Just over 12 years and 2 months ago, Christopher Jones was having a lie down on this couch, waiting for me to show up. He didn’t have any pants on; he quickly threw a blanket over him when I poked my head in the cracked open front door, surprising him. I stepped away quickly, blushing while he grabbed his jeans and made himself presentable.

This couch is in the same place it was then. Even though it’s been rearranged a few times in the living room, it’s back against the NE corner of the living room.

I’m having my own lie down on the couch right now (with pants on, thankyouverymuch) as this is, like the former owner of the house was experiencing, the last time I’ll be enjoying this piece of furniture.

It’s been here for more than 12 years under my ownership, part of the grand package of furniture I inherited when I bought this house, and who knows how long before that. The tags don’t give any indication of a production date.

It has a subtle texture, small rectangles patterned on the khaki upholstery. It has tall side arms and just the right amount of depth for sitting.

It’s seen ski movie nights, boyfriends, post-first date emotions, lonely holidays, knee surgery recovery, family visits, a baby shower, Christmas cookie parties, swipes on Tinder with two of my best guy friends next to me, parties for no reason other than my tenant and I were in our early 30s and single, been a host of the Snowpoclypse House of Refugees parties, a crash pad for city friends before we headed west to the Olympics, glitter under the cushions when tutus were sewn, squeezed 5 people on there for a movie, snuggled a small 2.5 YO while we watched cars for the 87th time, some hard line editing, where I tried not to die of heat exhaustion, home of accent cushions made by my mother, where I was nearly proposed to, late nights where I turned on some pretty terrible off-cable TV, where I decided to gamble everything last summer and move forward even though I wasn’t sure if my heart was ready to but knew that this was a chance I needed to take…

It is also a fantastic napping couch. You don’t sink into it like some overstuffed couches, but it is hard to get off it after a long evening of binge-watching Parks and Rec.

It still holds its shape and feels like it was purchased yesterday.

And, in 10 minutes, it will move on to its next chapter, with my tenant downstairs. There is a weird comfort in knowing it will stay on the property, at least for now, giving another woman a place of comfort and feeling of safety, much like it did for me the past 12 years.

Thank god for the office.

I felt the familiar pending sense of dread this morning as I laid half awake in bed, listening to the faint sounds of a boat horn or a fog horn that was growing increasingly annoying.

It was the sense of “Oh boy. Work from home is getting to me I think. It may be an office day.”

(I’ve been trying to balance WFH and going to the office to minimize exposure since the building where I work re-opened in July.)

Yesterday was what I called a half-Pandemic Blues Day. It wasn’t quite as mentally debilitating as last week’s Pandemic Blues Day, in which I sat in front of my computer with tears streaming down my face at 10 a.m. in the backyard, trying write something for work. That’s when I called it and took a Mental Health Day, which took the form of getting a coffee and a cookie, writing for 3 hours in my journal in the morning and then picking blackberries all afternoon.

Yesterday was a functional Pandemic Blues Day. I managed to work, but still felt angsty about life. The angst didn’t clear up until the afternoon when I threw as much energy as I could muster into a newsletter deadline and actually felt productive about something.

Thank god for deadlines. I have been living by them for the past 20 years. They make me move forward in life.

I was hoping this morning I’d wake up feeling rested and ready to jump into a day (and night) of lot of editing and writing (yay for two massive deadlines at once for work right now during the day, plus a personal project deadline in the evening).

But no. Again, a pending sense of dread. I thought, “I have to go into the office. I need a change of scenery.”

Don’t get me wrong – my work from home setup is pretty good. I tend to work well on the couch in the living room and the couch in one of the kid’s rooms, sometimes the cafe table in the backyard. I’m still adjusting to the latest version of my desk setup, which has a lovely view of trees, lots of light, an absurdly high-tech two-monitor and high speed GPU setup thanks to the fancy pants computer boyfriend, but frankly, it’s not comfortable and I think I finally figured out why.

My desk is just too damn big for me. After 20 years of working at generically, standard-sized desks, I’m EXHAUSTED from trying to make them work ergonomically for my small frame and short legs. Or maybe it’s not the desk as it is the chair. I’m about ready to slam down absurd amounts of money for one of those fancy Herman Miller Aeron chairs that I hear about all the time on NPR. (Or a knock-off, holy crap those things are expensive.)

I also love the 5-second commute to the desk. I feel like I get more done at home because I’m fresh in the head and do best diving into editing and writing first thing in the morning. The commute tends to chip away at that feeling by the time I get to the office.

Anyway, back to the start of the day.

I got out of bed with a defeated sigh from a poor night’s sleep, grabbed work clothes, scrubbed face, put on makeup, went downstairs to my sweet man of a boyfriend who suddenly realized his girlfriend was a distraught mess and tried to do what he could to help, packed up my computer, camera, lunch and flew out the door.

