Today we would have flown from London through Toronto to San Francisco, then BARTed to Pleasanton, then been picked up by some dear willing soul and ferried back to Modesto, either passed out in the back seat or so keyed up from travel caffeine that we couldn’t stop telling stories.
(And thus, today: the end of this #TheOtherCamino blog.)
Today, the news that COVID-19 cases are spiking all over California has led to speculation that we’ll be sheltering in place again, that in fact the urge to reopen was premature, and our careless gatherings have proved that the virus never went anywhere—it was just waiting for us to let our guards down.
I’ve been at home—minus some neighborhood walks, trips to the vet with a sick beagle, grocery runs, a trip to an abandoned airfield and an ill-advised recycling run where my tin cans netted me 23 cents—since March 12.
Last week, my fall 2020 teaching schedule was confirmed, and it looks like I’ll be teaching my courses from home. I’ve gone through something like the stages of grief with this realization: denial, anger, bargaining, depression. I’m not quite to acceptance yet.
Home isn’t just the place where I crash after a long day—it’s now the place where I put in the long day. I can relax here, but more and more, I’m trapped, too.
My story isn’t special—this is happening all around my city, state and country. It’s happening all around the world. Sometimes it gives me comfort to think of so many of us at home, staring at our screens, trying to reach out to each other in little ways: a text, a meme, a thumbs up.
Sometimes it depresses the hell out of me.
Over the last 28 days, I’ve discovered new corners of my 1,000 square foot space: I write in the mornings at the kitchen table with the French doors open and my beagle wandering through, looking for a spot for his nap; I Zoom from my office with my bookshelves in the background; I read in the warm afternoons sprawled across the bed. I’ve been trying to do subtle improvements: a new dish drainer, new suction shower hooks, a basket system for Will’s rolled-up t-shirt collection. (This has been my biggest accomplishment of 2020, other than writing a blog for 28 days in a row.)
I’m trying to make peace with my home, and with myself in this space.
Yesterday, I opened the side gate and let two friends into my backyard. One I haven’t seen since February, although we text most days, little check-ins to remind each other that we’re alive and we care. The other friend I had only met on Zoom in a weekly writing group, but talking for an hour a week for three months has accelerated our relationship. We’re friends now, compatriots, kindred spirits. It’s been the unexpected joy of this pandemic.
We sat in the backyard with coffee and tea, spaced apart, moving our chairs and the umbrella to avoid the sun. And it was hot. This was a commitment to friendship, to humanity. We were determined to sit six feet apart and just be together.
This is all we have right now, and it has to be enough.
If you’re reading this blog, thank you.
Thinking in such a focused way about this walk, I’ve felt more attuned to the idea of the journey, and the people on the journey with me.
We have each other, and that is enough.
Since the beginning of 2019, when we started talking seriously about walking the Camino, Will and I (but especially Will, who’s quite good at this) have been seeking out other pilgrims who made the journey in previous years.
We pumped them with questions, and they gave us their best advice: skip the meseta or stay in hotels every now and then or buy the right shoes. They told us what food was good and what food wasn’t, what kind of walking sticks we needed, whether we should continue on to Finisterre.
Every single one of them said the trip was worth it, and most that they would do it again if they had the chance.
Writing this blog has been bittersweet: it’s kept me adrift during this month of no other plans and at times heart-wrenching loneliness, but it’s also made me hunger for this trip. This is a journey I want to take someday, when the world rights itself.
Paula Treick DeBoard