Campfire Songs: Reality Frights

This is a bit of a troubling read, but I had to let it out, and eventually we get back to the good. And this was actually written last night, so the date references are now slightly wonky…


It was announced earlier this evening that Dallas County has been ordered to “shelter in place”, effective tomorrow at midnight. My first thought was that there is going to be a mad rush of folks racing to get supplies. (Which is really not necessary because essential services, like grocery stores, are going to remain open and we are allowed to go to places like that. There has been no indication that the supply chain is in serious jeopardy, just a little slow with certain items because people have been hoarding.)

So, my second thought was that we should not contribute to the madness by joining the rush. We have plenty of food, and our gas tanks are full, because we have been anticipating this development. Naturally, my third thought, because even the best of us experience mild panic in times like this, was that maybe we should pick up a few more things, just in case. (For the record, I have an anxiety disorder. Not offering this as an excuse, merely setting the scene for my state of mind.)

We went to one of our local Kroger grocery stores. It was moderately busy, but we’ve seen it much worse. Everyone was very polite (there was a charming young lady who was personally sanitizing each shopping cart as we took one), everyone was behaving respectfully (although it was clear that some folks did not understand the “Six Feet” aspect of social distancing, despite the signs posted everywhere), and there was no bickering or fighting as people calmly selected items and placed them in their carts.

But it was very quiet. Too quiet. Many of the aisles were well-stocked, but others had a few gaps, starkly empty sections. No bread. No milk. No hamburger meat. (My apologies to vegans. I know I shouldn’t, but I still do.) Of course, these three items are hoarder targets, and the evidence of their self-indulgence was clear. Again, supply chain is fine, if people would just act accordingly. Still, it was unsettling.

And the children. They aren’t sure what’s going on, but they know something is bothering Mommy and Daddy and Big Sister. They know they should be going to pre-school but they aren’t. They know the bread aisle shouldn’t look like that. They sat calmly in their little seats in the slow-rolling carts and didn’t try to grab every package of cookies or donuts they passed.

Suddenly, I just wanted to be out of there. It was surreal, so… out of balance. The quiet and the subdued conversations and the gaps. I wanted to be home, where I couldn’t see this even though I would still feel it. I didn’t push the issue, but I stopped picking things out. Partner knows most of my anxiety triggers, and he knows the evacuation plans. We made our way through check-out (polite, respectful, subdued, more misunderstanding of “Six Feet”) and we were soon in the car, driving away.

Back at the house, we added our new-found stock to our already-stuffed pantry. I fed the stray cats on the patio. (Yes, they are still there, for those who know the story. Yes, I know I shouldn’t. But my heart won’t let me not.) I texted with my mother, checking on the status of an elderly aunt in Tulsa. She’s in the hospital, critical condition. It was sudden, unexpected, body shutting down. The latest is that she is stabilized, improving even, responding to stimuli and cognizant. The doctors think it might be Covid-19. No one is sure, though. Test results are still pending.

It has not been a good day, dear readers.

For some distraction, we watched tonight’s episode of “The Walking Dead”, even though I initially balked at the idea, not really interested in anything involving a virus, not right now. But I’m glad that we did. It was beautifully done. (For those who still consider this show merely a “zombie” series, it is SO much more than that.) The episode had powerful moments and layered reflections, with an emphasis on how the choices we make in life can change everything. It seems silly to say, and a bit discordant, but a mere episode of a TV show stopped my emotional freefall. At least for a little while.

I’m still worried about what’s happening around me, and I should be, but I needed a kick in the ass to get me to grasp a random tree branch as I fell, climbing my way back up the hill. This is the time and the place for all of us to be branches, catching those who are falling, dusting off limbs, bandaging. We will climb this hill. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but there will be a horizon, and we will reach it.

To all my friends, near and very, very far, please keep yourselves safe. Please do the right thing when it comes to you and yours and even strangers. Please. You into We into Us into All.


