“So slow down, friend. Take a deep

and conscious breath. Trust the

place where you are, the place

of ‘no answers yet’, the precious

place of not knowing. This place

is sacred, for it is 100% life.

It is full of life, saturated with

life, dripping with life, drenched

with life. Don’t try to rush to the next

scene in the movie of ‘me’. Be here

in this scene, Now, the only scene

there is. Now is the place where

questions rest, and creative

solutions grow.

Jeff Foster

I take three walks a day, at least, four if I get antsy… Today, around 2p.m. Salomé and I set off for our after-lunch round about in silence as thick as cookie dough and not half as sweet. Somebody that lives in a big city says that now they can hear the birds singing. In Salies, we have always been able to hear the birds singing (small town, not much traffic) but now all we hear are the birds… announcing that it is Spring… a “Silent Spring” pops into mind, the title of a book written by Rachel Carson and published back in 1962 untitleddocumenting the adverse effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. I think to myself that this is what the world would look like if we had a nuclear war and were all wiped out by the atomic fallout. Not a soul on the streets, no one looking out of their window, no voices, no music, no cars… nothing. Thick, gooey, uncomfortable silence…

When I get home, I put on some music. Salomé is not convinced. She knows something is wrong and she comes over looking worried. I pick her up and sit her on my lap; she lays across my knees and lets herself be loved. We are company to each other; I love the gentle warmth of her body heating my legs. Afterwards, she seems to be comforted and takes her nap on the chair. I continue working on my Memoires…

Ten minutes later, Salomé is up again. She goes into the bedroom and barks. When I don’t run to see what she wants, she barks again… and again. Finally I get up and walk to the bedroom. “What?” I demand.  She just looks at me and then trots back into the living room: attention is what she wanted. I pick up a ball and lazily toss it down the hallway, IMG_20200318_135716she retrieves it. We play for a few minutes and then I tell her I want to finish writing my blog. She settles down again on the carpet. Thank goodness for Salomé; without her… don’t even want to think about it.

Ok: fallout from the Coronavirus: The rebirth of this blog-page; more time on Whatsapp; contact with people I haven’t heard from in years; more time doing The Work over internet, music. I seldom listen to music, I am too busy and my hour or so in the Café mornings chatting is usually enough noise for me to look forward to my two or three hours of silence before lunch. Now, as I do my exercises (stretching) I put music on the computer (YouTube), as I wash the dishes I listen to music, when I play with Salomé the music keeps us company… This is good.

I have never been much of a talker, but now I am convinced that by the time this is over I will have forgotten how to carry on a conversation, so I try to have at least one a day –over Whatsapp, usually- with my daughter, my son, a friend… anyone. I have decided that The Work I do over internet is another way to keep in touch and am now offering two sessions for the price of one; if this goes on long enough, I’ll give them for free.

IMG_20200320_125010Yesterday I went out for our morning walk and the first thing I saw was a man driving his car, all alone, windows rolled up… and he had a mask on. I wondered who he was protecting himself from… Today I noticed another woman with the same thing. I don’t have any masks; I haven’t even asked at the pharmacy because I know they are all gone, just like the hand disinfectant (I’ve been told more will be arriving next week). In the meantime, I wash my hands more than I have ever washed them in my life, but so as to not wash them double or triple times, I leave the dishes from my latest meal in the sink until I get back from my walks and then I wash them, along with my hands, of course.

Then, as suggested by Whatsapp, I take a clean Kleenex with me when I go out and use to hold onto the banister, to open the door and even to grasp Salomé’s leash. Today, instead of kleenex, I used one of the disposable dog-poo bags over my hand and it was the perfect glove… ummm mitten. Even though I have temporarily given up makeup, I still change my shirt every day; I have been living in the same blue jeans, though, but at least they are blue jeans. The other day I saw a woman out walking her dog in a jacket and pink flowery pajama bottoms! I wondered if she was just absent minded (and forgot she hadn’t taken off her pajamas, or actually thought that no one would notice).

I have taken to going to the bread shop for a croissant every morning, after all, if you think of all the ladies that last night on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert so as not to get fat… At the bread shop, people now stand in dots rather than lines as they keep the reglamentry distance one from the other. I become a dot in the line. With my croissant in hand -which I will take home to eat with my home-made expresso- Salomé and I take off IMG_20200320_161149for another walk around the block. Salomé looks at me crossly: she wants the cracker she always gets at the Café. I patiently explain to her that the Coffee Shop is closed and I will give her a cracker at home. She doesn’t believe me and pulls stubbornly in the direction of town and the Café. I follow her: it is the same difference to me which way we go home.

