven-baked chicken drumsticks, banana bread, brownies, cupcakes from a mix. Then I really got into the baking spirit and made beer bread, a no-yeast baking powder bread (turned out like a huge biscuit), cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, gooey chocolate pudding cake, and pizza dough. If we can get a lot of eggs I’ll bake a whole loaf of bread just to use it for French toast.

The kids have a big yard to play in, although they miss their friends and family. I was signed up to participate in an in-person Couch to 5K program that went virtual after Michigan’s governor declared a state of emergency, and although I was disappointed to miss out on a chance to run with other people, I clicked with the training program and my running has been going really well. It also means that I’m out of doors three days a week, running on paved trails, choosing the less popular routes and keeping 6 feet away from anyone else (the trails are busy on nice days but almost empty in bad weather).

I did not turn to witchcraft for comfort in the early days of the pandemic. Perhaps my knowledge of the effectiveness of Clorox and Lysol and plain old soap obviated a need for purification charms, and after we made it through the first 14 days or so without showing symptoms, all we needed to do was stay inside. I had been scheduled to lead MoonFire’s Rite of the Vernal Equinox, but in perhaps more panic than I realized at the time, I left it to our HPS to convert it to a Facebook Live event instead. The only magick I did in the first month of quarantine was the kind you do to clean and sanitize everything as best you can, even things you didn’t think needed cleaning and sanitizing before. The kind you do to simmer chili and mix dough, in wild-eyed desperation to ensure that you can feed your family, despite the existence of sliced bread, Easy Mac, canned vegetables, a well-stocked freezer, and excellent French dip sandwiches at the local bar (now open for takeout only).

With the gym closed, my regular yoga class has been happening over Zoom, too, and my yoga teacher went all in for an amazing moon-based practice on the night of early April’s full moon. Something caught in me during that yoga practice, and the old mantra rose up: Remember who you are. The magick slowly flowed back. I snapped out of something just long enough to realize I’d been in it.

Make no mistake, I didn’t wake up and somehow become OK despite the state of things. I’m still stress-baking and spending more time on Twitter than is probably healthy. But I did remember that I have some small measure of power. I recognized that I was doomscrolling and started respecting the screen time limits I had set for myself. I spent a weekend curled up in my reading chair, snuggled in a soft blanket with a cup of coffee, catching up on Triumph of the Moon for Thorn Mooney’s Patreon book club. (And I finally joined the Discord.) I made a point of doing more active self-care — as a former freelancer, I’m a veteran of the remote working trenches and have passed through the braless-in-sweatpants phase, the never-changed-out-of-pajamas phase, and the shaving-is-tyranny phase and have risen from the depths into the comfy-matchy-activewear-outfits phase. I’ve been real attentive to showering and hair removal, recognizing that jeans and bras are indeed unnecessary but I feel better (and am less apt to sink into depression) when I’m clean, cute, and ready to (theoretically) leave the house at a moment’s notice. It’s also time to break out the fancy skincare samples, to use the good lotion, the good shower gel, the good shampoo and conditioner and hair masks. I added in nail polish and got used to seeing painted nails again. (This is maybe inconsistent with all the extra cleaning, since the nail polish chips off right away, but who’s going to see the chips?)

So I’m somewhere in between quarantine camps. I’m working remotely, so it’s not like I have hours of the day to fill, but no one in my family is sick right now, so I have enough leisure time to think about how to structure my day.

I’m now working on my evening routine: shining the sink (yes, really), setting up the coffeepot, and spending a few minutes performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and picking up my meditation practice again. On Facebook, Lon Milo DuQuette is going live every day to read from The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed ben Clifford for the Fraternal Order of Sequestered Mystics; you can catch up on his page. He’s already read through My Life with the Spirits (those videos are also available). Rather than ordering new books, I’m working through my TBR pile. I’m drawing a Tarot card in the mornings and working on my shuffling. As the resident Zoom expert, I set up a coven meeting for Beltane, so we’ll at least see each other’s faces.

And so things go for now.

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