On Monday March 30th, at 5:30 a.m., our 14-day quarantine came to an end. Not a second too soon, in my opinion, although it is not as though we could invite all of our friends to join us for an in-person celebration party.
In lieu of that, I decided to make as much of my first grocery shopping expedition since we left San Miguel on March 15th as I could.
Before we headed off to Farm Boy at 8 a.m., I put tiny lights in my hair and donned my hand-painted jaguar poncho: perfect attire for a miserable, grey, rainy morning.
I can remember only one other occasion when I was as excited to be in a grocery store. Almost 30 years ago, I visited friends who were spending a year in the south of France. We went to a French supermarket, where I was overwhelmed by the choices in salad greens (we had barely heard the word arugula in Canada back then), cheeses, fish and the like.
This morning, I donned my sterile gloves as we entered the store, to be greeted by a cheerful employee who had wipes and sanitizer spray at the ready for anyone who needed it.
The produce and cheese departments were laden. The aisles, on the other hand, were almost empty of customers, so there was no need to worry about the two-metre rule. Since Farm Boy doesn’t carry toilet paper, there was no scrapping over limited supplies. The checkout cashiers were protected behind plexiglass shields, and seemed happy to be at work.
At the end of the trip, our three bags contained pretty much what we would have bought on any grocery outing — vegetables, fruit, butter, yogurt, cheese and the like – but it felt as exciting as it had been for me to graze through the French supermarket all those years ago.
Learning to live smaller lives
This new reality is hard to get used to, even when we are in good health, have comfortable and safe housing, enough money to get through the next while, activities to fill at least part of our days and friends and family we can connect with electronically. In week two of our quarantine, we continued to try to find ways to stay connected and reasonably cheerful, but it felt harder than it had in week one.
I have certainly appreciated the creativity of others: the owner of Kingston’s independent bookstore, Novel Idea, is taking book orders by phone and delivering them to people’s doors. One restaurant is selling “survival kits” containing local meat, cheese, eggs and produce (and, as of a couple of days ago, wine and beer!). The basic kit costs $50, delivered to your door. At least one florist is taking phone orders for flowers and delivering them: I ordered some to be delivered to my mother for her birthday and then threw in an order for myself.
#neighboursatnoon helps people stay in touch with neighbours even when close-up socializing is not an option.
Two of my siblings who live in the same city as our mother, gathered up their partners and some of their kids on Sunday and headed to her retirement home to sing happy birthday to her, as she stood on her third-floor balcony and waved to them.
One of the most challenging aspects of the situation, especially for those of us who need certainty, is that there is none. Will we be living like this for a few more weeks? Months? Longer? And then what? Are my 54 rolls of toilet paper going to be enough?
While long-term plans are probably best not laid right now (unless they come with a good cancellation policy), there is some short-term planning that can happen. My partner, the gardener in this household, has planned the summer vegetable garden, ordered seeds, set up the grow lights and started germinating pea seeds. This may be a year when we are happier than ever to be able to produce at least some of our own food.
On our walk yesterday, we found signs of spring in a few gardens – some snowdrops, a few crocuses, the green stalks of daffodils starting to push through the dirt. Not a lot, yet, but enough to remind us that greener days lie ahead.
The Zapatistas have a way of reminding all of us of the bigger struggle. Part of their call-out last week read:
“We call on you to sustain the struggle against femicides and violence against women, to continue the struggle in defence of territory and Mother Earth, to maintain the struggle for the disappeared, murdered and imprisoned and to hold high the flag of the struggle for humanity.”