COVID Journal: Week 2 1/2

The newness of being confined to quarters is wearing off. I’m noticing the innate human tendency to normalize: I now have to remind myself out loud to keep up the twenty-second hand washing, scrubbing down doorknobs and surfaces, and other daily sanitation routines.

What’s more insidious is a feeling that managing the time during the day is difficult. What seemed like an endless stretch of minutes in each day, commencing with the dawn dread of a daily Twitter update, and ending with a late night of binge TV watching or reading a novel, seems to have shrunk quickly. Now it’s easy to feel the day has departed with nothing accomplished. In the past seven days, these have been done:

an oil painting started, but not yet picked up again (next week I will try again)

a one-hour online Feldenkrais session

online shopping for handmade face masks for ourselves and our kids on Etsy, and finding that it’s hard to get one in a reasonable amount of time

a tech webinar on how to make graphs with a programming language

income tax forms returned electronically to our accountant and a check mailed to the tax board

three Netflix parties

two grocery delivery requests initiated (this is stressful when you come to realize that they won’t have what you need and that the hardworking grocery and delivery workers are beginning to burn out and probably won’t be able to get you things on time)

a drop-in radio party with our son, the Austin bubblegum-rock DJ

two social Zooms with friends

testing the waters with airline and hotel refunds from trips canceled and finding out how unfriendly this process can be

In between these necessities and distractions, we’re trying to have a semblance of order every day. I’m finding that the schedule for most days will probably be four things to cover the fourteen hours between wake up and sleep:

cooking for an hour, either for a lunch or a dinner, but not both

going for a half-hour walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon, trying to find a new route every once in a while

coding for my software startup for a maximum of three hours, or painting for two hours, but not both

reading, napping, or watching a movie for a couple of hours

There are a few unexpectedly nice things that happen here and there, usually when we meet someone new or discover someone we know who lives in the neighborhood on our distancing walks. And the trees are all in flower along the streets, so we’re coming to appreciate the grand valley oaks all around us in their bright green spring leaves. We have ignored them for the 25 years we’ve lived here.

I’m hoping in the coming weeks to feel more stable and less anxious and drained about life in general, and will try to be able to give a little more to others. That would be an opportunity to grow.

COVID Journal: First weekend of lockdown

We went out for a walk yesterday, Saturday March 21, the first sunny Saturday since citizens of the Bay Area and then California were ordered to stay at home. My wife and I started to take seclusion seriously around 10 days ago, and decided to self-isolate as best we could a week ago. As March weather here in Northern California has been good and getting ever so slightly warmer each day, the two of us have been in the habit of doing a daily 30 minute mid-afternoon stroll together on the quiet hilly suburban streets around our house, where we usually encounter one or two others. We nod or say hi to these neighborhood strangers and keep apart.

But yesterday we had envelopes to mail and food to pick up, so we decided to walk in the dedicated multi-use paths along the creek. It was a terrifying experience for me (not so much for my wife) to be honest. It appears as though everyone in the county from elementary school kids to retirees like us were out in force. The 10-foot wide pavement was hardly wide enough, with bicyclists, runners, family groups and other walkers in constant motion, or hanging out at bridge crossings having group conversations. We just tried to hold our breaths and keep to the extreme right margin, or wait for people to come and go if the pavement narrowed. On the return to our house, we illegally hopped a barricade to gain access to a dead-end footpath that was less populated, and I only felt safe once back inside with hands washed and door handles wiped down.

According to our local newspaper, it was the same scene happening in our beautiful local state and county wild parks, on Mount Tamalpais and in Point Reyes. Mobs of people, trying to escape their confinement and get needed fresh air and sunlight and space.

So now I think we will go back to the little street outings from here on out. The sky is the same, the trees are in flower and it’s sad to say, fewer possible virus-spreading humans to encounter.

COVID Journal: Online things you can do at home

While we’re all shuttered in place, it turns out that life can be busier than ever before. In this time of crisis many arts organizations, creators, and internet-savvy individuals who are sharing skills are providing us with free and fundraising opportunities to enrich our lives. I’m having to remind myself to not to try to do too many things in a single day, but the temptation is strongly there, while my wife and I sit at home, cook meals, read together, wait for packages, and try to go for walks that will keep us away from others.

