Pandemic Diary: May 10-May 23

May 10

For two months, I have been within an hour of home, but I haven’t spent more than 30 minutes there. “Home,” I guess, is shorthand for the house near Green Lake in Seattle where I pay rent and live with seven women and keep my art and dried beans. I’ve stopped in two or three times to pick up mail and get clothes for spring weather, but otherwise, I haven’t been there.

I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would. I think that’s because “home” feels more like a network of places: my parents’ house, where I grew up and where my family and dogs are. Matt’s house, where my boyfriend and his roommates and a big vegetable garden are. My temporary Airbnb rental, where I have solitude and don’t have to share any food. The coffee shop, where my coworkers and coffee are. It’s nice to have all those places, but I don’t know how long “home” will be fragmented like this.

May 15

Things at work are weird but the weirdness–the masks and plexiglass and paper cups and hand washing and generous tips–are starting to feel normal. Going up the hill to “my own” place is starting to feel natural. The rhythm of life is not what it was five months ago, but it’s something.

May 17

Today I ran nine miles on the Orting Trail. It was not a good run. I was tired and my feet were hurting by the fourth mile. I couldn’t find anything good to listen to, and I walked more of it than I’d like to admit.

I’m learning that the more good runs there are, the more crappy runs there are.

Not since walking the Camino have I experienced such chronic weariness in and obsession over my feet. I study my blisters and fret that the right second toe is a mess but the left second toe is fine. I wonder what’s wrong with my gait. I wonder if I have enough or too much soreness in my calves. I wonder if I should be soaking my feet in hot or cold water.

A year ago, I couldn’t run three miles, and now I’m regularly running about ten miles at a time. I don’t think I’m that much more fit. I think that once or twice, I managed to increase my distance by a little, and now that I know I have run longer than three miles, I know I can. So being tired isn’t as foreboding as it used to be.

Why is all this going into my pandemic diary? What’s running got to do with COVID-19?

Well, pandemic or not, there is something expansively satisfying about covering a lot of ground. Biking and kayaking are wonderful, but traveling on foot my favorite. It is slow and inefficient. It forces me to comprehend my body’s current strength. Usually, I prefer walking, because it’s so slow and so sustainable. But I’ve never been able to run, and now I’m sure I can run that half marathon this Saturday. And if I can run a half marathon, what else can I do?

Maybe this is happening now because the order from the government is to stay home and stay safe. And being told to stay put it making us itch to move a lot, and to choose discomfort, and to find ways to not feel so safe. When I’m running, whether it’s crappy or awesome, I feel more alive than I do when I’m sitting on the couch feeling nervous about everything.

May 20

The parking lot at Golden Gardens is closed, and there are the most confounding signs all over the place. One says the park is off limits, one says it will be off limits if too many people visit it, and one says it’s open until 8:00. I can’t figure out if I’m allowed to be there or not, but I decide to risk it and put my hammock up in the usual spot, in the grove by the bathrooms.

Usually it’s so busy, you can’t find two trees between which to string up an Eno. Today there’s only one other hammock up, occupied by a couple talking quietly. Their dog runs laps around them. 

The people here are behaving in new-normal ways. I can see a dozen or two people in every direction. Several are walking alone on the beach. A few of them have dogs. There are two grandparents with young children, playing in the sand. One man paces around with a metal detector. A woman nearby sits by her bike, writing in a notebook. A group of three guys fifty feet away are drinking White Claw, balancing on logs, and loudly announcing that they don’t know how quarantine works.

May 23

Matt, Ashley, David, and I ran the Social Distance run today. David did a full marathon, and the rest of us did half marathons. We chatted the first few miles, then settled into our own rhythms. The day was cool but not cold. I ran all but a couple minutes of the race. There was a yellow lab running loose on the path at one point, greeting people. When I neared the town of Orting, there were several high schoolers in yellow ball gowns along the path, cheering for runners and cyclists: the Daffodil Princesses. There were yellow flowers in the fields. There were rows of ripe rhubarb by the farms. Blindness by Jose Saramago droned in my ears, imbuing the loveliness around me with a tint of graphic, dystopian violence borne from, unnervingly, a (fictional) pandemic.

It was hard to run a half marathon, but not too hard. Matt had barely trained for it, but he sped ahead of Ashley and me and was waiting for us by the car, cheering. Ashley, who has given birth to a child, and I cheered at each other as we rounded the final bend, screaming, “Oh my gosh, we did it!”

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