Splendid Isolation

It is 11 o’clock on Saturday morning. I am sitting on the sofa in my pajamas and dressing gown, knitting and watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Outside it is cold and grey with a fierce wind blowing from the North. I have no plans for the day except to not make any plans. Two weeks ago, I had a list of things that I would do to make the most of my time. One of them was learning how to knit.  We have been self-isolating since March 22. I felt good about it, grateful, if a little smug. I live in a beautiful place on 2.5 acres, with plenty to do in the house and garden to keep me busy. If I felt a bit of cabin fever, I could always get in my car and drive out to the ocean, which I did several times, encountering few if any people (and keeping two metres away from anybody I did meet). One daughter was at home having managed to get back to Ireland the weekend after Paddy’s Day. As she had gone through Heathrow, we decided not to hug for two weeks. I had driven up to Cork to bring extra clothes and things to another daughter who was also self-isolating after spending the weekend in the city. We walked around a deserted Shandon and Blackpool in the early morning, keeping six feet apart, missing our usual hugs but happy to be together. We figured she could come home after 15 days. On Mother’s Day we went to town to give my partner’s mother some flowers. She stayed in the house, we stayed in the garden. On the weekend, we drove to Ross and got takeaway from our favorite restaurant. We made plans to drive out to a garden centre this week.  I watched lots of livestreamed events and danced around the kitchen. I felt for friends who were alone at home, for others who lived in small homes with no gardens. I felt blessed. I got so caught up in the wave of ‘can do’ solidarity that I had to remind myself that I always work from home and still had plenty to do despite the virus. The general feeling was of an Enid Blyton book: Jolly and determined.

And then on Friday night I switched on the RTE news and watched the lockdown restrictions scroll along the bottom of the screen like a scene from a disaster movie. All at once the world became both smaller and larger. No more going to the beach. No more checking on my daughter in Cork city. She could not come home.  No more takeaways from Ross. No more garden centres, bookstores, DIY shopping.  No more visiting – even if we kept our distance. Everything and everybody were suddenly very far away, while the distant pleas and horrific stats from Italy and Spain got much, much closer. The general feeling shifted to a Stephen King book: Terrifying and foreboding.

Which is why I spent Saturday on my sofa, knitting practice squares and watching Netflix. Having the luxury of not having to do anything, I forced myself to do very little. Choosing to watch Tiger King instead of cleaning the house was definitely healing, as was chatting with friends and family far and wide. And eating. I have been eating a lot. (In fact, I have put on more weight in the last two weeks than in the four months since I quit smoking.) Saturday night I joined many of my friends online to enjoy the Vintage Jukebox, a DJ set that regularly takes place in town. It was almost as good as the real thing…

I danced, sang along, exchanged comments, and let the tears roll when they came.

Sunday was cold but sunny, with blue skies and white puffy clouds. We decided to make a few raised beds for extra vegetables. We have everything we need on the land. I did some gentle yoga, took a shower and got dressed. I worked in the tunnel, while the chainsaw hummed in the background. I picked sorrel and wild garlic. (Wild garlic pesto is only gorgeous, and sorrel cream sauce is divine.) We even gave the main rooms a good clean. I have taken to airing out the house regularly, like a medieval lady clearing out the miasma. The crisp cold smell of the garden and the birdsong really lifts my spirits. 

Last night my daughter and I realised that we had passed the 15 days since she came home and that we could hug each other again. Never has a hug felt quite so good. When this splendid isolation is over, I am going to relish every single hug, every single encounter, every single meeting…In the meantime: Stay safe. Stay well. It is going to be OK. We can do this.

Tina Pisco

Tina Pisco is a best-selling author, who has lived in West Cork, Ireland for the past twenty years.

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