As we approach the Coffee Shop, Salomé sees the flower pots still in front of the door and realizes it is closed. She lets me lead her in the direction of home. I will give her a piece of croissant. Strangely enough, I am convinced she knows something is wrong. Since lockdown began she has become constipated and I had to call the vet and get a canine laxative for her after two days with almost no production. We are now doing well, but I continue with the laxative.

Once home, the unexpected happens. My body which is not used to doing housework and has been made to arrange the bed covers after three days of use, decides to protest and I throw my back out. A lumbar vertebra apparently moves, I feel a sharp pain and suddenly I am bent over like a 99 year old. I call my osteopath: both his phones go directly to messaging where I am told the message boxes are totally full. No help there.

I connect with my personal trainer in Madrid with whom I have been working over Skype since moving to Salies. He is an angel and directs some exercises that help. When I am finished, I can at least stand up more or less straight and go out with Salomé. After I have taken care of my back, I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and discover I have developed a sty in my right eyelid. A sty!!! Haven’t had one of those since about the age of 15. Things are definitely deteriorating!

IMG_20200318_191125But then I work for a while, listen to some more music, go for another walk and have a conversation –keeping our distance- with someone also walking their dog whom I have never seen before, come home and write this blog and it is time for supper.

One more day gone by… I have lost count: is it four or five or more?

We are living in strange times, in the times of IMG_20200319_110909‘never before’, in the times of ‘I hope this doesn’t last’, of ‘Please keep my family safe’… and also of, Thank you, thank you… I am so grateful for all I have. After all, it is Spring and there is a bright pink tulip in a flower bed to prove it.



026 (2)

March 17, 2020

Again, I awake at 5 a.m. Again the mind begins to race: Am I coughing, does my throat feel funny, what am I going to do if I get sick, who will take care of Salomé… on and on. Stop!!! I tell my mind that as soon as it is light we will go to the computer, we will find all the answers, we will write them down… go to sleep, sleep… I drift off again and don’t reawake until Salomé shakes her ears telling me it is breakfast time.

Hmmm, day one of lockdown. As I switch on my cell phone a message pings. It is from Gouvernement, the French government. Every single answer to my questions, every single instruction is there. By the time I have finished reading I know exactly what to do and what not to do. Good! I feel protected, I feel cared for, I am grateful.

Day one of lockdown. What a relief: there is no need to put on makeup as I will not see any of my friends, so I wash my face, clean up and dress in blue jeans and a sweater. sdr_softSalomé is asking for her breakfast; Salomé does not understand lockdown, Salomé only understands food-or-nofood. I fill her dish and serve my own cereal in a bowl and add some milk. I have stocked up on milk.

Breakfast done I sit at my computer thinking it would be nice to go back to bed; I am sooooo sleepy I could drop off in a wink. Maybe I am getting sick… Stop mind! Then I realize: it is –of course- caffeine suppression syndrome: I need my morning coffee.

As there are no cafés open, I take out my ground expresso and prepare a pot of coffee. Even the smell knocks the sleepiness out of me. With my nice hot cup of morning expresso, I decide to do my “café” over Whatsapp and begin sending messages to friends and family near and far.

As I have saved myself the 20 minutes of makeup duty, Salomé and I leave early for our walk (the instructions say that it is permitted to do some exercise or take your dog out for its needs). My doggie, thinking –of course- that we are going for our coffee, heads right off in that direction pulling at the leash. It is obvious that her dish of dogfood –as always- has not been nearly enough and she is anxious to get to the café and the sweet biscuit I always share with her.IMG_20200317_101803

“We’re in lockdown,” I tell her, “the café is closed. No biscuit today.” She looks at me. She knows what she knows. When we get to the café, she runs to the closed door, sniffs, peers through, turns her head to look at me, looks back at the door and then sits down to wait.

“I told you it was closed” I tell her pulling gently on the leash. Reluctantly she follows me, looking back a couple of times to make sure I am not trying to fool her. When we get home, I give her half a biscuit and she is happy.

