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Is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? Each day feels monumental and tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away.
— Joyce Carol Oates

We have entered the Pandemic Era of Covid-19.

Picacho Peak – Santa Fe, NM

Ms. Oates describes exactly how I’m feeling on this beautiful March afternoon. The world outside my window — the piñon, junipers, arroyo and labyrinth — looks the same. But, wait a minute. The world is completely different. All normal activities in my hometown have come to a screeching halt: cancelled, postponed, closed, finished. One of my hiking buddies has just come down with the virus. We were just together nine days ago. She’ll probably be fine, but it’s scary.

This morning at 9 a.m. I went for a walk. In 45 years of running, walking, and bicycling the same neighborhood, I have never seen it so deserted. Not a car on the roads, not a person in sight. Empty. This is a positive sign, I tell myself, as people are heeding the order to self-isolate. People are doing their part to “flatten the curve.” We must self-quarantine, not just for ourselves but for everyone.

When the going gets tough, the tough go hiking

That said, I’m finding newly available time to take walks, bike or hike; to tackle home projects that I’ve been putting off forever; to phone and catch up with friends from long ago; but above all, to move forward on The Hand of Ganesha, my novel-in-progress.

We’re adjusting to a “new normal.” It’s hard to remember what life used to be like before this strange juncture. I’ve gone from never having enough time to having nothing but time. This new paradigm, as author Joyce Carol Oates puts it, feels exactly “like a blank wall just a few inches away.” We must somehow fill in the blankness.

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Elaine Pinkerton has lived in Santa Fe since 1967. Join her for monthly blog posts Find her on Twitter: @TheGoodbyeBaby