P.S. I have unleashed 7 posts in roughly 72 hours, an output that is not that remarkable to some prolific bloggers but is a rarity here at Bonnywood. I know I’m behind with the comments and reactions. But frankly, that’s the least of my worries right now. I’m busy with branches. I’ll get around to all of you, eventually. And when we finally reach the hilltop, I expect every one of you to sing along with me. It’s just what we do at Bonnywood…


Addendum: As mentioned, this was written last night. I’m in a much better mood today, even though the official “lock-down” will have started by the time I post this. And I almost didn’t post it, instead running an old Past Imperfect in the interim so I could think about whether or not I should. It’s self-pitying and mildly pathetic. (There are much worse things that could be happening.) But it’s also an honest snapshot of my thoughts at the time, and that’s something I want to keep. We write for many reasons, and one of them is so we will remember all the various colors of our days…


43 replies »

  1. I think I understand what you mean. My trips through the Toronto airport last Wednesday and Thursday were, as you said, unbalanced. A terminal built to hold thousands had a tiny trickle. No line-up at security and just so quiet! My M and I felt like a couple of chocolate chips rattling around in the bottom of a giant mixing bowl. I had visions of being trapped in an end-of-the-world movie or a Stephen King novel.

    I am doing the isolation bit as it’s required for anyone who has been out of the country. Working from home for the first time, and that’s also completely unbalanced.

    Stay healthy, generous and safe, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s the “unbalanced” aspect that gets me. It’s one thing to be watching the news and realizing “uh oh, this does not look good” and quite another thing to be out in society were folks are not behaving in the established patterns…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I get what you mean about the discord – things are the same, but different.

    I keep reaching for branches to hold onto – like looking out at the window and seeing the same old scene – sky and clouds and sun (or snow, as the case may be) and it comforts me.

    Be well, Brian. Remember to breathe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very sorry this horrible virus has touched one of your family. I fear we will all be affected similarly soon….
    As for the singing, I shall practice my scales in anticipation. Thankfully this will be done in isolation… people are suffering enough as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not self-pitying, not pathetic. This is a wonderful piece of writing from the heart that speaks the heart of us all. Discombobulated, disconcerted, all bewildered and unable to process what is going on. The world feels odd. We are not on lock-down here but on a stay at home advisory with strict guidelines and I guess if it doesn’t work, he will follow with an order. The quiet, the ghostly people walking about what stores are still open clearly not really engaged with anything but trying to process this new reality. You are all about the heart. That’s why you are afflicted with anxiety – you are hyper-observant, hyper-sensitive. The sweetest people are the most anxious. We must all be branches. With my abiding love of trees that analogy speaks straight to my heart and I do not apologise for using the word heart so often in this response because it is hearts that will get us through. We will come through this. Some may not be fortunate to survive – please take my thoughts and strength for your Aunt in Tulsa. But we will come through. And whilst we are in the storm, we can support and assist and caress the flagging spirits of all those around us. Those that are touched by this thing. Which in the end will be us all, however lightly. Take care, my friend. I will be your branch.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Sending all good things Brian…no words 😌 I might suggest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words as he gives a ‘special thank-you’ our nation’s children helping fight COVID-19…we’re all in this together 🤓💪🤗☀️🌷

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been interesting to see how some leaders have managed to shine brightly during this mess whilst others have failed miserably at understanding the basic human need for reassurance. In the end, though, it will be the the regular folks who get us through…


  6. I was going to add some words here, but Osyth has eloquently said things far better than I could. Stay safe and well, and I hope your aunt recovers. Take care 🤞


  7. Hello Brian, I know the world doesn’t look the same right now. I’m sure we will be singing around the campfire at some point. I noticed my neighbours have started to put hearts in their windows. One neighbour has made a huge red wooden heart and planted it in the middle of his front yard. Some people are putting the Canadian flag on their balcony so everyone can see it. That’s what I’m going to be doing today. I think that these actions Can do a small part towards showing community and encourage one another. Take care amigo