Once I am home, nothing is any different from any other day –except that I know we’re in lockdown. First I go back to the Gouvernement instructions to see about a document (attestation) I have been asked to have to go out after noon today. I find the form and print it out. It is very simple: I fill in the spaces, check off ‘dog-walk’ and sign it. Then I put it in my purse, just in case…

After, I have an appointment over internet which lasts from 11:30 to 1 p.m. (I do all my work over internet) so when I am finished it is time for lunch. I usually do lunch in a small restaurant in town called ‘La Grignotine’, but all restaurants are closed. However, a while ago when I was doing a diet I discovered a service called ‘Kitchen Diet’ that IMG_20200317_154017delivers ready-cooked, vacuum-packed meals that are pretty tasty and help you lose weight. Upon realizing on Friday that restaurants would be closed and we were probably going into lockdown, I ordered my two-weeks of pre-cooked meals which  arrived this morning. I was all set.

Took out one of my favorites (penne with salmon and sauce), added some stir-fried veggies I had prepared two days ago and heated it all up in the micro. For dessert I had a tangerine (fresh), a handful of nuts and a square of bitter chocolate.

So far, not that much has changed with the exception of the morning coffee group. During lunch I work on my Memoires which have become a Proustian job because I can remember soooo much (I wrote it all down in diaries, ha ha).

At 3:30 Salomé gets up from her after-walk nap and barks once to tell me she wants to play, or go out or eat something and that I should stop working immediately and entertain her. Obedient mom that I am, I leap up, don my coat and we’re off again, this time to the center of town.

IMG_20200317_152300I want to see exactly what is open and what is not, and am specially interested in a small shop that sells grains, pastas, nuts and lots of etcetera’s in bulk so that you must take your own container.

Once again Salomé is terribly disappointed because our afternoon café (where they actually have dog biscuits) is closed, but this time she is not even fooled because they have placed the large flower pots in front of the door. The restaurant next door is also closed, but IMG_20200317_152551surprisingly the French government considers wine and liquors as a primary necessity and the liquor shop is open, as is the tobacco store (I once again thank the powers that be for my almost 28 years without tobacco or alcohol).

IMG_20200317_152435My little shop is also open and at the door are the instructions for entering. One is to sterilize one’s hands with the alcohol gel provided in a small bottle, only two people are allowed in the shop at the same time and everyone is to keep a distance of at least one meter from everyone else, and only the store attendant can dish out the produce. Ok, understood.

Once inside, I open my purse to take out the paper bags I have brought for my products and the owner yells at me as if I had pulled out a snake: I am to put them back and she will give me new bags. ‘That’s a waste,’ I think to myself as I obediently put the forbidden objects back into my bag.

I buy almonds and walnuts and pay for them with a credit card as has also been instructed on the rules sheet. As I am leaving, a beautiful head of fresh lettuce catches imagesP3UUIVHFmy eye and –keeping my finger far enough away so there is no mistaking my gesture as a desire to touch the greenery- I ask how much.

Lettuce safely tucked in bag, Salome and I set off once more for home. No one has stopped us; no one has asked for our ‘attestation’ which I have so carefully filled out… actually, there is no one around. Town is deserted.

Once home, I have my afternoon coffee (taking care to give Salomé half a biscuit) and settle down to write this blog-piece. Day One has not been so different from my usual days here… except that I know it is different


oznorFor a long time I have been saying what a wonderful life and what fantastic luck I have had, to have been alive at a time when I haven`t had to go through any wars, not personally anyway. The wars I have heard about have been far away and have not touched my life in any damaging way. I have not known a World War as my parents and grandparents did. I have not lived in a country being invaded or under siege.

I still say it, although in somewhat of a state of shock. Covid19, the Coronavirus whose worldwide attack we are now all suffering from in greater or lesser degree is about to prove me wrong. There are no bombs or helicopters, no invading armies shooting at Fotos Galaxy (411)each other, no canons bombarding buildings and shelters… yet we are under attack, the human race as a whole. Yesterday, Spain declared a State of Emergency with which special powers were given to the government to close down every non-vital business and center, meaning only supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open for business; France is now following suit, closing restaurants and social gathering places and discouraging travel.

