MaryAnn Moenck, Rural Western Wisconsin

At home with my husband since March 11 except for grocery runs and care packages dropped off at Mom’s assisted living in Maplewood, Minnesota. I last hugged my 95-year-old mother on March 5. 
Journal entries May 10 to May 17

May 10: Mothers Day. Did nothing. It sucked.
May 11 – May 12: Crabby Mom. Helicopter at 4:30 a.m. Failed video connect. She is giving up. I am disheartened. Cause of death: Abundance of caution.
May 13: I ordered an oversimplified tablet for Mom that will give us video chats. It’s a glimmer . . . Waiting on rain to plant our garden. The dirt is hard and dry. 
May 14: We planted the vegetable garden today. After weeks of poor quality lettuce in the store plus Covid concerns, I am looking forward most to fresh salads this summer. The lettuce row looks colorful, bright, and mouth-watering. 
May 15: First mowing of the season, and perfect weather. I am appropriately tired now at bedtime. Curbside supper from WaterShed while the rest of Wisconsin goes crazy with the Wisconsin Supreme Court opening the state abruptly. Supreme, my ass. Idiots! 
May 16: Ran the new tablet to Mom’s. Saw her through glass. She had a bad day, even told me the 8-inch tablet was too heavy to lift. I drank more wine than necessary after that. 
May 17: Triumph. “I love this thing!” Mom said, during our first video chat. She is just inside of capable with the new tablet. Online Scrabble with Mike and Ginny. They kicked our butts. Inch and a half of rain, badly needed. Good day. Goodnight. 

My Subway Driver

Kathleen M. Churchill, St. Germain-en-Laye, France        

Sheltering in place since March 14
Journal entries March 17 – April 4

March 17
H. arrives today. We seal the hallway to his room, ceiling to floor, using duct tape and thick plastic trash bags. I’m not sure how long he’ll be quarantined in there (M. just popped her head in to say two weeks). 
March 22
Seven days tomorrow since we’ve left the house. All week, police have been stopping pedestrians and motorists asking to see permission slips we are meant to carry with us. Yesterday, in balmy spring sunshine they were megaphone shouting “rentrez chez vous!” Go home!
March 25
We sneak into the forest for walks. Beneath budding trees, as far as you can see, small white flowers sheltering in dark greenery make a floral carpet, paths winding through, as if in a fairytale.
March 26
People who have never run, jog down the empty street—they look not yet defeated.
H. doesn’t leave his room. M. calls to him through the plastic. Sometimes he answers, sometimes he doesn’t. We put out food. Much of our days are spent worrying about our sons.
March 28
Evening cocktails in the garden. H. climbed out his bedroom window and sat in a chair under the blossoming chestnut tree while we huddled by the house, talking with him over the phone. 
March 31
Lapis blue skies. Last night strong winds blew open windows, dislodged shutters banging from their locks.
April 4
From my bedroom I can hear the train going to and from Paris. I wonder who, if anyone, still rides it.

Merry Benezra, Nova Scotia, Canada          

Sheltering in place with my cat Kali under our Provincial State of Emergency since March 22
Journal entry May 11

I dreamed of thirst, was thirsty overnight but too deeply asleep to do anything about it. A newspaper article about pandemic drinking mentions the problem of alcohol as a sleep disruptor, but I am finding it the very opposite. It is like wading into the Ouse with rocks sewn into one’s sweater pockets – effective. But it occurred to me to give some thought to my liver, or kidneys, or whatever organ has the difficult job of cleaning out the toxins. So I will make an effort to drink only one spritzer and refill with San Pellegrino. 

Yesterday I went upstairs to slip an apple cobbler recipe under Adele’s door. There was an ambulance in front of our building, and EMTs in full pandemic gear. It turned out that Winnie had fallen, yet when she left on the stretcher she seemed in marvelously good spirits. The excitement brought Clarissa out into the hallway, masked; she reported brightly that she has lung cancer, but that it is on, not inside, her lung, and it is shrinking. Adele came out and we triangulated at two meters apart to chat, each one holding her corner.

It was cold and drizzly and I too stayed indoors all day, in a funk and not even doing the 10-loonie apartment jog. Some of the trees are generating ragged green buds. Soon, or within a week or two, they should come into full leaf. Rain, here, is the magician that pulls summer out of its hat. I cannot wait.

Eric Forsbergh, Reston, Virginia              

Sheltering as much as possible since March 20 while providing dental services for emergencies only
Journal entry April 15

As a dentist, I am in a high-risk category, because I work literally in the patient’s mouth. Our office is open for emergencies only. If someone has an oral abscess, we need to treat them so they don’t overburden the emergency room.  
We take all precautions available to us, including personal protective equipment, but the N95 masks are on back order, and we have none of them. We take temperatures, and ask if patients have fever or cough. 
I worry about the healthy carriers of COVID19, who are shedding the virus. Also, there will be patients shedding virus who are not yet sick. My face has to be 18 inches from the patient’s mouth. Using the drill, there is an aerosol mist which spreads to a five-foot radius from the mouth. Contaminated with virus or not, it settles all over me and my assistant. Our necks are exposed, as are the backs of our heads. 
My wife and I have discussed this. I’m 69. My good health is my best protection, but, honestly, I expect to get the virus. We can’t get near our two children, each married, and each with a baby under six months. Including their spouses, I ache to hug all six of them.
I struggle with the chance of infecting my wife, and have offered to live in the basement. But she’s decided we’re in this together.                             

