Looking Down 33rd Street From Elm Street

Looking Down 33rd Street From Elm Street

Every day is the same, and the sameness is grinding. I’m incredibly routinized in general, and it took me only a few days to have a brand new quarantine routine. I still get up at the same time every day, but instead of commuting to work I read a book for awhile and then dither around on the internet. I next join my 8am Zoom Cat Chat group and then my Zoom writing group and attempt to put words on the page for two hours. That’s what I’m doing right now–putting words down for a little bit of time every day. This morning’s words are here.

On teaching days I log onto Blackboard Collaborate and hope some students show up for our voluntary synchronous classes, because seeing their faces (well, mostly hearing their voices) makes me feel grounded. We talk for an hour and fifteen minutes and then it’s time to make sandwiches. I spend my afternoon reading, grading, FaceTiming, fretting, but, if I’m being honest, mostly scrolling aimlessly through social media feeds.

The best part of my day is when I get to go outside for a little bit. A walk, a bike ride, or a run, every day, no matter what, unless there’s a windstorm like yesterday. That I have time for this, for any of this–the writing, the fretting, the scrolling, the running, the calling–is evidence of my incredible good fortune, and I remember that especially when I’m outside. I live in a beautiful and complicated place, and I have the resources to see and think about all of that beauty and complication.

Every day is the same, and the sameness is grinding, but I am grateful for the particular grind I’ve got.

Wednesday’s trip outside took me on my bike up to Hampden. My general goals were twofold: find flour, and say hi to J., a friend from New Orleans who is now a friend from Baltimore. She’s got a porch, an incredible luxury for an occasional short socially distanced hello. It was near 80 degrees, so I coated myself with sunscreen, put on sunglasses, and left my arms and legs bare. I pedaled over and past the art museum and thought briefly about going in–obviously a no-go–and then up and around to Roland Avenue. I headed up the bike lane to the Eddie’s in Roland Park. That social media scrolling told me I’d find flour there.

I locked up my bike, sanitized my hands, put on a mask, and dipped in and out of the store. I sanitized my hands again, unlocked my bike, put the flour in my pannier, sanitized my hands again, and removed my mask before hopping on the bike again to ride back to Hampden. I don’t go into stores often, but I’ve got a routine for them as well.

I rolled down the hill in the sunshine under blue skies to J.’s house, where I stood at a distance and we talked about how we’re both doing. There’s not a whole lot to say about that, but it was good to hear her little bit and to have mine heard too. She held her cat up to the window, I waved, and I was off again.

I snapped this picture looking down 33rd Street before heading home. The sky, the clouds, the rows of houses, the flowering tree–it’s so pretty. Springtime in Baltimore is my favorite (or at least tied with fall). It’s hard for me to know what to do with the beauty right now. It feels indulgent to enjoy it amidst the devastation. It also feels wasteful not to. Like, I’d trade it all for people to stop dying, for parts of this world to turn back on again, for us to get to be with each other, but that trade’s not on the table. We’re in virus time now, and we just have to wait it out. So why not enjoy the moments of pleasure we can get? The bits of human connection, the sensation of sun and breeze, the smells of new blooms–I want it all. It is beautiful and complicated.

And then I was home again, bike in the basement, flour in the kitchen, back on the couch, scrolling and waiting. I’m good at routine.

One thought on “Looking Down 33rd Street From Elm Street

  1. As always I love to ride along with you. Looks like the lovely spring color I am seeing too through my windows. I, however, have not been out in ages. Taking NO chances. At all.

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