After making a coronavirus-related shopping note on my calendar for March 31, I looked down again at what I had entered a month earlier.

“Hope arrives,” March 30. “Matt and Will arrive,” April 1.


This was going to be a fun time, with a sister, brother-in-law and nephew coming from Montana for a spring break. There would be two arrival times due to Montana horse and calf feeding needs, chicken-coop protection and school schedules.  They would first stop in Utah for a visit with another sister and family and stop off for another visit in Colorado .


Then came coronavirus concerns. We called off the trip on March 12.  Now, we are isolated in our respective beautiful places, frustrating ourselves with one-finger typing as we try to stay in touch, the Montanans teaching and studying online.

Here, I was glad to hear that a 97-year-old friend and neighbor here is being looked after by her daughters, although one of them is having her own troubles with cancer treatments.

I have COPD and got messed up the other day by March wind and dust and pollen. A neighbor came by to take Cowboy for a run while I stayed inside on another gusty day. It was an off-day from her job as a nurse. We used to walk our dogs together several times a week. Last time we met, we approached opposite directions on our public lands trail and chatted only briefly, from six feet away, almost a half-mile from anyone else.


I stood six-feet away from my stepsister yesterday when I dropped by her nearby home to deliver a book and an old laptop for her and pick up the bunch of celery she had bought for me. She had been busy with her sewing machine, stitching face masks for health-care workers. She gave one to me. As a handy, ranch-raised kid, she was proud of the piece of pipe cleaner she stitched into the fabric to go over the nose. It works.


A dentist who lives up the hill volunteered to run errands and shop for groceries for me and other neighbors. When I did my last shopping at the small, local grocery on March 18, a older woman moved slowly and alone in in the aisles. When she checked out, the register clerk hurried to carry out her bags. The manager told me the woman had just lost her assistance dog.

Version 2

Three days ago, March 25, was the fifth anniversary since the end of my radiation and chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer. Another neighbor, a scientist with cancer problems of her own, has reminded me that the five-year mark is just a statistic relative to a chronic disease. I’m still chuckling because I know scientists mean the presentation of facts to be helpful, not unkind.

The anniversary got lost in the shuffle, anyway. The specter looming larger and closer now is COVID – 19.

I am watching CNN many hours a day, watching a worldwide experience that faster thinkers than I have said could be a generational milestone and marks, at least for now, radical changes in human behavior. To say nothing of the many now sick and dying. I am still half-incredulous, despite the news soaking in for several weeks. I wonder whether the experience will be the biggest one in the lives of younger relatives, or whether there will be even more, the pace of cataclysms accelerating. I think Cowboy keeps sensing I’m spooked and gets spooky himself.

It is indeed a big story. I notice my friend Larry, a retired wire-service newsman, has taken to posting local COVID -19 bulletins on his Crestone Conglomerate website up in Colorado.


A coffee klatch of retired newspaper people attempted a socially-distanced gathering online yesterday. The klatch leader, well-meaning although maybe not so technologically proficient, suggested using email. With a dozen or so participants, it turned out to be pretty hard to follow. One beloved member finally got through after the fact, resorting to emailing us individually while pleading that his computer, in addition to other oddities, lacked a “reply all” button. I thought later it was all worth it, if only because it reminded me of the newsroom cacophony that I got so used to during 40 years in the business.

I am a veteran of social distancing for non-epidemiological reasons and even in the current mess, so hard on so many, especially in the big cities, I feel fortunate. I am a little banged up after 70 years of life, some of the damage surely self-inflicted, but I think my constitution is still strong. I just hope this finds my friends and family feeling well, too.

So, cheers, all. And keep your distance.

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