Ken Felt team photo
The Ability 360 team. Felt pictured far right.

Fiona Jones, Dunfermline, Scotland 

Lockdown beginning to ease after 3 months
Journal entry July 2

Family conversations in lockdown be like: “So where did you go for your Covid walk today?”
(Covid Walk, noun: The single daily outdoor walk from home, as permitted by UK government during COVID19 lockdown.)
“I went up the hill northwards—and guess what I saw! A tree like a city: everything lives in it.”
So from then on the tree has a name: the City Tree. A metropolis of busy thriving life within its roots and trunk and asymmetric branches. A tree that’s been treeing for centuries, long enough to stand there treeing the rest of the trees how to tree. 
We’ve seen more trees in Lockdown than in the twenty years we’ve lived here. Birch trees, white-barked, light-foliaged, airy. Oak trees, slow-growing, late-leafing, in attitude more fighter than dancer. Horse chestnuts unfolding bat-wing leaves and blossoming like candles. Beech trees, so thick-canopied there’s little but mosses and mast underneath, yet full of holes and niches and food-chains of crawling life. The City Tree is a beech. 
Trees are comforting presences: old but not garrulous; alive but never demanding. You can heal, you can dream, you can think under trees, and envision the World After Lockdown Ends—what it should be like. I think we should fly less, buy less stuff, spend less time travelling, more time walking outdoors. I think we would live longer, breathe better that way. 
The trees told me this, and they ought to be right. They’ve lived long enough to tell us how it’s done. 

Daffodils Down the Block. Gouache.
Coronavirus. Gouache.

Susan Felt, Phoenix, Arizona

Sheltering in place since March 13
Journal entry June 17

Amanda and Michael and the kids are back home. We all survived.
When Michael called in April to “explore” the possibility of coming to Phoenix to escape Chicago during this global pandemic, our tepid “of-course-we-would-love-to-see-our-grandchildren” response revealed the conflict that rumbled beneath.
First, there was the 28-hour straight through drive he was suggesting. Our seven-year-old grandson has rheumatic heart disease. He’s as high on the vulnerability list for Covid-19 as his wheelchair-bound 71-year-old grandfather. We’d been isolated in our home since early March. 
Then what about those public bathrooms? Roadside “nature” stops. Eating? Car trouble? Falling asleep at the wheel come hour 18? Quarantining for two weeks once you get here?
Our daughter. Our son-in-law. Our grandchildren. We live for our visits with them.
But this time, it was hardly, we can’t wait to see you.
He painted a compelling picture. When will we ever have this opportunity? The Chicago cousins can be with their Phoenix cousins. We can have Papa Ken and Nanasus’s school with our grandchildren. Our family can be together. Take walks. Watch Netflix. Bond. Do puzzles. Play charades. 
Catch the coronavirus. Fall apart. 
Such was the need to seek sunshine, a swimming pool and an outdoors where their children could play without fear of navigating crowds of unmasked Chicagoans, that they came. They spent a night in a hotel, thus eliminating the possibility of falling asleep at the wheel. Handled food and nature responsibly. Quarantined for two weeks. And stayed an extra week.
They are back home putting together a trampoline to keep the kids active until parks and the lakefront are reopened. Michael was right. When would we ever have this time again? 

photo of a Little Library

Karen Leathean, Northern Territory, Australia

Journal entry March 24

A trip to Casuarina Shopping Centre showed me closed and boarded up food court spaces. Usually busy, a place for some retired groups to enjoy a coffee and interaction. Now tables are collected together and wrapped in acres of calico cloth. I wonder if a local fabric shop gleefully sold yards of this fabric. A few outlets still offer take-away only. Seniors who met in these places—where are they now? 
Security appears to be a growth profession. Wandering around giving people a warning to purchase essentials and move on. Despite Northern Territory virus cases only resultant from overseas arrivals, and as yet without community spread. Perhaps these high-visibility vest wearers just enjoy the power?
Every time I buy something, I ask, ‘are you happy to take cash?’ expecting to be told, ‘no, cards only.’ 
Extent and randomness of empty shelves continues to startle. Paper towels, empty as if manufactures all agreed to limit production. Eggs, my daughter suggested, might be scarce due to long distances they must be transported. We are more than 3,000k from the closest egg farm. 
The new normal of staff members offering hand sanitiser and trolley wipes is clearly visible as are floor markings declaring how far apart supermarket patrons must stand. 
I am disappointed to note long queues snaking from the Centrelink (Unemployment office) despite early tropical heat. But vanishing jobs is one reason I can afford time to travel to Darwin. 

Orman Day, Laurel, Maryland

Sheltering in place since March 15
Journal entry June 15

Not long after questioning whether a friendly poltergeist had hidden her hearing aid in a candy bowl, Mom was jarred by more paranormal activity in her locked-down rooms. For her 101st birthday on May 28, Mom received a bouquet of flowers and gas-filled “Happy Birthday” balloons. After a few weeks, the flowers wilted and dropped their petals and were whisked away by the facility’s cleaning lady. 
Drooping somewhat, the three multi-colored balloons remained huddled together in a corner of the front room. Then, defying scientific explanation, one of the balloons floated into Mom’s bedroom. 
“I have framed photos of family members on top of my dresser,” Mom told me during our daily phone conversation. “It floated down and stopped in front of different people to look at them . . . like they knew each other.”
She returned the balloon to the front room, but later, the balloon wandered back to the bedroom and landed on her pillow. Creeped out, Mom feared the balloon wouldn’t let her sleep, so she anchored it to the teddy bear in the front room.
On Saturday, ever-cheerful Melody rolled a serving cart into Mom’s front room to deliver punch and cookies. It was Melody’s birthday—so Mom, who had to restrain herself from giving the aide a great big hug—presented the errant balloon to her. Giggling, Melody tied it to her cart. Relieved to be rid of the mischief-maker, Mom smiled and waved as the balloon bobbed out the door. 

