A pair of Mallard drakes wandering a stream.In some ways, this “stay home” situation has not been terrible. It’s been a couple weeks since I had to buy gas (which is almost a shame with prices so low).

On the other hand, keeping track of time is a bit more difficult. It is weird, for instance, when Friday I think of something I must do Sunday, and when I wake up Saturday morning, I spend the first hour reminding myself it’s not time yet.

But there are some new business models. I know a fellow who was a regional manager for a major grocery chain. A few years ago, they tried “order online” and home delivery, as Amazon has been experimenting with the past year or two, but for the grocery store, the idea did not catch on the way the chain hoped it would, so they stopped it.

I have to admit part of the reason I like grocery shopping and banking in-person is to just say “Hi” to the person at the counter. It is nice to do business with someone who knows my name, even when we meet for only a few minutes every couple of weeks.

So it feels odd to sit in a grocery store parking lot, a bandana over my face like I wore in cowboys-and-Indians play of my childhood. I only partly see the young woman – herself masked – who places my purchase in the car, and have to remind myself this isn’t play. The “bullets” are equally invisible; their effect is potentially more deadly.

It is times like this when I am most appreciative of two-lane roads, where people are scarce and birds and other critters still entertain my camera, and where I can still get and stretch out my leg muscles. As long as I stay away from people.

That is the hardest part, because as much as I enjoy being alone in the wilderness, as soon as I get back I want to share what I found, such as standing by a stream watching a muskrat swim up to his favorite salad bar for dinner. There are plenty of grassy places along the creek, but he had his heart and taste buds on the one about six feet from my boots. As long as I stood still, he ate in piece, until he decided to get back in the water and go wherever was next on his itinerary.

Mrs. and Mr. Canada Goose have hatched a brood of nine soft yellow gooslings. They maintain social distance with me, but without indication of panic they might exhibit if, say, a fox were to slink too closely through the grass.

Northern mockingbirds cavort along the hedgerow, playing hide and seek with me and the other birds, occasionally allowing me a picture of the distinctive black-and-white flight-color pattern reminiscent of a nuclear materials icon.

The cable TV stars love to talk about big numbers, and remind us how much we exceed every other country in the world in deaths by Covid-19. But we are bigger than most of the other countries, many of them by a lot. Italy’s death total is just behind ours, and it is only one-sixth the population of the United States.

But any deaths are too many, so we must avoid being too close to people with whom we do not share television and bed. As I write these thoughts, about half the nation’s death toll is from New York City, where it is nearly impossible to stay six feet away from your neighbor even when both of you are in your own apartments.

A family of raccoons has moved in under our barn. Even they maintain “social distancing.”


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