With the idea of balance and calm in mind, here are some of the things I am participating in on a regular or occasional basis, or may take advantage of when things get bleak:

Live oil painting lessons with Cotswold realist painter Paul Foxton, most days of the week at 8 am Pacific time. Paul is a calming voice and a very good teacher of value, color and technique. Each day’s session is usually 60-90 minutes. Join Paul’s Facebook Art of Calm Artists group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/655667988543204

Live book readings, discussions and author events from the Virtual Book Channel and the Quarantine Book Club. Visit https://lithub.com/literary-hub-presents-the-virtual-book-channel and https://www.quarantinebookclub.com for more information.

Live yoga sessions with New York techie Erik Hinton. Schedule varies. Subscribe at https://www.twitch.tv/esmooov

Art and commentary from museums around the world are being shared daily under the Twitter hashtag #MuseumMomentOfZen. I have only begun to explore this resource, but one of the deepest and most thoughtful I have found so far is from the US National Gallery of Art. Their account is https://twitter.com/ngadc

The de Young Museum is doing live curator discussions on their Facebook page, called “FB Live”: https://www.facebook.com/pg/deYoungMuseum/events

More and more film makers and distributors are sharing free access to works that were only visible through DVD purchases or at limited runs in museums and art-house cinemas. Others are offering downloads or time-limited screenings for a donation to help out closed cinemas and their laid-off workers. Here is a sampling of films I have found and watched or hope to see.

The Green Fog, directed by Guy Maddin. https://vimeo.com/356966508

Helvetica, directed by Gary Hustwit. The first of Hustwit’s documentary films on design and designers that he is releasing here: https://www.ohyouprettythings.com/free

La Vendedora de Fósforos (The Little Match Girl), directed by Alejo Moguillansky, courtesy of El Pampero Cine. Streaming at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP3T1jmnkYs

Turns out that The Little Match Girl is one of a bunch of recent Latin American films that are now streaming. Argentine critic and curator Diego Lerer has the list on his Micropsia blog.

“Circle of Quarantine”: 10 Downloads of your choice for $49.95 from the catalog of Oscilloscope Labs. Many of Oscope’s films are on Kanopy, but there are gems here such as Madeline’s Madeline, River of Grass, L’Attesa, etc. https://store.oscilloscope.net/products/circle-of-quarantine

Kino Marquee, from Kino Lorber. Their initial screenings are of the fantastic Brazilian film Bacurau, directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho. I guess you visit one of their sponsored donees to actually purchase virtual tickets. These are Film at Lincoln Center (New York, NY), BAM (Brooklyn, NY), Jacob Burns Film Center (Pleasantville, NY), The Little Theatre (Rochester, NY), Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Riviera Theatre (Santa Barbara, CA), The Frida Cinema (Santa Ana, CA), Denver Film / Sie FilmCenter (Denver, CO), Belcourt Theater (Nashville, TN), Loft Cinema (Tucson, AZ), Austin Film Society (Austin, TX), Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH) and Aperture Cinema (Winston Salem, NC). If you like the Austin Film Society, here’s where to purchase a $12, five-day pass for Bacurau: https://kinonow.com/bacurau-austin-film-society

Virtual Cinema, from Film Movement. Currently offering screenings of six films that would have been in theatrical release. New films Corpus Christi, directed by Jan Komasa, The Wild Goose Lake by Diao Yinan, Zombi Child by Bertrand Bonello, and Advocate by Rachel Leah Jones. And restorations of some that I really want to see: Bruno Barreto’s Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976);The Killing Floor (1984), directed by Bill Duke; and especially Luchino Visconti’s L’Innocente (1976). https://www.filmmovement.com/in-theaters

Update on April 2, 2020:

Grasshopper Films and Magnolia Pictures have now joined in, offering tie-ins to art houses with Pedro Costa’s latest Vitialina Varela and new Romanian film The Whistlers, respectively.

On April 21, Neon pictures has joined in the video streaming-with-fundraising movement.

Shared film clubs are popping up, with links to suggested viewing. One local example is the California Film Institute‘s new website, CFI Selects: https://www.cafilm.org/cfi-selects