April 12 Doodle
April 28 Doodle

Stephen Kingsnorth, Wrexham, Wales, UK

Sheltering in place since March 17
Journal entry April 28

Today is Tuesday; my weekly marker, recycling collection, woke me. My routine as yesterday, echo of 6 weeks’ advised Parkinson’s self-isolation. Rain prevented D asking me to take a walk; unless limbs are very sore, it is easier to consent. I pretend control. Such victories are pyrrhic, consequences costly. My self-assertions are petty; I become the child I claim not to be. Since lockdown, we have slept in separate rooms; creeping alone under the insomnia duvet in the early hours causes less tension. I changed TV channels, hearing her bed creak. By the time D descends, I have washed yesterday’s dishes, managed to sneak the almost-drained into the cupboards. I have sorted pills, fed the aquarium, and waited; to take breakfast alone is unwise. She called me to sort my salad lunch and cooked the usual delicious healthy vegetarian dinner. My visits to the gym have ended, my weight increasing. I dread the question. She has baked lemon cakes for the neighbors, kept one for us. They are good, but calorific; she is unsettled if I decline. She spent the day making face-masks. Her skill is undeniable: I was called to take a photograph. My hours passed writing poetry; most is poor. Yet when frequent rejections arrive, I sink. Despite the late-night anti-depressant, I grow morose. My drifting hope is that in the morning I will remember to maintain my sadness. Usually leg pain shifts recall. Tomorrow will repeat today, without recycling. Will I remember it must be Wednesday?

Drink Black Liquid Death. Drawn April 15th in response to an April 13th dream.
When the Glasses Come Off. Drawn June 3rd.

Amie McGraham, Scottsdale, Arizona

Journal entries March 11-15

March 11
3 airports, 2 airplanes, 2 nursing homes, this tiny state with more pine trees than 
people, a skeevy Best Western, another fucking hospital and I have lost. An. Entire. Day. Something pushing me from motel to the long wooded driveway up to the hospital. Patches of snow. Yellow-gray sun slowly dropping. A meditation room. Blue stained glass and peace elusive. Mom asks me: “Is my daughter coming?”
March 12
Brunswick-Bath Best Western “Plus.” Unclear what qualifies that superlative. 
Not their bitter coffee. “Everyone looks for pots,” says the breakfast area server. 
“It’s not in pots.” Continues wiping down the table, spray bottle of disinfectant 
hooked to her belt loop.
“I’m glad you’re cleaning the surfaces,” a white haired woman remarks. “I was going to attend an . . . event in Portland Saturday but I’ve decided against it.” 
No one comments. What would you say? That’s too bad? Sorry to hear? Good idea?
Meanwhile, a questionable president addressed his flock in a stilted feel-good speech last night. No one feels good about this. 
March 13
Of course. I’m in dementia hell, hotel hell, virus hell. Exited hospital hell, 
Mom back at the Vicarage, so there’s that. 

Blood transfusion? No. Palliative Care? No. Hospice visits? Again, NO. Mom is . . . changing. She looks chalky. Translucent. Doing that weird hand thing, 
moving her bony fingers through the air as if directing an orchestra. 
March 15
6:39 am. Can’t get out of bed. I —
Mom’s place on lockdown. Dad’s place quarantined, 2 positive cases.

Naomi Karp, Washington, DC

Sheltering in place since March 13
Journal entry April 16

My dad’s mishpachah was wonderful. Zayde chanted every syllable at Brooklyn Passover seders. Bubbe made kreplach soup and had soft skin. But they were dime-a-dozen Eastern Europeans from the shtetl. 

Mom had the more exotic if frightening tale. A teenaged refugee from Nazi Germany, she escaped because Aunt Eugenie married a State Department guy. They’d lived through Kristallnacht, Grandpa’s Dachau stay, and losing the family distillery, “Borato.”
Now that they’re scattered, an electronic thread sews my maternal side together. The first email had the unlikely tagline “Seasons Greetings?” Cousin Frank in Germany, 90, wonders how Die Familie is surviving this viral nightmare. “Though the civilization-whitewash of us humans is rather thin, let’s all hope that things will improve and that the world might be just a little bit better.”

Through the miracle of “Reply All,” letters ping-pong around the globe. A cousin in Providence shares joy: a new grandson born, named for his grandpa who survived Hitler. Another explains Die Familie’s Argentina branch. The Third Reich brought them south. Later some moved to Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and even Deutschland. Who knew?

Greg splits time between England and China, but is social distancing in the Nevada desert. We’re a modern Diaspora. 

Emails still fly around our pandemic planet, sparked by a rabbi’s exhortation: “Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.” I feel the heat of the family hug.

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

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.