We all mark time in ways that are both universal and deeply personal. Birthdays, anniversaries, changing seasons. The passage of time has felt especially significant since the start of the pandemic. At first, I was marking time by how many days in a row I wore yoga pants. Or the last time I ventured out to the grocery store. Or how many inches of gray was showing at the roots of my hair. Now, I'm marking time by the grooming appointments for my dog.
Every five weeks, Gravy transforms from a Wilford-Brimley doggelganger (dog version of a doppelganger, of course) into a little tiny baby Gravy thanks to the careful snips and fluffs and trims made by his groomer. And every time one of those appointments comes around, I'm struck by how slowly the days seem to drift and how quickly the weeks seem to stack up.
For all intents and purposes, quarantine started in my household on March 16th. The day before, Dan and I were at one of our favorite local spots - Cream and Amber, a bookstore on Main Street in downtown Hopkins, MN. Our Sunday morning ritual was to get there early and snag one of the tables in the back where we could sip tea (me) and iced coffee (Dan), while journaling (me) and working on lesson plans (Dan). Every 20 minutes or so one of us would get up to stretch and languidly browse the shelves, bringing a new book back to the table and adding it to the growing stack that would come home with us.
On this particular Sunday morning, we were killing time while Gravy endured his every-5-week grooming appointment at Zoom Groom nearby, and I posted this shot on Instagram. It was taken moments before Dan found out that in-person learning would cease the very next day at the school where he teaches.
I've scrolled back to this post frequently over the past week or so. It took me a while to realize why: This was the last moment before everything changed in my little world.
The photo and the caption convey an innocence that I didn't even realize was in me at the time. Right then, I had no idea what lay ahead. In that sweet, mundane moment, my mind was on tea, that stack of books, and my bright yellow nail polish. The tone of that caption and of my very next post, put up a few hours later, is noticeably different.
I'm not sure who exactly I was trying to reassure when I wrote that we were careful to observe social distancing while out and about. I think I was questioning whether we should have been out and about. We'd thought it was fine, but then everything we thought we knew changed in the blink of an eye. Maybe it wasn't fine. I didn't know.
I still don't know. I've grown accustomed to supporting my local businesses through online ordering and curbside pick-up. I worry that I've lost the ability to navigate what used to be second nature, like a crowded aisle at Ulta or merging onto the highway. A mindless scroll through Instagram or a walk through my neighborhood readily show me what some folks are comfortable doing, and I wonder if I'm being overly cautious. Then I wonder if being overly cautious in a pandemic is actually possible. I honestly don't know. Ask again in another five grooming appointments.
I did find myself this past Sunday sitting at a table at Cream and Amber for the first time since March, journaling and sipping tea while waiting for Gravy to finish up at his most recent grooming appointment. This time, our seating option was outdoors and had been reserved in advance. Dan and I sat on the otherwise empty patio, red and yellow leaves skittering across our feet and a chilly breeze ruffling the napkins under our drinks. I was wrapped up in a blanket that Dan had teased me about grabbing from home but which I think he secretly wanted to steal off my lap. I drank tea and journaled. Dan sipped iced coffee before putting on his mask to browse the books inside.
Alone, I glanced around at what was familiar, yet very different, and told myself, "Hold on to this moment. There might be something coming that you don't know about. But you do know that it's a beautiful, fall morning. The tea is good. You are OK. And it will be another five weeks before Gravy has to be groomed."
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This is a place to celebrate all the parts of yourself that come with age and experience. I'm here to share with you what I know and to explore with you the many (many) things I don't.