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mr. Folstad. (By the way, I keep typing “Mr. Folstad” because I’m not sure if you prefer “David” or “Dave”. I suppose we should settle that, hmm?) I love what folks are doing with the hearts and the flags. I’m also encouraged when Partner and I take our walks in the neighborhood (still trying to do that, just safely) and everyone we encounter (after we politely separate to opposite sides of the street) has offered hearty greetings and smiles. It takes a village…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I had much the same reaction last week. This mess freaked me out so badly (after I tried shopping for the first time since COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head) and came home in the midst of a full blown massive anxiety attack. Couldn’t breath, didn’t EVER want to go ‘out there’ ever again, felt extremely suicidal. I took my anti-anxiety meds (I’ve used more of those lately than for the past five years or more), said a prayer, and went and had a cuddle with my boys, watched some mindless TV (nothing ‘real’…I only watch re-runs of old movies and eventually felt a little more stable. I get you. My advice is likely worthless, because only you can comfort YOU in reality (with help from Partner there). This week is much better. I’m watching the world crumble around me (as i see it), and yet I’m not scared any more. I’ve made my peace. I hope you can find some of that going forward. But be gentle with yourself, VERY gentle. Those of us who live in a house made of anxiety are fragile. We have to wrap ourselves in virtual cotton wool and remember we are okay. Really. It just takes time to adapt to this new reality. And these are the last words of a getting too long comment: At least your house didn’t quake around you, sending dogs flying under the couch and knocking dusty knick knacks off the walls. No judgment here of course, only wishes for you to be comforted and find your feet. ❤ Love you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love you too, Sister. We react the same ways to so many things, it’s a little bit uncanny, but in a good way. I’ve been a little bit more exuberant with my anxiety meds than I really should be, lately, but this is a new and different situation, and I’m justifying it. Folks like us have a difficult time enough as it is with the “everyday” complexities of life, so wild curves just exacerbate everything.

      I relished every bit of your comment, but the “be gentle with yourself” phrase triggered me the most. You are exactly right. The fragile people need special handling, a concept that some folks don’t get. We need more support. And you offer it up every day, lovingly…

      Liked by 1 person

    • We DO have each other, although it can take situations like this before some folks realize it.

      By the way, I’ve really enjoyed your “Distancing” posts. I hope you’re saving them in a nice folder somewhere, because they would make a great chronicle of this moment in time…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hugs my friend! We’re a week in here and the quiet is a blessing and eerily haunting at the same time. I watched OUTBREAK a few days ago. Dark and wildly inappropriate? Yes…. just like me. We all cope in our own ways. Do what you need to do to keep calm and get through this. ♥ I find the more I stay away from people on all levels the better I do.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Our local Kroger store (in Ohio) has bread and milk, but no eggs or Kleenex. Fortunately I can blow my nose into a slice of bread, but I’m not sure how to scramble a quart of milk (maybe I’ll try putting it in the freezer until it’s half-frozen — if that doesn’t work, would you be a good egg and tell me how you would do it?).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not really sure if I have the best recipe for scrambling milk, but I’m working on it and I’ll keep you posted. Interestingly enough, we made another run to Kroger today (well, Partner did the running; I stayed in the car and played on my Kindle because I didn’t want a repeat reaction of the last visit). Partner trotted out of the store with a cartload of treasures. I think this might be our new protocol, as Partner apparently has some type of positive shopping karma that I don’t possess… 😉


  11. I’m so very glad you posted this. It’s not dark, it’s actually the opposite – filled with light because that’s how you work. And I think it’s important that those with anxiety issues – or any issue, for that matter – show how they work through them.
    It’s funny, but I happen to be working on a post describing something similar. A recent trip to the store to pick up a few items and at some point I started to get anxious, not because of what was happening but just… well, like you said… things were the same but not the same. It was a weird and highly unpleasant feeling.
    Glad you’re feeling better and I’m so sorry about your aunt. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Christi. I was hoping to do just what you said, throw a little bit of light on how folks with anxiety disorders can be tripped up by the smallest of triggers. (I have what they call “generalized” anxiety, in that no one thing is the culprit. It’s an accumulation of minor happenstances that suddenly overwhelm the system and I need a release valve, which often manifests physically.

      I’m behind with my comments and replies, so I can’t recall if you seen the latest update with my aunt, but she tested negative and she has improved.Thanks again for your thoughts…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your words are real, and for all of us, we need to hear and feel and see that we are the same, and then maybe we can become better humans through this horrid thing. Much love from my world to yours, may your hands always been clean, your heart open and your soul true.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for this, Brian. I actually had a panic attack the other day–haven’t had one in years. I loved The Walking Dead–maybe it’s time to revisit it. It’s not like I can go anywhere or do anything!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Panic attacks suck, especially when you deal with folks who don’t understand, so I’m glad (okay, maybe not glad, but I sympathize) that you understand how these things go.

      As for “The Walking Dead”, I’ll be honest and say that I’ve almost given up on it a few times, because it can be relentlessly bleak, but then they’ll throw out a brilliant, redemptive episode that sucks me right back in. And so it goes…

      Liked by 1 person

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