I thought I could make it to Poulsbo, 53 minutes away, without coffee and breakfast, but alas, I only made it to Chimacum and pulled into the Farm’s Reach, ordering an americano and breakfast burrito. After a few sips of coffee, the fog in my brain started to lift, as did the fog in the Chimacum Valley.

KEXP was playing Morrisey or the Smiths or some absurd nonsense like that which I despise, so I switched over to NPR, which was all politics. That was grating at first, but the Massachusetts primary results were interesting. A Kennedy, for the first time ever, lost an election.

Eventually I got tired of that and switched back over to KEXP, where the DJ was playing a song from one of the best albums of the year, “Untitled” by Sault.

Life started to feel a little more manageable.

Then the DJ announced requests for songs about getting through the first day of remote learning (boy, I feel for all those parents having to do double duty, as well as kids not being able to get the social interactions that are vital to their livelihood and development), one of them being Erasure.

Oh, Erasure. The band that introduced me to Brit pop in the 80s. Judge me all you want,, they were my first love for British music.

So, I’m heading down Highway 104, crossing over the fog-enveloped Hood Canal Bridge, stuck behind a semi, with a coffee in hand, belting out to Erasure’s “Respect” and suddenly feel OK with the world. For a second, life felt normal.

I thought about how pre-COVID, this scene was likely dreaded by most. Day in, day out, the drive, eating/drinking breakfast while driving, stuck behind slow vehicles, stressed about home life, work life, thinking about what to do about dinner that night, what’s the plan for this weekend, I need to make that doctor’s appointment, what did we do this summer, when was the last time I talked to my parents, I need to text back my sister …

But today, I embraced it. As sadistic as it may be, for a second, all the stresses taken for granted before March were felt and thought about and enjoyed.

Then the sky got a little brighter. And the fog started to lift.

 

For the first time in a while, I’m by myself in a functional house, revisiting what it’s like to be solo for a night.

Read: the boys are out camping and I can eat whatever I want and don’t have to share.

While the Bremerton house is torn up (so it feels), the Port Townsend house is quite settled and cozy.

But mostly what I’m interested in remembering what it’s like to only be responsible for myself for an evening.

I got to work as late as I wanted (well, I was on a major deadline today but that seemed to soften as 5 p.m. approached, so I relished in the luxury of tweaking the project as much as I could until 6 p.m.).

I already had my meal planned – I’d been looking forward to it for a week – portobello mushroom and chicken sausage cooked in a tomato sauce with spinach, topped with very strong parmesan cheese. And I didn’t have to share it with anyone! But I wanted to make rice to go with it. Which meant I had to figure out the rice cooker.

Note: I can barely cook rice on the stove to save my life. I’ve barely been successful with the oven method. Tonight though, I figured if I couldn’t cook rice in that stupid lidded pot with a few buttons, there would be no hope for me.

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Right now, my life is broken down into jumbled piles all over my living room.

Books in the corner by the TV, blocking the Roomba. All my chairs, side tables, lamps and accent pillows stacked on top of each other along the east wall. All my important adulting life documents on the dining room table. A growing pile of Goodwill items next to the cast iron fireplace. A broken down desk and an empty wooden IKEA shelving unit in the middle of the room. Boxes of office supplies, crafting supplies, old magazine and newspaper clips from my early years of my career, floppy discs, cassette tapes, and memories in various forms sitting precariously on top of each other by the front door.

I have to go through each of these piles of boxes and textiles over the next few months. I’m combining my single life of 20 years from a 2-bedroom, 1-bath house into a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with another person this fall.

I’ve never done this before. And I’m totally OK with it.

Right now though, it’s overwhelming walking into the living room when I come home after being away for a few days or a week. It takes me two days to just “Be” in the house before I can bring myself to do anything remotely domesticated or even broach the thought of sorting my life into Keep and Discard piles.

Tonight, though, after a day of about 5 hours of driving and another 3 hours of staring at my computer, I had to do something involving movement and tangible objects.

So, I started with the closest pile to me – old gift boxes and shoeboxes.

The gift boxes were overflowing with old tissue paper and gift bags. My instinct is to keep them because recycling; my gut is like, WHY? THEY ARE RATTY AND WRINKLED PIECES OF PAPER THAT YOU PLAN TO REGIFT? You’re a terrible and gross gift giver! (I KNOW. SHUT. UP.)

I just ignored the screaming, feeling like this was just a warm up exercise for the harder stuff.

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Memorial Day 2020

A little over 10 months since I sat at this dining room table in similar silence.

It’s (still) so quiet here in Port Townsend. Deadly silent is what comes to mind but it is very much not a threatening environment.

Until the fridge’s hum started a few minutes ago, literally the only thing I could hear was the soft rush of rain on the trees outside the dining room window. But it doesn’t match the visual of the pouring rain on the neighbor’s roof.