Berry Point

April 1 
Despite no official COVID-19 deaths, the Vietnamese government announces a two-week nationwide lockdown campaign starting today, pre-empting any potential outbreaks. All non-essential businesses and services shut down, gatherings of two-plus people are banned and everyone is urged to stay at home. As Vietnam’s borders have already closed – no one can fly in or out – I feel more isolated than ever.  

The evening before, like many Saigonese, I dash to the supermarket for a siege mentality stock-up. But like elsewhere, things are calm and well organized and there are mounds of supplies. Almost having a meltdown in the long check-out queues, locals shoot me empathetic glances over their mandatory face masks. 

My annual leave also begins today. With no office camaraderie and living alone, I don’t talk to anyone for days, sometimes just the apartment security guard (who doesn’t speak any English). I can still venture out, albeit HCMC’s once vibrant street-life is now eerily silent and shuttered. And I can exercise; my neighbourhood canal running track is bustling with joggers – no social distancing here. 
April 10
My last day of work and the department is shutting down, effects of the global pandemic. We hold a subdued farewell lunch in the office before my Vietnamese colleagues rush back to the countryside. There are no taxis; overladen with my desk clear-outs, I lurch home on a motorbike variety.                                

Vivienne Vermes, Paris, France

In lockdown since March 17 
Journal entry April 15

I live in the centre of Paris, in the heart of Montparnasse. This is normally one of the noisiest, most raucous parts of Paris. Now, the only sound I hear is a pigeon cooing.

Walking down to the crossroads between the Boulevard Raspail and the Boulevard du Montparnasse, I talk to the ghosts of Hemingway, Picasso, Beckett, Scott Fitzgerald. I stand in front of their cafés, the Rotonde, the Dôme and the Select, and wonder if they could ever have imagined this crossroads silent, deserted, the café chairs their wicker backs stacked clumsily against the windows, like the beige scales of some unruly reptile. 

Later, back in my flat, the spring daylight fades into dusk. I open the window. The dark, impassive façades of the buildings opposite look like so many empty faces. 

Then I hear it. Faint at first. Someone out there is clapping. The applause grows. People are bashing saucepans, clashing together spoons, or lids, or colanders, and clapping and cheering and whistling. This cacophony goes beyond the quartier, I can hear it in waves across the city.

Then comes the peal of bells from Notre Dame, the first time in a year, since the terrible fire. The bells merge with the applause. Gratitude for the heroes. I think of John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself . . . therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”                                                 

Unknown Despair. Collage.
Invisible Boundaries. Collage.

John D. Thompson, Pella, Iowa 

Sheltering in place alone since Monday, March 16
Journal entry March 30

Finally, I found out what PPE means! I’ve been listening to Coronavirus reports since Leap Year Day. I bet I’ve heard “PPE” said a thousand times and then some but never could spread that acronym out: Personal Protective Equipment! Of course! “PPE” at 3 syllables is much shorter than “Personal Protective Equipment” at 9! It seems the Coronovirus syndrome has found its way to the world of acronyms. Just ask the CDC or WHO. 

FYI, “ACH” is for “air changes per hour.” “ARI” abbreviates “acute respiratory infection.” “ASTM” unveils the “American Society for Testing and Materials” (now gone international). 

Being “AC” myself (acronym challenged), I’m finding myself OOB (out of breath) to keep up with all these media airborne acronyms for Co-Vid . . . there’s another one. And, for God’s sakes, what does the “N” stand for in N95 masks? “N”obody has one . . . or “N”early 95 masks available at this time?

I vow to learn at least 1 new CVA (coronavirus acronym) per day, starting today. Let’s start with “HEPA” shall we? Any guesses! “HEPA” stands for “high efficiency particulate air.” Now, that sounds good to me . . . especially the “high efficiency” part. At first, I thought HEPA meant “Help Each Person Always.”  

Speaking of HEPA, we are in a HEPA trouble if we don’t acquire quicker testing, combative antidotes, and a vaccine in the VNF (very near future).

Fireaters Boogaboo
Fireaters Promise

Kathleen Klassen, Ottawa, Ontario

I have been in relative isolation for many years as a result of a significant head injury and sheltering in place with two teenage boys since mid-March.
Journal entry March 23

I have seen memes suggesting that pandemics are no time to text your ex. (No time to shower, wash your hair or dress up in a ball gown either, but that hasn’t stopped anyone, amarite?) When it appeared things might be shutting down quickly a week and a half ago, I did just that – not the ball gown part, but pink boa and sparkly blue stilettos. And I called my ex. He was very grateful for my concern and as a result of the open dialogue I asked if he could help us out. (I was quite beside myself with thoughts of full-time single-parenting AND the zombie apocalypse. I can do one or the other – don’t think I could manage both.) With unexplained coughing in the house, I had to avoid grocery stores. I also thought I might look odd shopping in stilettos. He willingly agreed and delivered groceries the next day.
He texted a few days later to see if we “needed anything.” I wondered what kind of madness this was (we don’t talk or text) and then remembered it was pandemic days so anything was possible! Yes, we need things! We need so many things I can’t keep my head on straight – puffers and nose spray and a restart on life and most of all frozen pizza!
When he showed up again with bagsful of groceries, I was wearing my holey, unwashed sweats, a much more accurate depiction of my state.

Photo of handwritten journal entry
Photo of red tulip
The Last Tulip

Pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper.