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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Borrowed Time

And so the long winter passed. Until—at last, at last!—came the first intimations of spring. And (for all the characters concerned) a strange spring it turned out to be . . .  
-      Mary Norton, The Borrowers Avenged

In this strange spring of ours, 2020, when every day feel like Sunday, I got up at 6 a.m. this Saturday and worked outdoors on writing the entire morning – journal entry, draft of a book review, grocery list notes -- sitting with my coffee at our “new” outdoor porch table. Spring has definitely reached southern Arizona, and these days that feel like Michigan summer days call me out the door as soon as the sun is up. My son in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and sisters in northern Illinois are having grey, rainy days today. We could use a little rain here in Cochise County. The ground is much too dry. But it’s hard to complain about a clear blue sky and weather warm enough for shorts.

Yesterday I made sourdough bagels from scratch, a task that took up the better part of a day. The Artist pronounced them “Perfect!” So this afternoon, positively lounging on my laurels, I gave myself a break and only mixed up a pan of banana bread. 

Banana bread makes the house smell so delicious! And getting my baking done early in the day leaves plenty of time for a refreshing breeze to move through and cool the house. Doors and windows open! What luxury!

So now, with a good morning’s and early afternoon’s work behind me, I am relaxing with a story from the Borrowers series, perfect light reading for what feels like a summer’s afternoon. Except –

Arietty was silent…. Three human beans at least, perhaps four—perhaps even more—knew they had been here, knew they had departed, but (unless they gave the game away) there was no one, as yet, who knew they had returned.    
It was for this reason Pod had forbidden them the use of light or fire, had kept them away from the windows, and throughout the daylight hours had confined them to the miniature house. Such days, with Pod and Spiller away, could sometimes seem very long. It was late March, and three days had passed…. And still Pod and Spiller had not come.

Here in our rented ghost town cabin, the Artist and are not absolutely “confined” to the house (we have wide, open spaces all around) and need not avoid windows (people know we are here, and that’s fine). But are the days long?

My son and I discussed that question by phone recently. He says that for him a day can seem long as it’s passing, but at day’s end it seems to have gone by quickly. For me, an occasional day can seem slow in its passing, but mostly time flies by, even now, even without any kind of scheduled obligations. Making bagels, for instance – as I say, that’s a project that takes up most of a day. I meant to make them on Thursday but forgot until too late in the day, pushing the task off to Friday, which meant after a long hike through the wash with my neighbor and our dogs. As a consequence, Friday flew by, I fell asleep early, and was not up this morning until, as I say, 6 o’clock.

Writing a book review takes hours of writing and rewriting and revising before I deem it worthy to go up on my blog. Every week or two, also, I plan a serious floor scrubbing, but somehow that job can be put off day after day until finally tackled and accomplished. And while I did find a nice, clean window squeegee in one of the sheds recently (perhaps one we brought with us from Michigan in December for the car windows), I have yet to wash the windows of our little cabin. Again, day after day slips away, and the window-washing job remains on the to-do list. 

Because every day there are meals to plan and prepare and to wash up after, walks to take with Sarah, books to read, and letters to write. There are phone calls to make and texts to send and e-mail messages and Facebook comments to check and reply to. (Please note: “The language has a rule absurd/which I would call an outworn myth:/A preposition is word/you mustn’t end a sentence with.” My father loved that little rhyme.)

So the days do not hang heavy, and my hands are not idle, but still --

Pod, from where he stood, leaned forwards, placing two tired hands on the shelf above the fireplace. He bowed his head. Then, after a moment, he slowly raised it. “Homily,” he said, “I don’t want to scare you. Nor you neither, Arietty. But you got to realize that every minute we’re here, we’re in grave danger.”

The Artist and I are not in grave danger where we are, sheltering in place far from our Michigan farmhouse, and we would not be in grave danger there, either, but the necessary travel to get from Point A  in southern Arizona to Point B in northern Michigan gives us serious pause. Added to that, we ask ourselves, What's the rush? Most businesses remain closed, people are still asked to avoid unnecessary travel, and the likelihood of any kind of tourist season this summer seems slim if it's going to happen at all. These facts conspire to keep us from feeling much urgency about taking on the perils of travel until we feel good and ready.

So when we will be back? We. Don’t. Know. It’s like the question, "When will things get back to normal?" Or the question, "When will the economy recover?"  No one knows! Everything is uncertainty and speculation, and we’re all taking life one day at a time, which is the only way it can ever be taken, although in "normal" times we forget that simple truth.

Meanwhile, today I’m relaxing with the Borrowers and trying not to let too many questions about an uncertain future intrude on my escape reading, even when the reading itself keeps reminding me of the questions.

P.S. You can find my last "adventure close to home," i.e., close to the rented cabin we are calling home at present, here


Deborah said...

I so love the Borrowers. Never have seen the last movie made about Pod, Homily and Arietta. Staying where you are is such an excellent idea!

P. J. Grath said...

Is there more than one Borrowers movie? The one I saw I didn't like. It had "bad Borrowers"! Also, they collapsed several books into one movie. But I know some people who liked it, anyway. Traditionalist that I am, I'm sticking with the books.

Dawn said...

I loved the Borrowers too. It would be fun to read them again, years later and from an adult perspective.