The only other sounds are from the birds, which I can hear through the open skylight in the bathroom about 15 feet away from me. So. Many. Birds. They’re sheltering from the rain that is pouring harder now than 10 minutes ago, but they are still talking to each other. I haven’t figured out which birds they are by their sounds. But no mourning doves, as we’ve heard regularly the past few weeks, and are starting to be annoyed with at first light every morning.

Or the chirping of the now-teenage European starlings that live inside the telephone pole in front of the house. We’ve been hearing, then seeing, the little bird family grow the past month, and observing Mom and Dad constantly bringing back food to the needy youngsters. We now think the young ones, who we saw learning to fly two weeks ago, are equivalent to 30-year old adults with no jobs and living in their parent’s basement.

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Today has been a harder-than-normal quarantine/work from home/restless day.

Kinda ranks up there with the fits Philip threw recently about doing schoolwork.

What’s wrong? I asked with a gentle but heavy sigh.

“Quarantine! Coronavirus! Not being at school! That’s what wrong!” he snaps at me on the iPad, flicking his head back and forth with a condescending sneer.

Sigh. The entire world feels that way, Kid. The ENTIRE WORLD.

But who can talk sense into a third grader who is in quarantine? Not me. Nor you. Maybe his mom. His world consists of his adults, his stuffed animals, his iPad, and his classmates and teachers on a computer screen. To him, they all seem happier than he is. Which makes him feel more miserable and more annoyed.

So he hides in his couch fort with his light sabers sticking out from between the cushions, and places a sign out front that says “Do Not Disturb” scrawled out in his shaky 8-year-old handwriting.

I totally get it, kid. Totally get it. We all get it.

Today was going to be “easy” for me. The To Do list seemed completely absolutely do-able. Write some things, edit some things. Nothing completely mind blowing. I was going to finish editing OMR notes from last week’s meeting, then move on to editing the two batches of photos from last week’s field work (!!!). Address some emails, edit some docs.

It’s 12:15. I’ve been on the computer since 8:30. Around 9 a.m. things started going downhill.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

9:22 a.m.

There are so many birds in my neighborhood.

So much chirping and flying and flittering about.

I never really noticed it until this morning. Or rather, I recognized how much I’ve noticed it lately. Especially when I saw that bluejay on my front porch an hour ago. I never see bluejays around here.

While there is still some traffic in Bremerton, given I live on one of the busiest streets, it is significantly quieter in the morning and evening. Hence, I can hear the birds more. It’s odd to hear nothing in Bremerton but birds.

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Day 5. Monday, March 23, 2020

Today starts the first full week of telecommuting, as directed by my office.

Given the nature of my job in real time and my opportunities to work from home when I have field work in the morning or afternoon, I feel I’m fairly equipped mentally to deal with the Work From Home situation. I can make myself pretty comfortable anywhere and be productive. Some days I need complete silence, so the house is great; some days I need some background noise, so the office or a coffeeshop works well.

Jeremy and I are essentially WFH together now – he works from home primarily anyway, so he’s set up. I just take over his dining room table when I’m in Port Townsend. He’ll likely camp out on my couch in Bremerton, or my dining room table.

I had successful “hangouts” with my mountain rescue team and friends over Zoom the past few days, which has made this self-imposed Shelter In Place more bearable. However, I haven’t quite felt the insolation or pent up feelings that it seems others are anticipating. My attitude about this whole thing has been “Well, OK, here we are. One day at a time. It is what it is. I will adapt and move on.”

Granted, I may feel differently in a week.

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Thursday morning. Bremerton. March 19, 2020.

It’s Day 2 of my sorta self-quarantine.

I’m not sick, save for the sniffles I’ve had for two weeks now. But no other symptoms, just sniffles. Maybe allergies? Low grade cold? (been feeling run down too but have been traveling extensively lately and on deadline for work).

The office space I work in has closed for the next two weeks for safety’s sake. I’m glad for it – it was stressful being in the office. Even though I have an office with a door, it was nerve wracking trying to make sure I didn’t touch all the things and then making sure I cleaned them when I did.

I have a CenturyLink chat box open on my laptop to try and upgrade my Internet. The current minimum wait time started at 182 minutes and has been bouncing back and forth between 40-ish minutes and 12-ish minutes. My internet is terribly slow, as I’m a cheapskate but even I’m tired of the spinning rainbow ball on my computer and dragging response times.

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So, I don’t know how to start this trip report.

Do I explain what led to Lana and I trail running 50+ miles in the Olympic Mountains?

Do I exude endless amounts of gratitude for our amazing Sherpas, Chris and Jeremy, who supported this idea?

Do I take my father’s advice and undergo psychological analysis to check my mental state?

Let’s start from the beginning.

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