Category Archives: social distance

Living Next Door to Myself

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

There is a quarantine in process in our house on island. A couple guests fled NYC last week and are hunkered down in our home, while we moved into a neighbors’ empty house. Our neighbors would be here too, but they’re having their own complications. Our guests did right to come here. On one of my husband’s Rotary Zoom meetings this week I overheard County Council member Rick Hughs mention that San Juan County may be the safest county in the state of Washington.

We hadn’t traveled in awhile. Hadn’t left the island for months until we ferried over to leave a car for our guests at the ferry terminal on the mainland. Because, of course, we can’t ride together. We can’t even hug.

So our guests came home to our house and we moved in next door. Our dogs zigzag back and forth between the two homes, otherwise this is all so diplomatic, it’s almost détente.

There is no other way to say it, I am beside myself.

One of our guests does her work outdoors on a deck. Her laptop upon her lap, the paddle arms of the Adirondack chair holding her glass of water. The other guest works comfortably in my writing hut, a stone throw from the house. The shortest commute imaginable.

I have noticed this in just moving over one property: a little closer to the water, a lower bank, a change in elevation. A slight turn, a change in light, and it changes everything. A time away.

As each day draws to a close we find ourselves back at our place around the fire pit. Chairs pushed back, a socially distanced campfire with our guests. They come out of our house carrying trays as I would do, and wool throws as the temperature dips in the evening. I begin to feel like myself again there before the fire, deep into the night.

Who needs a house anyway? We’re starting to rethink the whole thing. At night we all sleep in our respective bedrooms in our respective homes with our heads turned toward the windows over the bay, awaiting first light.

How else would we have noticed the rainbow? The slow waltz of the Shasta Daisies opening one by one, day by day. The sheer madness at the hummingbird feeders—the darting back and forth between fuschia blossoms and sugar water. The otters who come up from the beach, and the large fox who kept his distance making his way down toward the beach. And the deer who don’t come near when the dogs are out.

And the sounds! Raccoons chittering, heron squawking, gulls cooing, the shrill of an eagle. We’d miss all this inside, listening to ourselves, the radio, the news. Oh god, the news.

Note: Upon finishing this piece I went to town, and outside the bakery I ran into a friend. One of the happiest, most beautiful people I know.

“Carla! How are you doing?” I asked.

We chatted about her family, my family, the kids being the lights of our lives. But as for her, “Now they’ve taken away my smile,” she lamented through her mask before climbing into her SUV.

She too is beside herself.

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