Hello. How are you? How has the first third of 2020 treated you? A little differently than you were expecting, huh? Yeah, same. Weird.
Jason and I have been self-quarantined together since mid March. His company put everyone on mandatory work-from-home on Monday, March 16. The weekend before that was when things started to feel really “real” in Minneapolis, so I was relieved his company took action quickly. Minnesota’s schools closed two days later, on Wednesday, March 18.
Last Thursday, our governor, Tim Walz, extended the state’s Stay-at-Home order. He announced the first order on March 25. It took effect on March 27 and was to end on April 10. He later extended the order until May 4, and has now extended it a second time, till May 18. Overall, I’m pleased with the way Walz has handled the situation so far. I feel lucky to be in Minnesota right now.
In fact, I have many reasons to feel lucky. Jason and I are both still working. (I already worked from home, and his job can be done remotely.) We are healthy thirty-somethings. We live in a house with a yard, in a quiet neighborhood where we are able to take socially-distant walks. We don’t have children to entertain and educate. We have a great dog who loves to snuggle.
Some friends have asked whether, given my situation, self-quarantine even feels different. The short answer is: YES. It feels EXTREMELY different, for a million reasons. I like working from home, but I also like, y’know, seeing friends and family, and going to the library, and browsing thrift stores, and traveling, and and and and and…a million other things I can’t do right now. Also, if you haven’t noticed, the news is SCARY AS HELL these days, and that makes everything feel different, even if my job hasn’t changed.
Time passes very strangely right now. Fast and slow at the same time. I’ve started writing something down on our calendar each day. Little stuff like, “got curbside pizza from Hello Pizza” or “walked Wilma in Northeast.” Usually nothing major. It’s just nice to remember what we’ve done, so the days feel like less of a blur.
This situation is such a loss of control. The months ahead are a giant question mark. The fact that our leader in this situation is off-the-charts selfish, stupid, and outright evil only increases my feelings of desperation and rage. Some days I’m okay, but a lot of days I’m not great. The other night I couldn’t stop thinking about how I will never, ever see a woman president in this ignorant, misogynistic country, and I worry about how long I’ll even have control of my reproductive rights. (If that fear seems unrelated to Covid, I recommend getting on Planned Parenthood’s mailing list.)
We all have different ways of coping. I applaud those of you who are already writing The Great Covid Novel, or becoming master bread bakers. I equally applaud those of you who are living in sweatpants, and re-watching Parks & Rec for the thirtieth time. I’m somewhere in the middle. As a way of record-keeping, I decided to make a Marjorie post about it. So here’s what I’ve been up to so far in quarantine:
We got Hulu. We just finished Devs. I really enjoyed it. We also watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which was phenomenal.
Jason and I are re-reading Watchmen together. Every three chapters, we sit on the couch and have a “book club” to talk about it. This is the second time we’ve done this (the first was years ago, when we both read In Cold Blood for the first time.) After that we’re both going to read The Beach. I’m also re-reading some of my favorites, the books I turn to again and again for comfort. So far that’s a lot of Michelle Tea and Martha Grover, two of my all-time favorite authors.
Like everyone, I have mixed feelings about Zoom socializing. On the one hand, it’s great to connect with friends however we can. And it’s cool that I’ve actually been seeing MORE of some long-distance friends than I did before self-quarantine. But seeing someone over video chat is not the same as seeing them in person. It’s like a meal stripped of flavor and vitamins. Afterwards you’re like, “I ate all that food…but I’m still hungry…but I also feel a little sick.” That said, I’ve had some really fun zoom hangouts. I’ve gone on tours of friends’ homes, watched needy cats wander in and out of frame, and laughed really hard. Definitely worth it overall, but sometimes I need breaks.
Designing & Illustrating
For the time being, my workload as a freelance designer and illustrator has been pretty packed. Books that were in editing pre-Covid are continuing forward, and many are now ready for design (that’s where I come in!). I don’t know if as many authors are eager to begin the path to publication right now—but I hope they are. These are strange times, but books are always important. Reading is a major source of joy and solace for me right now; I know I’m not alone in that.
I’m chugging along on the very, very last pages of pencils for my 200-page graphic novel. I lost a bit of momentum with an influx of client work plus, y’know, the ol’ living-in-a-pandemic existential dread. But I’m still going! I look forward to digging into inks and color.
Surprising no one, my enthusiasm for plants and gardening has gotten even more intense recently. This will be our third summer in the house. The yard has already come a LONG way. My big goal for this year was vegetable gardens. At the beginning of March, pre-quarantine, I got together with my Aunt Virginia, mom, and sister, to start vegetable seeds. I’m glad we were able to do that. The majority of my seeds grew well. I put the cold hardy stuff in the yard recently. The rest is currently on my porch. I’ve also bought some new plants and materials: three 4×4 garden beds (wish I’d made my own, but ordering kits seemed easier given the situation), ingredients for “Mel’s Mix” soil to fill the beds, 10 raspberry plants (Polana and Nova), five hop rhizomes (Cascade), and some seed potatoes (French Fingerling and Russian Banana Fingerling). One of my favorite after-work projects lately is hacking at an old stump in the backyard with an axe. It’s very satisfying! At this point it’s almost gone.
On nice days, we drive Wilma to new neighborhoods for a change of scenery. I’ve heard the lakes and parks can be crowded, so we just choose different residential neighborhoods. We never see too many people; it’s easy to keep plenty of distance. One evening, we walked around our old neighborhood in Northeast. That was nostalgic and fun. We both always kind of wish we still lived there, even though we love our house, and there are lots of good things about our current neighborhood.
We’ve been ordering food and beer from some of our favorite places around town. It’s scary to think about all the restaurants and breweries that may not be able to hang on through this. I know I can’t fix that problem by myself, but it does feel good (and delicious) to order from local businesses. Some highlights: food from Jakeeno’s, Hello Pizza, and Cecil’s, and crowlers from BlackStack, Fair State, and Dangerous Man. I’ve also bought gardening supplies from Sunnyside Gardens and Mother Earth Gardens. On my birthday, I treated myself to some cool cacti from a local grower called Succulent Plants, LLC.
I’ve been making occasional diary comics about our situation. You can find them on my instagram. I use the hashtag #covidcomics. They’re mostly silly, slice-of-life moments about being home with Jason. I feel so glad to have him as a partner during this. Can’t think of anyone else I’d really want to live with in general, but especially in self-quarantine.
That feels like a positive note to end things on, so I’ll leave you here. It’s hard to find a way to wrap this up, because the situation is very much ongoing. When I try to imagine the months ahead, the fear and dread start to cloud over everything. But at this particular moment, it is spring, and sunny, and there are good things in my life. And I guess I just wanted to write it down and say that I’m grateful.