I hadn’t realized I had been unknowingly practicing social distancing since I bought the cabin four years ago. This hadn’t been in my consciousness until it became a government mandate, and as I watched all of my friends trying to figure out how to adjust to this new reality. Suddenly thrust at home with their partners and children on a twenty-four hour a day basis, I observed them trying to figure out how to handle work amidst the constant disruptions, and their lives without social distractions.
Nothing had really changed in our house. My boyfriend and I both worked from home and were used to being in each other’s hair all day. I wonder if couples with out of the home jobs, were now dealing with the inevitable “Stop talking to me I’m working!” that was a daily occurrence in our lives. Our biggest adjustment had come in having to deal with the run on grocery stores, and the sudden need to make meal plans that didn’t involve just walking down to the store to pick up food for a couple days, now we were trying to make sure we were covered for a couple weeks.
When the news struck of the coronavirus, friends across the country reached out to see if we had “Escaped LA” to the cabin. I had always jokingly referred to it as my zombie apocalypse plan, I had no idea it was a pandemic that would send people running for the hills.
The off-grid winter cabin has always been the ultimate exercise in self isolation, and as there were very few takers each year (including my boyfriend) to spend time in a snow-covered igloo with no water and an adventure minded folks only compost toilet, I had had lots of practice in complete seclusion and self-entertainment.
Being that it was snowshoe in only in the winter, with no road access, we always fully stocked the cabin at the end of fall. There was plenty of bottled water, hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, and TOILET PAPER! I could probably rent it out right now for a fortune just for its healthy supply of those items.
I loaded up on food supplies in LA, so I wouldn’t have to visit any stores in town and could just go directly to the cabin. I was very conscious of the fact that Mammoth was a small mountain community and planned my trip with that in mind, although in so many ways I considered myself more a part of the Mammoth community that I so loved, than the one in Los Angeles. I guess that happens when you live in three cities and don’t spend your main time in any one location, but Mammoth has always felt like my special place.
What’s ironic is that while I was busy making sure I made no impact or contact, as I drove through town without stopping on my way to the cabin, I was surprised to see the lakes basin exploding with cars jostling for position along Lake Mary Road. It seems as if the town had come to me. The mountain was closed for skiing and boarding so everyone had flocked to the lakes to get into the back country. As I trudged my way to the cabin through the feet of fresh powder, I was impressed that someone had already carved a trail through the snow. When I got to the cabin, I found out why. As I was loading in, a half dozen snowboarders passed by dragging their boards after skiing down the hill behind the cabin. Here I was trying to be respectful and keep my distance and now my yard was basically a ski slope!
If it was a different time, I would have put out a coffee station and some backcountry craft service.
In the end though, with the mountain closed, our area had become an out of bounds playground, culminating in me having to have some gentle words with a group of boarders who were doing jumps off my neighbor’s roof. After explaining that they were privately owned residences, they apologized and went on their way.
While isolation has been stressful, I wonder if we all needed this time out in a way. A time to get perspective on our lives and where they are going. With the lack of cars on the road, LA was suddenly almost smog free, with crystalline blue skies. Maybe this virus was nature’s way of saying “Hey, the Earth needs a break too…” “And this is what the world could look like if you all took better care with her.”
But, we should all take better care of ourselves as well.
The sun was shining this morning after the beautiful snow storm of the afternoon and evening before, so I elected to take a snowshoe down to the waterfall outlet. The sun was beaming brightly down on me, and as I joyfully inhaled the blast of vitamin D and looked back across the frozen, snow covered lake, I took a deep breath, and then another. I decided to do some gentle yoga in the middle of that vast expanse on the edge of the lake in my snowshoes. Right as I peeled myself down into my first forward fold the clouds came in, and large fluffy snowflakes started falling, like someone was dumping feathers out of a box in heaven. As I finished with some deep breathing and gently opened my eyes and took in the vast beauty around me, I felt warm tears sliding down my icy cheeks. Maybe in our overworked and over stimulated world, self-quarantine is something that should become part of our yearly habits, instead of just a sojourn in crisis.
As I write this, the snow is falling softly outside, the flakes so repetitive that it feels like a glitch in the Matrix, the fire is snapping in the background, and I’ve got a hot water bottle tucked under my knees on the lace covered sofa. I needed this break away from the news, the worries about how we film freelancers are going to pay next month’s rent, and the fear of someone close to me getting ill.
I also needed to step away from the anger and anxiety that was trickling in through the window every day from the reservoir jogging path outside our window. I had already heard people screaming at each and almost getting into fist fights about social distancing etiquette, which reminded me of school yard bullying. It felt a bit like the entire world was becoming a high school cafeteria; complete with finger pointing, shaming, and general mean girl / guy behavior. A friend, who is a nurse, was getting harassed so heavily at grocery stores for wearing scrubs and masks, she had been forced into tears on multiple occasions. In the face of stress and catastrophe there will always be people who step in with kindness, offset by an equal amount of people whose base ugliness shows itself.
But out here amidst the cleansing snowfall I’m reminded that the virus is just another part of the natural world and natural order of things, and nature always resets itself. This isn’t the first time it’s delivered up something terrifying, and it won’t be the last, I just hope this is a short sojourn in the unknown and that we all take this time to make our tomorrow’s more meaningful and rewarding.