It is a strange feeling, a feeling of being under attack by an invisible enemy; a feeling of something lurking unseen in every corner. Everyone in town has stopped the customary kissing of everyone else, handshakes are out too. We say ‘hello’ to people we care about from a distance, we wash our hands so many times a day they are dry and cracked, we open public doors with our elbows, and now, we find ways to not leave our homes.

Internet becomes our umbilical cord to the world, our phones –always important- are now life-lines to our loved ones nearby and far away, and even to neighbors as we stop leaving our houses. It is strange… the enemy is invisible, soundless, scentless… It could be a story, fake news… yet we know it is real.

davThere is a strange feeling of apprehension and also of underlying awe at the grandiosity of the whole threat. Suddenly, there is the understanding, with a great amount of disbelief and a frisson of excitement, that we may be living a turning point in history, a shift for humanity… For the better? For the worse?

As the countries of Europe curl in upon themselves like threatened snails while being told they are now the epicenter of the pandemic, I sit in my little French town and wait for news to get to me the same way it has since three years ago when I stopped watching or listening to it on television or radio, or reading newspapers: by way of mouth. Someone sends me a text message: restaurants, cafés and the like ordered closed in France; Spain shuts down… The frontier is probably closed. From someone else, a set of rules arrives on how to best avoid contagion. Over and over again we are told to wash our hands as if we were dirty little children rushing in from the playground. It is all unreal; there is a feeling of living in a bubble that will burst any moment and we will discover it has all been a bad dream.

I awoke at 5 a.m. this morning. My nose was all stopped up (“the corona virus does not affect the nostrils the way a common cold does”)… still; I decide it is just this allergy I have had for some time now, but the feeling of fear persists. I am alone; it is 5 in the morning… what if? I cough a couple of times… Is it a wet or a dry cough? I cough again… yes, there is a little wetness in it. Whew!

The emergency number: is it 212, 211, 112,121…? ¡fuck! What is wrong with my cofmemory… It is 112. I would dial 112 and they would ask me in what language I want to be spoken to. Should I say ‘French’ and run the risk of getting confused or not being able to describe my symptoms adequately, or ‘Spanish’ and run the risk of being switched back to French when they ask me where I am located. “¡Stop! It is 5 a.m. Just breathe deeply and go back to sleep.” Breathe… is that deeply enough, am I having trouble breathing deeply? I take a few more breaths and they seem adequate; I turn over on my back. My nose clears immediately and before I know it I have gone back to sleep and awoken at 8:30 this morning.

Today I get a message: “embrace your fear, don’t try to push it away”… Yes, that is good: treat yourself like a frightened child, don’t stress, wash your hands, stay away from public places, eat well, wash your hands, breathe deeply…

There is an incredulity about all this. Here it is: the 15th of March 2020, the year of great visibility, the year we should be seeing clearly (20-20 vision), and I sit in wonder of what it is that we will be seeing tomorrow and the next day, and the next. Last night, as I watched a movie, I noticeD how reality had become much more Hollywood than Hollywood, more unpredictable than the best plots.

Today I take a walk through town. Salomé –my schnauzer- thinks we are going for a coffee and her usual biscuit, but the coffee shops are closed, the restaurants are closed (one has a sign on the door saying they with attend ‘take-away’ but there is no telephone number), the stores are closed because it is Sunday but they will be closed again t20140406_145414omorrow and the next day and the next… The town is almost empty of people in spite of the fact it is a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny. We walk through the semi-deserted town and on home where I give Salomé a compensation biscuit.

I can’t concentrate, on movies, books, my daily chores, the memoires I am writing… It is as if I am waiting, waiting without knowing what it is I am waiting for; a state of suspended animation, a stillness that is filled with sudden starts.

There is a sense of expectation, as if something were about to happen, as if someone were going to come knocking at my door suddenly to announce the first case of Coronavirus to be diagnosed in Salies, a wonderment about what everyone is doing in their individual lives now that we are under attack. Do I have enough food to last out the lockdown? Will I be affected by the virus…? Will the bookstore stay open? What about the bank? Will someone let me know when it is all over? Will it ever be all over?

Yes, I was grateful that I had lived a lifetime without war… and I am still grateful even though  I now find myself –at 78- involved in the strangest, most unknown war of all: the war against an invisible enemy. I sigh and fall back on old ways of coping: take it One Day at a Time, Let go, let God… trust that this too shall pass.