Siege Diaries 3/23/2020


It’s been another day of momentous change.  It can be difficult to keep up with it all, but much of it was positive–in an odd kind of way.  It can be hard to see measures like ‘closing all non-essential businesses’ and (hopefully) postponing the Olympics as positive, but to me they read as growing realization that this situation is serious, and we have to hit it hard or suffer the consequences.

I am in most senses very lucky.  I own my house.  I have savings. I can hole up in my house and do my job from home, and it’s likely my industry falls into the “essential” category anyway.  I have a husband I’ve been with for nearly 29 years that I’m happy to be with 24/7. I am regularly connecting with friends and colleagues through work and videoconference. And I have cats…

Speaking of cats, the folks behind Welcome to Night Vale have a new podcast out called Our Plague Year. As the first episode put it, “Introducing a new kind of current events podcast. An island in a storm of bad headlines. An experiment in public anxiety. Let’s get through this year together.”  One highlight of the first episode was author Cory Doctorow starting off his piece talking about the Siege of Leningrad, and how people came together in the face of utter horror.  The second episode was released today, and Jeffrey Crainor–one of the two main guys behind Night Vale–had a piece focusing on his cats, and how the cats just seem to know that something is wrong.  One of his cats, not normally a cuddly type, curled up beside him when he returned home from the cancelled Night Vale tour;  the other, a former feral, is suddenly rubbing against his wife’s legs.   This is a phenomenon familiar to many of us with cats-I’ve termed it “sympathy cats”.  And it’s absolutely real.  Our cats are a social bunch for the most part (at least with us–less so with each other), but there have been some recent nights where I’ve tossed and turned until one–or more–cats have climbed on top of me and purred.

The one troubling thing in all of this is whether or not veterinarians will be considered essential services.  Our cats are currently healthy.  Our vet has been very proactive about putting in place protocols to minimize contact, including pickup and dropoff of pets curbside, with no owners allowed in the office.  I can’t imagine how tragic it could be during this period to have a pet (or, even worse–a service animal)  fall ill.  Hopefully something can be figured out that keeps both people and their pets safe.

I looked out this morning from my foyer, and through the window I could see the steady progress of the daffodil and narcissus shoots that presage warmer weather.  Every time you plant bulbs, it’s an act of hope, that you will be there in the future to see them blossom.  Right now, it’s difficult to live anywhere but in the present–it feels almost like an act of hubris to talk of plans for next year, or September, or even much further ahead than a week or so.  The act of hope we must contemplate is to plan for a future while in the midst of a crisis that makes that future more cloudy, and we can be forgiven for focusing our eyes on each step in front of us instead of the mountain that we must climb. But we must look up from time to time to understand that although the summit of that mountain is in clouds, it is nevertheless still there.

And for now, all we have the time that is given to us.

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